19 Effective Cardio Exercises for a Gym-Free Workout

1
Froggy Jumps

Froggy jumps
Ben Goldstein

Whether you're adding these on at the end of your workout or using them for circuit training, froggy jumps are a great way to get your heart rate up in a short time. This advanced exercise will enhance your lower body power and cardio endurance while helping you burn more calories. Add one minute of froggy jumps several times throughout your usual cardio workout to add intensity or add them to your workout when you're short on time but want to work hard.

  1. Squat all the way down to the floor, putting your hands on the floor in front of you.
  2. In an explosive movement, push up from the floor, jumping up in the air.
  3. As you jump, tap your heels together and take the hands behind the head or up in the air.
  4. Land with bent knees to protect the joints and go back into your squat to prepare for the next jump.
  5. Repeat 10-20 froggy jumps, rest and repeat, if desired.

2
Burpees

Burpee
Ben Goldstein

Burpees are an exercise many of us may remember vividly from high school gym glass. This tough exercise is so memorable because it works the entire body and gets the heart rate up in a very short period of time. The move is simple, but very challenging on the heart, lungs and the body. It's a great move to add to your regular cardio workouts to add intensity and to work on your power, agility and endurance.

  1. Stand with feet about hip-width apart and squat to the floor, placing your hands on the floor in front of you.
  2. In an explosive movement, jump the feet out behind you so that you're in a pushup position, on the hands and toes with the body in a straight line.
  3. Immediately jump the feet back to start, stand up and repeat for 10-15 reps or for 30-60 seconds.
  4. Add these squat thrusts to your usual workout for a high intensity burst or put them together with other cardio moves for a short, intense workout.

3
Mountain Climbers

Mountain Climbers
Ben Goldstein

Mountain climbers are an advanced, high intensity exercise that will get your heart rate up and add intensity to your workouts. This move will also build leg endurance and help you work on agility as well, making it a great overall exercise. If you've never tried this move, take your time and ease into it with slow reps. If you feel discomfort or pain, avoid this exercise.

  1. Begin in a pushup position on the hands and toes.
  2. Bring the right knee in towards the chest, resting the foot on the floor.
  3. Jump up and switch feet in the air, bringing the left foot in and the right foot back.
  4. Continue alternating the feet as fast as you safely can for 30-60 seconds.
  5. Add this move at the end of your regular cardio workout for an added boost, or do it a few times during your workout whenever you want to add intensity or mix things up.
  6. To modify, rest your hands on a step, platform or BOSU Balance Trainer (dome side down).

4
Squat Jumps

Squat jump
Ben Goldstein

Squat jumps are a great way to add intensity to your workouts and really raise the heart rate. This is an advanced exercise that is high impact, so protect your joints by landing with soft knees. If the impact is too much, you can do the move without jumping. If you've never tried this move, take your time and ease into it with small jumps. If you feel discomfort or pain, avoid this exercise.

  1. Begin with feet about hip-distance apart.
  2. Squat as low as you can, keeping the knees behind the toes.
  3. Jump up as high as you can, taking the arms overhead.
  4. Land with soft knees back into your squat and repeat for 30-60 seconds.
  5. Add this move at the end of your regular cardio workout for an added boost, or do it a few times during your workout whenever you want to add intensity or mix things up.

5
Jumping Jacks to the Step

Jumping Jacks to Step
Ben Goldstein

Jumping jacks are great, but adding a step is a great way to add intensity and spice things up. This move is high impact, so protect your joints by landing with soft knees. You may want to start with the step at it's lowest position if you're trying this move for the first time. If you feel discomfort or pain, avoid this exercise.

  1. Stand in front of a step and jump up onto the step with both feet.
  2. Jump back down to the floor (or step down to the floor if jumping feels unsafe or uncomfortable).
  3. Do a jumping jack on the floor and, after you jump the feet back together, jump back onto the step.
  4. Continue for 30-60 seconds.
  5. Add this move at the end of your regular cardio workout for an added boost, or do it a few times during your workout whenever you want to add intensity or mix things up.
  6. To modify, do jumping jacks on the floor or use a lower step.

6
Toe Taps with Jumps

Toe Taps with Jump
Ben Goldstein

Toe taps are great for adding intensity and improving agility. If you've never tried this move, take your time and ease into it with slow taps without the jump. If you feel discomfort or pain, avoid this exercise.

  1. Stand in front of a step or platform.
  2. Touch the right toe to the step, jump up and switch the feet in mid-air, touching the left toe to the step.
  3. Continue alternating toe taps as quickly and safely as you can for 30-60 seconds.
  4. Add this move at the end of your regular cardio workout for an added boost, or do it a few times during your workout whenever you want to add intensity or mix things up.

