5 Lower Body Low Impact Exercises (That Won’t Hurt Your Knees)

Hello, my most dedicated readers! Oh, how I’ve missed you all. Last time I checked in, both our girls were sick. And last week I was sick! NOT COOL. Everyone knows, moms don’t have time to be sick. Yet, I was. So sick that I didn’t even workout. I did try a couple times, but I was super drained. Like for real. Ugh.

I’ll probably sound like a weeny when I say I just had a case of laryngitis, but I didn’t realize how crummy you can feel from an illness that generally just gets a lot of attention for taking someone’s voice away. While my throat still hurts a lot this week and I still have a dry, hacky cough, my voice is finally coming back (and I’m starting to exercise again), so hallelujah! I must be on the mend. Now back to real life and the important stuff.

A few weeks back, a friend and reader asked me to share some low impact lower body exercises and today, I’m excited to bring them to you. This friend has found her knees to be particularly temperamental after having her first baby a few months back. This is totally normal since the hormone relaxin can loosen our ligaments and joints leading up to labor and can take up to a year after stopping breastfeeding to return to “normal.” Who knew? Now you do 🙂

While I love jumping around like a total maniac and I don’t have a problem doing so, that isn’t the case for everyone and the good news is there are TONS of exercises you can still do to strengthen your lower body AND be kind to your knees.

Today I’m sharing my top 5 lower body exercises that are low impact and can help you strengthen your lower body, without hurting your knees because yes, it’s possible!

Most of these exercises will use the glutes as a primary mover, and all the other muscles in the legs will be secondary or tertiary movers/helpers.

The largest and what should be–strongest–muscle group in the body is the glutes (aka your butt muscles). I often tell my clients that your butt isn’t just about vanity or something sexy. Though it can be both of those things, your butt is also totally functional too. Meaning, your glutes–when engaged, strengthened, and used properly–can help support your hips and take work away from your smaller knee joints all while simultaneously strengthening all the muscles surrounding your knees too.

Every single person should be able to do a squat. It’s arguably the most functional movement you can ever do. Many think squats are just for your quads, that big muscle group on the top, front of the leg. However, squats are actually a glute exercise that your quads can help with.

We all sit down and get up from chairs and the toilet–that’s a squat.  We all pick things up from the ground–that should be a squat. So yes, one of the exercises I share will be a squat, but I’ll show you how to modify it to take some work away from your knees if a traditional body weight squat hurts for now.

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When doing these exercises, aim for anywhere between 8-15 reps, (per side where applicable) and 3-5 sets.

  1. Squats – Keep your weight in full foot and push up out of your heels. By keeping the work in the heels vs. the forefoot, you help your glutes do the work, not your knees. Modify on a wall or using a ball on the wall if needed.MNYE9697XZZS2597
  2. Hip Bridge – Strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, and calves. Lying on your back, place your heels on a chair, bench, stool, or any elevated and level surface. Push up from the floor by driving into your heels. Squeeze your glutes at the top and then slowly return to the ground.  NMAP9020
  3. Deadlifts – Single leg or double, it doesn’t matter–deadlifts are great for you (and your glutes and hamstrings)! Slightly bend your knees then while keeping your back flat, hinge from the hips towards the ground. Return to the top, squeezing your glutes when you get there. CGBK3879
  4. Side Lunges – Strengthen your glutes, adductors and abductors (those muscles on the insides and outsides of the legs). Start with both feet pointing straight ahead. Sinking into the heel on one foot, lift up the other foot and reach it to your side while sinking into the opposite heel. Return the foot to the center and keep your toes pointed straight ahead for the entire movementDILI3446
  5. Step Ups – These are awesome for the whole leg! Place one foot on a step, chair, or stool. Keeping your weight in the heel on the bench, “pull” your other leg up and onto the step. Slowly return your foot to the ground, putting as little weight into the bottom foot and repeat.

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What are your favorite lower body exercises? Share in the comments below! 

Home Workout Gear (Essentials + Workouts)

It’s official, the flu is inundating the U.S. this winter and I officially suspended my gym membership because of it. Yeah, I can hear you all gasping from here. Your personal trainer has temporarily quit the gym.

While I love to go to the gym to lift heavy and take advantage of the child care (hello, mommy’s two hour break every day!), it’s that child care catch that has me opting to keep my workouts at home for the remainder of the winter season.

While I know our kids can still catch the flu, I am trying to do all I can to minimize the risk, especially since our little ones are in the high risk age (under 2). The number one way to avoid the flu is to keep your hands out of your eyes, nose, and mouth. If you have babies and toddlers, do you know this? Um, that’s pretty much IMPOSSIBLE.

So, I’m owning my new identity as the germaphobe mom with her two kids in the double stroller at the grocery store and Target, with reusable bags strapped to the handle–if I even take them to the grocery store at all. We’re avoiding museums and public play groups. And the gym was the last step. But my reasoning is while both our kids go to daycare twice a week, by avoiding places like the gym and public play groups I am slightly decreasing their exposure to germs and hopefully avoiding big germs like the flu.

At day care there are less kids per adult (1:4 ratio), whereas at the gym there can be an unlimited number of children per adult. This means that at the gym, my two teethers (Josie is cutting teeth already and Isla is crushing the 2-year-old molars game) are more likely to shove any communal toys in their mouths because right now EVERYTHING goes in their mouths.

Since we’re spending way more time at home than I’d prefer, this means I’ve not only been hosting multiple dance parties a day for my toddler, but I’ve also been scouring Pinterest for all kinds of fun activities and crafts and putting them into action.

 

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Didn’t you know fridge magnets are way more fun on a cookie sheet? 

