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 high intensity move and a great way to get your heart rate up in a short time.

This very 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.

If your knees bother you, don't squat all the way down to the floor.

  1. With feet about hip-width apart, squat all the way down to the floor, putting your hands on the floor in front of you.
  2. In an explosive movement, engage your glutes, quads, and hamstrings to 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, res,t and repeat, if desired.

2
Burpees

Burpees
Ben Goldstein

Burpees are an exercise many of us may remember vividly from high school gym​ class.

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. Do a pushup on the toes or the knees (this is optional and adds quite a bit of intensity).
  4. Immediately jump the feet back to start, stand up and repeat for 10-15 reps or for 30-60 seconds.
  5. Add burpees 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. 

You'll need lots of core strength for this move, as well as upper body endurance.

  1. Begin in a pushup position on the hands and toes, back flat and abs engaged.
  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).
  7. Another alternative is to run the knees in and out instead of touching the toes to the floor and switching feet in the air.

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 and engage the core.
  2. Squat as low as you can, touching the floor with your fingertips if you can. Make sure you send the hips back to avoid putting too much pressure on the knees.
  3. Jump up as high as you can, sweeping 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 or platform 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 alternating a jump on the step and a jumping jack. 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. You can also jump in a staggered stance, with one foot hitting the step just before the other one, which makes the move less intense.

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.

Keep in mind that you can do this without a step or you can tap to any sturdy object like a BOSU or the lowest step on a staircase.

  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.

This move can be hard on the knees, so try landing with the weight in your heels and keeping the jumps short at first.

  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, turning around and going the other way.
  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. Circling the arms adds some intensity to the move as well.

  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 another great plyometric move that will help build power and strength in the lower body.

It's also excellent 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 too 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.

You can also add some forward motion by jogging around the house or up and down the stairs.

  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. Bring your knees up to the hips if you can and you'll engage the core as well as the quads and the hip flexors.

  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 move is not only great for the heart, it targets the outer thighs as well. This is a great compliment to exercises that have you going forward and back such as long jumps. 

  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?

One way to easily modify mountain climbers is to elevate 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 1-3 sets, going for 30-60 seconds each time.

17
Lunge Jumps

Lunge jumps
Ben Goldstein

This move is different from plyo-lunges in that you don't switch the feet in the air, but stay on the same leg.

This move will build lots of power and strength in the lower body while increasing the heart rate and intensity. The key is to 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. 

Because you're moving quickly, you don't need heavy weights here. That can cause strain and injury. The idea is to add a little intensity with light weights so you get a little extra calorie-burn. 

  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

Jumping jacks are often a staple of any home cardio routine, but it's easy to spice things up by adding some equipment.

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. As you pull the band down, you engage the back, making this a multi-purpose exercise.

  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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