7
Side to Side Jumping Lunges

Side to side jumping lunge
Ben Goldstein

If you want a great whole body exercise that gets your heart rate up, side to side lunges will do the trick. You can do this move with a jump to add more intensity, but doing it without the jump will also work. Keep your abs engaged to protect your back and, if you feel any back pain, avoid touching the floor. If you've never tried this move, take your time and ease into it with slow reps. If you feel discomfort or pain, avoid this exercise.

  1. Take the right leg out to the side as you bend the left knee, turning the body to the left in a runner's lunge. Touch the right fingers to the floor, if you can.
  2. Quickly jump up to shift the feet in the air and lunge to the right side, touching the left hand to the floor.
  3. Continue alternating sides for 30-60 seconds.
  4. Add this move at the end of your regular cardio workout for an added boost, or do it a few times during your workout whenever you want to add intensity or mix things up.

8
Prisoner Squat Jumps

Prisoner Squat Jumps
Ben Goldstein

Though similar to squat jumps, prisoner squat jumps focus more attention on the core, making this a great overall cardio exercise. By placing the hands behind the head and leaning the torso forward, you engage the abs and the back, which challenges the core. This is an advanced exercise that is high impact, so protect your joints by landing with soft knees. If the impact is too much, you can do the move without jumping. If you've never tried this move, take your time and ease into it with small jumps. If you feel discomfort or pain, avoid this exercise.

  1. Begin with feet wide and the hands behind the head.
  2. Squat as low as you can, taking the torso slightly forward without rounding the back.
  3. Jump up as high as you can, keeping the hands behind the head.
  4. Land with soft knees and repeat for 30-60 seconds.
  5. Add this move at the end of your regular cardio workout for an added boost, or do it a few times during your workout whenever you want to add intensity or mix things up.

9
Long Jumps

Long Jump
Ben Goldstein

A simple way to increase intensity and add challenge to your workouts is to incorporate long jumps. With long jumps, you simply jump forward as far as you can, landing with both feet. You'll feel your core working hard on this exercise as well as your heart. To keep this move safe, land with soft knees. If you need to modify, try a staggered landing (one foot lands a bit before the other one). As always, skip this move if you feel pain or discomfort.

  1. Stand with feet together and make sure you have plenty of space in front of you.
  2. Lower into a squat and jump forward as far as you can in an explosive movement.
  3. Land with bent knees to protect the joints.
  4. Jump forward again, continuing for the length of the room.
  5. Repeat for 30-60 seconds.
  6. Add this move at the end of your regular cardio workout for an added boost, or do it a few times during your workout whenever you want to add intensity or mix things up.

10
Plyo Jacks

Plyo jacks
Ben Goldstein

Plyo jacks, or plyometric jumping jacks, are another option for getting the heart rate up and challenging the body in a whole new way. Plyo jacks are like very slow jumping jacks. You jump out, just as you would in a jumping jack, but slow things down and add a deep squat. When you jump your feet back together, you land in another deep squat to challenge your hips, glutes thighs and, of course, your heart rate.

  1. Begin with feet together and lower into a squat, bringing the arms in front of you.
  2. Jump the feet out, landing in a squat and circling the arms up and over the head.
  3. Jump up once again, bringing the feet together and circling the arms back down.
  4. Add this move at the end of your regular cardio workout for an added boost, or do it a few times during your workout whenever you want to add intensity or mix things up.

11
Plyo Lunges

Plyo lunges
Ben Goldstein

Plyo lunges are great for burning calories, getting the heart rate up and working the hips, glutes and thighs. This high impact, high intensity exercise is challenging, so stick with static lunges if this move is to much for you.

  1. Stand in a split stance, right leg in front and left leg in back.
  2. Bend your knees and lower into a lunge, keeping the front knee behind the toe.
  3. In an explosive movement, jump into the air and switch your legs, landing so that the left leg is in front and the right leg is in back.
  4. Land with soft joints, lower into a lunge and repeat, jumping and switching sides.
  5. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 10-60 seconds

12
Jogging in Place

Jogging in place
Ben Goldstein

Jogging in place is one of the simplest ways to get the heart rate up if you're stuck inside. It doesn't have the same intensity as jogging outside, since there's no forward motion and no wind resistance, but you can still get the heart rate up by using your arms and working as hard as you can.

  1. Begin by marching in place, lifting the knees and swinging the arms.
  2. Move into a light jog, keeping the feet close to the ground as you get a feel for the exercise.
  3. As you warm up, start bringing the heels towards the glutes each time you jog.
  4. Add intensity by pumping the arms overhead, jogging faster or raising the knees (see the Jogging with High Knees). Repeat for 30 seconds to as many minutes as you can. You can also do this exercise in a cardio circuit.

13
Jogging with High Knees

Jogging with high knees
Ben Goldstein

Jogging in place is great, but if you want to add intensity, try lifting the knees high as you run. Your heart rate will thank you.