 

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“Fingerpainting” on the windows

 

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Paint in a Ziploc bag, taped to the window

 

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We made a paper plate caterpillar after reading, The Very Hungry Caterpillar

While my choice “hit the pause on the gym” might not be one all parents would make, I feel confident I can still get the workouts I need and want at home for now. And if my kids do get the flu, at least I knew I did what I could to personally protect them.

Since I’m a personal trainer and I love exercise, I’m sure it’s no surprise that I have a small arsenal of workout equipment. You don’t need tons of or really any equipment to get a good workout at home. But personally, I love having a variety of pieces to pull from to keep me motivated and keep mixing up my workouts. And naturally I have some favorites. Here are a few of them, and a couple sample workout videos to match. Be sure to follow me on Instagram to catch my at home workouts weekly.

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Dumbbell and Kettlebell

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Resistance loops and resistance bands

This first workout uses gliders. I LOVE THESE THINGS. They are awesome for targeting all different muscle groups and can be use for way more than abdominal exercises–the number one type of exercise they are marketed to work the hardest. If you don’t have gliders, feel free to try a couple washcloths or some paper plates. This workout combines both a reverse lunge and then a curtsy lunge. Then you transition right into a hamstring curl, mountain climbers, and then a single leg knee tuck. Aim for 10-15 reps per exercise (and per side where applicable). The goal is 3-5 sets. This workout will smoke your legs, glutes, and abs.

This second workout utilizes the resistance loops and is 100% full body! Start with a squat, alternating a lateral leg lift. Pop into a side plank and then pull hamstring curls. Next, loop the band around your upper arms and feel an extra burn in your triceps as you do push ups. Balance out the push motion with a pull as you complete single arm rows. Transition into plank knee tucks with some extra resistance. Lastly, find your side plank again and pull for some side plank tucks. Again, the goal is 10-15 reps (per side where applicable) and you’re working for 3-5 sets.

Give these workouts a try and let me know what you think in the comments below. You’ve got this! 

 

Cardio Upgrade: Don’t Just Walk, Strength Train Too!

Today’s post is all about a quick workout I put together to do on a family walk, run or hike, turning a bonafide cardio workout into an opportunity to strength train. My favorite! We completed this workout on our local bike path, but you can do this workout anywhere and with or without the walk.

Staying active as a family is important to me. I think it’s important we’re healthy parents for our kids. I want to do everything I can to stick around for as long as I can. I tell Chris that when we are grandparents, I hope we can be out hiking with our grandkids. And that vision starts now; with lots of training while we’re parents!

I also love that we are setting an example for our children every time they see us working out–and that Isla is already creating this habit of being active. Isla is one of those babies who rarely sits still (just like her mama). She is always busy and into something. She wanted to skip crawling and hop to walking, and though that didn’t happen, she is now walking and trying to run away from us (and into trouble) as fast as she can. This new growing baby is getting a head start too. When mom’s active, baby is active! No wonder this kid is trying to bust open my belly with some serious ninja kicks and jabs.

As an added bonus, I love being an active woman. I love that I’m showing my daughter that she can be active, through every stage of her life, including pregnancy if she chooses to have a family. I feel strongly that Isla is as healthy as she is because I made the choice to stay active and healthy during my pregnancy. I feel lucky that I had the opportunity to make this choice too, but the human body (and in particular here, female body) is pretty amazing. Clearly Isla’s not taking all of these intricacies in right now, but these are the lessons I look forward to teaching her in the years ahead as she’ll be able to look back on photos and videos.

So, the workout. I’ll preface this by saying: clearly, I’m pregnant. Like really pregnant. 31 weeks pregnant actually. I have been exercising before and throughout this entire pregnancy. That being said, if you’re pregnant and just starting exercise, I wouldn’t recommend you start with all of these exercises. Particularly those where you’d find yourself in a plank position. Like the push ups and plank arm pulls. If you include them, here are some tips.

If you are pregnant and doing the plank-based exercises, consider starting from your knees and always make sure you’re wrapping your abs together! Our abdominal wall naturally separates when we’re pregnant and this prone position puts extra pressure on our abs. Do your part to hold them together by squeezing your abs together, like you’re wearing a corset. If you see your belly “pointing” out, stop the exercise. That’s literally your belly muscles split apart. If you take a peek at your belly, it should still be rounded. This is something I actually couldn’t do when I was pregnant with Isla and I’m proud to say I’ve built even better function of my abdominal muscles between these two pregnancies and can keep my belly round this time–even after a c-section. Just do what is right for you and your baby and do what you can. If these two exercises aren’t possible, lots of others are–I promise!

For the general population, all of these exercises are a fun way to mix up your workout routine or intensify a walk or hike. I used a jogging stroller for a couple exercises, but you could easily just use hand and foot reach/taps instead.

As far as putting all of the exercises together, here are a couple ways to structure this workout:

Option 1:

  1. Walk for 2 minutes
  2. Complete 15 reps of one exercise
  3. Walk for another 2 minutes
  4. Complete 15 reps of another exercise
  5. Repeat

Option 2:

  1. Walk for 5-10 minutes
  2. Complete 15 reps of all exercises in a circuit
  3. Repeat

I would do 2-4 sets of each exercise depending on how much time I have. If you can’t do 2-4 sets, just do what you can. Something is better than nothing!

Walk/Hike Full Body Strength Circuit

  1. Squat (15 reps)squat.jpg2. Lunges (15 reps each side)lunge3. Side lunges (15 reps each side) – without a stroller, just reach and tap your foot to the sideside lunge4. Push ups (15 reps)push up5. Single arm plank pulls (15 reps each side) – without a stroller, just reach and tap your hand to the frontarm pull stroller

What is one of your favorite ways to mix up your walk or workout? Share in the comments!