Posted on 15 August, 2016

Low Impact Exercises for Beginners

By Jacob Andreae in Fitness, How-to Low Impact Exercises for Beginners

[Image source: U.S Naval Forces Central Command/U.S Fifth Fleet]

As a Physical Literacy Consultant at the Northern Territory Institute of Sport, I fully understand the importance of physical literacy. Matching one’s level of physical literacy with the appropriate exercise gives them the foundation to succeed and avoid injury.

Physical literacy is the ability to move. Developing your physical literacy is about developing your ability to perform a range of moves based on a foundation of six fundamental moves: push up, pull up, bend, brace, squat and lunge. The brace, more commonly known as the plank, is the most foundational of these moves.

Developing physical literacy is similar to that of literacy. Learning to move is similar to learning to read. You can tell when someone can read well because they sound fluent. However, someone who can’t read well is often disjointed and most likely doesn’t enjoy reading. When you can move well, you appear more fluent and most likely enjoy it more. This is simple human psychology. The better we are at something, the more we enjoy it and the more likely we are to repeat that behaviour.

There are a vast number progressions for all exercises, in particular the six foundation moves listed above. Those six foundation moves are the foundation for all human movement and are all low impact. However, through years of inactivity or poor movement patterns, it may not be possible to perform these exercises. Some people may not be able to perform them without pain and some may not be able to physically get into those positions. Their body may have become so immobile through their joints that they simply can’t get into those positions.

Below is a list of eight exercises (four strength and four cardio) that you should be able to do as a beginner to exercise.

  1. Squats
    Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. As you lower by pushing your hips backward (as if you’re sitting on a chair) ensure you keep your heels on the floor, your feet are pointing straight ahead and your knees are pointing in the same direction as your toes. Lower down as low as you can while maintaining these cues.
  2. High Knee Marching
    March on the spot, raising your knees to hip height (or as high as you can up to hip height).
  3. Push Ups
    Start by getting onto all fours with your hands below your shoulders and your knees below your hips. Point your fingers forward. Think about pulling your shoulder blades down into your back pockets and keeping them wide across your upper back, lower your forehead down towards the ground. Ensure your elbows are pointing down on a 45* angle (not directly out the side or forward of your shoulders). Aim to touch your forehead in front of your hands and not between your hands. This is pretty hard but it is how you do push ups properly. Only lower as low as you can maintain these cues. You might only just bend your elbows and straighten to begin with.
  4. High Knee Elbow Taps
    March on the spot, raising your knee to meet your opposite elbow. If you can’t reach your elbow, raise your knee to touch your opposite hand.
  5. Brace
    Get onto all fours with your hands below your shoulders and your knees below your hips. Walk your hands out so that your hips drop down to form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Keep your knees on the ground and lower down to your elbows. From this position, tuck your tailbone to eliminate the dip in your lower back and aim to flatten it out. Think about pulling the front of your hips closer to your rib cage. Also pull your belly button up towards your spine. As with the push up, pull your shoulder blades down towards your back pockets and push your chest away from the ground as if there’s a fire under your chest.
  6. Skaters
    Step from side-to-side touching your knee with your opposite hand (the harder version involves touching your foot). This exercise can be confusing and it helps if you step over something. I suggest stepping over a mat or something low like a cone or mini hurdle to coordinate the opposite side of the body stuff. Your trial leg goes behind the leg you’re stepping onto.
  7. Bridges
    Lay on your back with your knees bent and soles of your feet on the floor. Press your back into the mat so that your entire spine is in contact with the floor. Keeping your knees and feet about fist distance apart, raise your hips off the ground, followed by your back, lifting your spine off the ground one vertebra at a time, until only your feet, shoulders and head are in contact with the ground. Raise up until your body is in a straight line from your knees, through your hips, to your shoulders. Lower back down, one vertebra at a time from your upper back to your tailbone. Keep your knees and feet fist distance apart. Concentrate on raising and lowering your hips evenly left to right.
  8. Punches
    Stand in a boxing stance, with whichever foot you feel most comfortable with forward. The heel of your back foot will be slightly raised. Punch at a fast and steady pace. Don’t fully extend your elbow. Punch to almost full extension of your arm but recoil before you reach full extension. This is to protect your elbow joint. Keep your elbows down and tucked in, and your hands at face height. You can slightly rotate your fists in a corkscrew fashion if you like. This will engage more of the muscles in your arms and upper back and set you up for good technique if you join a boxing class at a later date. Your hips will want to rock. Squeeze your stomach muscles to prevent this rock and ride your momentum with a bit of a bounce.

Put these exercises into a workout following this protocol:

8 Exercises
20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest, 2x through for each exercise
Total time = 8 minutes

Warm Up and cool down not included.
You don't need any equipment for this workout. 

This is a great workout for toning and burning fat.

There are still lower progressions to these exercises. I’ve based these exercises off the six foundation moves and started them at a sort of 1-C level.

If you can’t do one or more of these exercises, what exercises can’t you do and what prevents you? I’ll do my best to provide you with an alternative.

For a more detailed explanation of these exercises and this workout, tune in to my Facebook Live broadcast at 1pm Friday ACST.

About Jacob Andreae

About Jacob Andreae

I write and speak about Fitness, Nutrition and Mindset. 

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Low Impact Exercises for BeginnersA quick start guide to losing weight and staying on track. Learn the strategies I use to eat and move for optimal health. Includes worksheets to enhance your motivation, commitment and discipline, along with a sample eating plan and exercise program.