It’s not always easy to find time to go to the gym, and you might not have the luxury of being able to go running or cycling outside if you have kids to watch. In these types of situations, being able to do bodyweight cardio exercises at home can be a great, feasible alternative.
The benefits of a bodyweight cardio workout are that you can still elevate your heart rate, burn calories, and improve your aerobic fitness without investing in bulky and expensive cardio exercise equipment for home workouts or leaving your house for outdoor cardio sessions.
But what are the best bodyweight cardio exercises? Are there cardio floor exercises that can give you a good workout?
In this article, we will discuss how to put together an effective bodyweight cardio workout at home, and then we will provide step-by-step instructions for some of the best bodyweight cardio exercises that you can perform for home cardio workouts:
- Jumping Jacks
- Phantom Jump Rope
- Stationary Bounding
- Lateral Jumps
- Jump Squats
- Tuck Jumps
- Mountain Climbers
Let’s get moving!
How to Do a Bodyweight Cardio Workout At Home
Before we delve into specific bodyweight cardio exercises you can do at home, it’s helpful to define what is meant by a “cardio“ workout.
A cardio workout, which is also commonly referred to as aerobic exercise, is any type of physical activity that can increase your heart rate. This improves the health and strength of your cardiovascular system.
Depending on your fitness level, the specific exercises that you might perform in a bodyweight cardio workout may vary.
For example, a beginner might be able to get a good home cardio workout with low-intensity bodyweight cardio exercises such as marching in place.
In contrast, someone who has been working out consistently will need to perform more vigorous bodyweight cardio exercises (such as sprinting in place) in order to elevate their heart rate enough to derive the benefits of aerobic exercise.
So, how hard do you need to be working during a bodyweight cardio workout for the exercise to qualify as “cardio”?
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the low-intensity cardio zone corresponds to a heart rate that falls between 57-63% of your maximum heart range.
The moderate-intensity cardio zone refers to exercise that raises your heart rate to 64-76% of your maximum heart rate, while vigorous-intensity cardio corresponds to a heart rate that falls within 77-95% of your max.
When you are performing bodyweight cardio workouts at home, it can be helpful to wear a heart rate monitor to ensure that you are pushing your body enough to reach the intensity levels necessary for your workout to improve your health.
The guidelines for physical activity for adults set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the British Heart Foundation are to accumulate either 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio exercise per week.
The Best Cardio Bodyweight Exercises
Here are some of the best bodyweight cardio exercises you can do at home when you want to get your heart pumping and don’t have access to exercise equipment:
#1: Jumping Jacks
Jumping jacks are a bodyweight cardio exercise for beginners.
Here are the steps:
- Stand with good posture and your arms down at your sides.
- Jump your legs out to each side while you sweep your arms up overhead toward one another.
- Jump everything back to the starting position and repeat.
#2: Phantom Jump Rope
Jumping rope is one of the best bodyweight cardio exercises. If you can get an inexpensive jump rope, buying one for your home cardio workouts would be great.
However, in a pinch, you can replicate jumping rope without the jump rope.
Here are the steps for this bodyweight cardio exercise:
- Stand upright with good posture. If you have a jump rope, hold one handle in each hand. If you do not have a jump rope, hold your arms out to the side as if you have a jump rope. Either way, keep your elbows tucked in towards your body and focus solely on rotating your wrists.
- Keeping your core tight, rapidly jump as you rotate your wrist to swing the rope (real or phantom).
- Jump as fast as you can, focusing on jumping for speed or getting in as many jumps as you can per minute rather than jumping for height.
- Stay as low as you can to the ground while still springing off of the balls of your feet to activate your calves.
#3: Stationary Bounding
Bounding is another term for exaggerated skipping.
If you are doing your bodyweight cardio workout in an area where you have space to travel forward as you skip, you can perform a high-knee skipping as you might do outdoors.
For home bodyweight cardio workouts where you have just a couple of feet in your living room to move around, you can also perform this no equipment cardio exercise in place.
Here are the steps for this bodyweight cardio move:
- Skip in place, vigorously swinging one arm as you drive up the opposite leg.
- Bring your knee up towards your chest as if trying to hit your chin. Explode off the balls of your feet to get as much vertical height as you can with each skip.
- As one foot prepares to land, swing the opposite arm to propel the other leg up towards your chest.
- Aim for as much “air time” as possible. Be explosive, powerful, and fast with your movements.
- Think about exaggerating the movement as much as possible, making the largest arc of motion you can with your arms and legs as you bound up and down in place.
#4: Lateral Jumps
Lateral jumps resemble slalom skiing in a dynamic and explosive way.
Keeping your legs together, explosively and rapidly jump from side to side as if jumping side-to-side over a puddle.
Swing and thrust your arms to help propel your body as you jump.
#5: Jump Squats
Jump squats involve performing a powerful, explosive vertical jump between each rep of a regular squat.
All you need to do is perform a bodyweight squat and then explode through your feet, jumping up as high as possible, straightening your knees, ankles, and hips, and using your arms to power your body upwards into the air.
As soon as you land from the jump, bend your knees to cushion the impact, transitioning immediately into a full squat to begin the cycle again.
Burpees involve performing a squat, push-up, and vertical jump cycled together.
The burpee is an excellent bodyweight cardio exercise since you are moving your entire body.
You’ll also strengthen nearly all of the muscles in your upper body, lower body, and core.
Here are the steps to this bodyweight cardio workout exercise:
- Begin by performing a full squat.
- Then, drop your hands to the ground in front of your body about shoulder-width apart.
- Press all your weight to your palms and jump your feet back behind you into a push-up position.
- Complete one full push-up.
- Then, shift all your weight into your palms and jump your feet forward towards your hands, springing your body up into the highest vertical jump, reaching up towards the ceiling.
- While you land, bend your knees to cushion the landing, transitioning immediately into a full squat to begin the cycle again.
#7: Tuck Jumps
While burpees and jump squats are the most common bodyweight cardio exercises, tuck jumps are just as effective at boosting your heart rate and building explosive leg strength.
Plus, this is an excellent bodyweight cardio exercise to engage your core muscles and improve power in your glutes and calves.
This is a stationary plyometric exercise. In other words, you shouldn’t be traveling forward much as you tuck jump (unlike skipping).
Here are the steps:
- Stand upright with good posture, keeping your chest up, shoulders down, and abs engaged.
- In one explosive movement, jump straight up into the air, driving your knees all the way up to your chest as you bend your hips and knees as if forming a tuck like you are going to do a cannonball into a swimming pool.
- Use your arms to help drive your legs up. To do so, swing them back before you jump, and then thrust them vigorously up into the air as you explode off the balls of your feet to bring your knees towards your chest. Keep your core tight and use your abdominal muscles and hip flexors to snap your legs into a tuck.
- Land back down in the same place. Bend your knees to soften the landing.
- Immediately explode back up into another tuck jump.
#8: Mountain Climbers
Mountain climbers are a great total-body, no equipment cardio exercise.
Be sure to maintain good form with your hips in line with your body. Do not lift your butt up into the air or allow your hips to sag.
Here are the steps for this bodyweight cardio move:
- Get into a push-up position with your core and glutes engaged.
- Pressing your weight into your hands, alternate bending each knee and bringing the leg up under your chest between your arms and then returning it to the starting position.
- Run your legs back and forth as hard and fast as you can.
For more ideas about cardio workouts without equipment, check out our guide to workouts you can do in a hotel room while traveling.