I replaced burpees with this one move—and it was just as challenging but gentler on my joints

Any excuse to get out of the hardest high-impact exercise

Fitness writer Daniella Gray performing a squat with front raise
(Image credit: Future)

To state the obvious, burpees are hard. I’m no stranger to an intense workout and consider myself pretty fit but I’m still left sweaty and squeeze-your-eyes-shut breathless after a tough set of burpees. 

I don’t doubt the research, such as this 2019 study in the Journal of Human Kinetics that says burpees are linked to increased cardiorespiratory fitness and a reduced risk of heart disease. The exercise uses your whole body and requires significant amounts of speed and power. 

But if you hate burpees as much as I do (and want to avoid bruised knees), you might be interested in this low-impact alternative from online coach Ruby Haywood. She suggests setting a timer for one minute and completing as many reps as possible of this move, then repeating it three times. 

How to do the move


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The move is essentially a squat with a palms-in dumbbell front raise. To do it, you simply pick up your dumbbells, hold them at your sides, then squat down and bring them up to shoulder height with your palms facing inwards. Let the dumbbells fall back to your sides as you stand up, then repeat the move as many times as possible. 

Watch Ruby in the video above to make sure you're nailing your form.  

What I found

Ruby warns in the caption to "Prepare to sweat!" but I was still caught off guard. I mistakenly thought that, because I wasn’t jumping around, the move wouldn’t be as tough as a burpee. How wrong I was. My heart rate climbed higher and higher as I worked through each minute and my arms and legs were on fire. 

I used 4kg dumbbells (the same as Ruby), which definitely felt challenging enough. Unlike a burpee, the move is joint friendly, so I didn’t feel any jarring in my wrists or knees. As I was done and dusted in under five minutes, so this would make an excellent exercise snacking workout to break up long periods of sitting. 

Ruby advises skipping the weight if you’re a beginner and focusing on improving your squat and arm strength first. However, I think the resistance actually helps your form, so I'd suggest starting with light weights. You can even grab a couple of water bottles or tin cans if you don't have access to dumbbells.

Overall, this move doesn’t recruit as many muscles as a burpee—I didn't feel that it targeted my chest—but it's still an effective compound exercise that challenges your strength and cardio fitness.

Need some help picking your next weights? Our guide to the best adjustable dumbbells can help

Daniella Gray is an experienced health and wellbeing writer, and was an Editorial Assistant and Senior Content Writer at Health & Wellbeing magazine, where she got to explore her love of food and fitness. She holds a degree in Print Journalist from Nottingham Trent University and a NCTJ qualification.