Bodyweight Cardio Exercises: A Helpful Guide
It’s no secret that cardiovascular exercise is good for us. It supports sleep and heart health, reduces chronic pain, and has even been proven to improve cognitive functioning as we age.
While the thought of cardio sends plenty of us into a High School gym class flashback, the idea that cardio is tedious and takes forever is a far stretch from the truth. Utilizing bodyweight cardio movements will allow you to improve your endurance, mobility, strength, and stamina and stay on your toes (literally) while doing it.
Follow along with this bodyweight cardio workout routine and get that heart rate pumping!
Walking + Running
Moving around on our feet is one of our most basic human instincts. Our ancestors would track animals for days on foot, catching their prey on endurance alone. Running is a great way to release energy, build that endurance, and work the cardiovascular system. That being said, running is not everyone’s cup of tea.
Now, the beauty of running is that it’s just walking but quicker. You actually burn a similar amount of calories per mile regardless of how fast you are moving. So open up your listening app of choice, queue up a great playlist, and get outside.
You know the drill, but we’ll remind you anyway:
Jumping jacks are a simple movement that begins standing with your feet together and your hands at your sides (position 1) and ends with your body in a big old X shape (position 2). Jump from position 1 to position 2—bonus points if you clap your hands at the top—and so on and so forth until you’re thoroughly warmed up or out of breath.
Burpees are simultaneously one of the best and worst bodyweight exercises in your arsenal.
They’re the best because they work every part of the body intensely, and they’re the worst because they work every part of the body intensely. That is to say, burpees are exhausting. This powerhouse move is the pinnacle of functional bodyweight training – they require balance, endurance, strength, and mobility to perform, and it’s one of the strongest calorie-burners out there.
The two basic components of a burpee are a push-up and a squat jump. Start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend down, put your hands on the ground (also shoulder-width apart) and jump your feet out, leaving you in a high plank. Next, do a push-up. After the push-up, jump your feet back toward your hands and use that energy to push off the floor and jump. That counts as 1.
Fortunately, this monster move has all sorts of variations. If you aren’t feeling stable enough to jump your feet out and back in, you can step with one foot at a time. If you haven’t nailed the push-up, put your knees on the ground for that part of the move. If that doesn’t feel right either, take the push-up out of the equation entirely by stepping or jumping out to a high plank and back in. If jumping doesn’t feel right, stand up and do a jumping jack or stand up and clap your hands above your head to keep the arms moving.
Jump Rope (Rope Optional)
Jumping rope is a surefire way to get your heart working, fast. There are all sorts of variations to play with, from jumping with your feet together to single-leg with high knees to double jumps to backward jumps to criss-cross jumps to double dutch and beyond.
If you don’t have a jump rope, simply pretending to have one in your hand and jumping in place will do the trick, even if it feels a little silly at first.
High-Intensity Interval Training (aka HIIT) provides some of the best possible benefits that a workout can experience. The health effects of training are significantly increased by this method.
HIIT is characterized by brief bursts at super high energy output. This means you get to perform an exercise for a short amount of time, but you have to give it your all when you do. HIIT translates great to sprint workouts if you don’t have the patience for long walks or runs.
Basic HIIT sprint work could look something like this:
Walk or lightly jog for 2 minutes, sprint at full speed for 30 seconds, repeat.
Skaters, like burpees, are a fantastic example of functional movement training. They require cardio, balance, strength, and mobility, so you get a lot out of this relatively simple movement.
Skaters are a jumping cardio exercise in which you’re moving side to side on one foot at a time. When you jump to the right, you land on your right leg – bending your knee as you absorb the shock before springing to the other side.
You’ll keep the opposite arm slightly forward and the other slightly back. They’re called skaters because the movement mimics what ice skaters look like as they glide forward.
You can do these bodyweight cardio exercises individually, mix them in with upper and lower body workouts, or turn them into a circuit and follow along! Make sure to thank your body for all of its hard work with a stretch at the end of your bodyweight workout. We have space for your bodyweight cardio exercises at all of our locations. If you are looking for instructor-led online training, you can also find bodyweight workouts on our digital platform iChuze Fitness.