  1. While jogging in place, lift the knees high each time you jog.
  2. Try lifting the knees to hip level if you can, keeping the core tight to protect the back.
  3. To make it even harder, hold the hands at hip level and try to touch your knees to your hands each time you jog. Bring the knees up towards the hands, rather than bringing the hands down to the knees.
  4. You can also add intensity by pushing the arms overhead.
  5. Repeat for 30 seconds to as many minutes as you can. You can also do this exercise in a cardio circuit.

14
Front Kick Lunge

Front kick with lunge
Ben Goldstein

This is a great move for getting the heart rate up with no equipment needed. It's low impact, but that doesn't mean it's low intensity. Adding a low lunge at the end while touching the floor will engage the glutes and thighs and help raise the heart rate.

  1. Stand with feet about hip-width apart and bring the right knee up.
  2. Extend the right leg out into a front kick, but avoid locking or hyperextending the knee.
  3. Bring the leg back and immediately take it behind you into a straight-leg reverse lunge, keeping your balance on the left leg (if you can).
  4. Lunge as low as you can, touching the floor with your fingertips.
  5. Stand up, bring the right leg forward again and kick.
  6. Repeat the kick and low lunge sequence for one minute and repeat the sequence on the other side for one minute.

15
Speed Skaters

Speed skaters
Ben Goldstein

Speed skaters are great for getting the heart rate up and for working the body with lateral movement, something we often don't spend much time doing.  This is also a great exercise for working the outer thighs.

  1. Start with the feet together and jump to the right, as far as you can.
  2. Land on the right foot and cross the left foot behind you for a balance challenge.
  3. Now jump to the left, again taking a very wide step, and land on the left foot.
  4. Continue going from one side to the other, trying to keep the movement low and wide rather than jumping up in the air.
  5. Continue alternating sides for 30-60 seconds.
  6. Add this move at the end of your regular cardio workout for an added boost, or do it a few times during your workout whenever you want to add intensity or mix things up.

16
Modified Mountain Climbers

Modified mountain climbers
Ben Goldstein

Mountain Climbers are great for both cardio and core strength but what if you're not ready for that level?  No worries because this modified version elevates the upper body, which will take some of the weight off your arms and place it on the lower body, which is stronger.  As you build upper body and core strength, try this move with the hands on the floor.

  1. Stand in front of a raised platform of some kind - a weight bench, a step (as shown), a chair or even a railing. 
  2. Place your hands on the platform just wider than the shoulders and walk the feet out so that your back is straight - kind of like a pushup position.
  3. Bring the right knee in towards the platform while keeping the rest of the body in place.
  4. Take the right leg back and switch sides, bringing the left knee towards the platform.
  5. Continue alternating knees, speeding up if you can.
  6. Complete about 1-3 sets, going for 30-60 seconds each time.

17
Lunge Jumps

Lunge jumps
Ben Goldstein

As if traditional lunges aren't enough of a challenge, you can add even more power and strength by adding a jump.  Make sure you land softly - Try to absorb the impact with your muscles, rather than your joints.

  1. Begin in a staggered stance, right foot forward and left foot back.
  2. Bend the knees into a lunge, going as low as you can, but not past 90-degrees.
  3. Spring up into the air as high as you can, keeping the hands on your hips or taking them up in the air for more intensity.
  4. Land softly on the balls of your feet and lower back into your lunge.
  5. Complete 8-16 reps before switching sides.

18
Speed Skaters with Weights

Speed skaters with weights
Ben Goldstein

Speed skaters are great for getting the heart rate up, but adding some light weights can add more intensity and put more emphasis on the glutes.  You don't want to go too heavy here, just enough to add a little bump to your workout routine.

  1. Start with the feet together and hold light weights in both hands.
  2. Take a wide lateral jump to the right while crossing the left foot behind you and bringing the left weight towards the floor.
  3. Keep the abs braced to protect the back.
  4. Push off the right foot and jump to the other side, taking the right weight towards the floor.
  5. Continue going from one side to the other for 1-3 sets, working for 30-60 seconds.

19
Jumping Jacks with Resistance Band Lat Pulls

Jumping Jacks with Resistance Band Lat Pulls
Ben Goldstein

Adding a resistance band to traditional jumping jacks is a great way to add more intensity and engage the upper body, which always helps burn more calories.

  1. Hold a resistance band in both hands straight up overhead.  Make sure your hands are close enough to get tension on the band when you pull it down, but not too tight.
  2. Jump the feet out in a jumping jack and, at the same time, open the band, pulling the elbows down to either side of the body.
  3. Focus on squeezing the back as you bring the arms down.
  4. Jump the feet back together as you take the arms back overhead and repeat for 60 seconds.

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