Injuries—we all get them at some point. Sometimes it’s possible to continue exercising with injuries, but other times it’s better to rest until you’re fully recovered.
Is it possible to do HIIT while injured?
There is no clear yes or no answer to this. Kelly Chase says, “If the HIIT workout does not involve high impact movements (think jump squats or box jumps), I believe it’s OK to still do HIIT with an injury.” However, she points out that this greatly depends on what type of injury you have and its severity.
In terms of cardio, it’s best to avoid running as it’s a high-impact workout. Opt for machines like the elliptical or stair climber instead. Typically, you can perform HIIT-based workouts on these machines without exacerbating an existing injury.
Strength training in a HIIT style is a bit different and depends more on what area of your body is experiencing discomfort or injury. You don’t have to throw in the towel, though. Read on for more specific HIIT modifications.
Try these modifications:
Knees and Ankles
Chase recommends low-impact exercises if you’re knee, Achilles, ankle, or foot is injured. If your workout calls for you to run, either outdoors or on the treadmill, replace it with cycling or rowing. The elliptical is also a great alternative.
You can make simple HIIT modifications by switching forward lunges to reverse lunges. This is particularly useful for those with a knee condition such as runner’s knee, which is a broad term for many common knee injuries related to things such as overuse, alignment issues, or an impact injury.
Another modification is to remove the jumping exercises from the equation. For example, switch jumping squats to air squats, which will lessen the pressure on the knees and ankles.
“Performing leg exercises on your hands and knees is a great way to do low-impact exercises that still work the various leg and glute muscles,” Chase says. She recommends donkey kicks, clams, side leg lifts, and straight leg lifts.
She also points out that a resistance band can help strengthen weak legs without using too much weight or putting extra pressure on your injured body parts. Glute bridges on the floor and side steps can be intensified by using a resistance band.
If you have one injured leg but the other is working fine, then take this time to focus on training the uninjured one. Instead of deadlifts, try single-leg deadlifts or single-leg squats. Working around injuries is a great way to continue exercising without having to stop.
Because we use them in many exercises, it can be easy to strain or hurt our wrists, making it difficult to perform certain exercises.
The best thing to do with sore or sprained wrists during HIIT is to keep them straight. Don’t bend your wrist, which can enhance the injury. For example, when doing burpees, fold your hands into a fist so that you take the weight off the wrist. The same rule applies to push-ups and mountain climbers. When planking, put your weight on your elbows instead.
“For upper-body injuries, I would do prescribed physical therapy exercises,” Chase says. “Simply using heavier weights will add intensity, making your lungs/heart work harder, creating a ‘high-intensity’ workout. You can superset to mimic ‘intervals.’”
When should I stop exercising altogether?
Though it may be tempting to push through the pain, you could exacerbate your injury if you do HIIT while injured. Sometimes you have to give your body the time it needs to fully recover properly. You need to know when you can safely work around your injury and when the smart thing to do is stop.
Chase recommends visiting your doctor or physical therapist to get the all clear to start or continue exercising. She adds an important point, “If anything feels even the slightest bit uncomfortable, I would cease exercising and consult your physician.”
Talk to your doctor before attempting any HIIT while injured. He or she will know your real limitations and be best able to help guide your workout routines while your body heals.
When you’re ready to get back into regular HIIT workouts after you’re fully recovered, check out Aaptiv.