Build Stronger Muscles And Joints With This Low-Impact Full-Body Workout That Requires Just One Dumbbell

Ollie Thompson demonstrates the floor press
(Image credit: Ollie Thompson)

Low-impact workouts are a great training tool to help build strength without putting additional strain on your joints, especially if you’re a fan of high-impact exercise such as running or HIIT. Low-impact exercise doesn’t just mean swimming or cycling, joint-friendly low-impact strength workouts can help with injury prevention by reducing stress and load on your body.

“A low-impact workout is a session consisting of exercises that impose minimal impact, stress, and strain on your joints,” says personal trainer Ollie Thompson. “Typically, they avoid jumps or rapid movements.”

Thompson has put together a five-move low-impact workout for Coach that requires just one dumbbell, so you can do it at home or at the gym. Low impact doesn’t mean low effort though—this is a challenging full-body workout. “By performing all five moves, you engage all major muscle groups through various movement patterns while also addressing mobility and stability,” says Thompson.

This kind of workout is ideal for those returning to exercise after injury, or for beginners, but don’t be fooled into thinking they’re just for people starting out. “Low-impact workouts are not only beneficial for individuals recovering from injuries or surgery but also for those looking to build strength and control,” says Thompson. “Many low-impact strength movements require increased tension and control to perform effectively, meaning they help strengthen both muscles and joints.”

Because there are no jumping or other high-impact moves involved, there’s less risk of injury, but be aware there is still a risk. “Injury remains a potential concern with low-impact exercises, but through proper control and good technique the risk is significantly reduced,” says Thompson.

Low-Impact Full-Body Workout

1 Single-arm floor press

Ollie Thompson demonstrates the floor press

(Image credit: Ollie Thompson)

Reps 12-15 on each side

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Hold a dumbbell in one hand and extend your arms straight up. Slowly lower the dumbbell, bending your elbow, until your elbow is on the floor, keeping your wrist over your elbow. press back to the starting position. Perform all the reps on one side then switch.

2 Dead bug

Ollie Thompson demonstrates the dead bug exercise with dumbbell

(Image credit: Ollie Thompson)

Reps 30

Lie on your back holding the ends of the dumbbell above you with your arms extended, and your feet raised and your knees bent at 90°. Engage your core engaged, and raise your head and neck off the floor slightly. Extend your right leg, pause, then extend your left leg as you bring your right leg to the start position. Continue, keeping your movements slow and controlled.

3 Three-way lunge

Ollie Thompson demonstrates three positions of the three-way lunge

The three-way lunge combines a lunge, side lunge and reverse lunge. (Image credit: Ollie Thompson)

Reps 8-10 on each side

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, cupping one end of a dumbbell in both hands in front of your chest. Engage your core and, keeping your back straight throughout, step your right foot forward and bend both knees to lower into a lunge until your left knee is almost touching the floor. Return to the starting position. Step your right foot out to the side, bending your right knee to lower while keeping your left leg straight. Return to the starting position. Step your right foot back and bend both knees until your right knee is almost touching the floor. Return to the starting position. That is one rep. 

“The three-way lunge explores your hip range of motion with resistance, which is great for improving hip mobility,” says Thompson.

4 Plank drag

Ollie Thompson demonstrates the plank drag with dumbbell

(Image credit: Ollie Thompson)

Reps 8 on each side

Place your dumbbell close to your left hand and get into a high plank position. Your feet should be wider than hip-width apart, your hands should be directly under your shoulders, arms extended and your body in a straight line from head to heels. Staying in this plank position, use your right hand to move the dumbbell to the other side. Squeeze your core as you move the weight and avoid your body from twisting to one side. Repeat the move on the other side. Continue, alternating sides with each rep. 

5 B-stance Romanian deadlift

Ollie Thompson demonstrates three positions of the B-stance Romanian deadlift

(Image credit: Ollie Thompson)

Reps 10 on each side

Stand with your weight on your right leg, with your left foot slightly behind the right one, left knee bent slightly and your left heel off the floor. This foot acts as a kickstand to offer extra stability. Hold a dumbbell in your left hand and—keeping your back flat and without twisting your body—push your hips back, letting the weight lower to mid-shin level, as long as your mobility allows you to reach this level without rounding your back. Only lower as far as you can while maintaining a straight back. Push through your right foot and move your hips forward to return to the starting position.

“The B-stance Romanian deadlift exercise effectively challenges your core muscles and rib cage control as you hold the load in one hand and resist torso rotation,” says Thompson.

Can low-impact workouts contribute to weight loss?

We also asked Thompson how low-impact workouts compare with high-impact exercise for weight loss. “Weight loss is achievable through low-impact exercise, just as it is with high-impact workouts,” says Thompson. “Ultimately, weight loss relies on creating an energy deficit by consuming fewer calories than you burn.”

“Consistent exercise plays a crucial role in overall health, leading to a stronger and more efficient body, which can better maintain a healthy weight.” So whichever exercise you choose, to support your weight management and health goals, the key is to move regularly and stick to it.

Need help deciding on a new set of weights? Our guide to the best dumbbells will help.

Camilla Artault
Content editor

Camilla Artault is a writer and keen runner. She has covered women’s running gear – testing leggings, jackets, running bras, tops and shorts – for Coach since 2018, as well as interviewing experts and writing about a range of health and lifestyle topics.