Cardio can often be forgotten about in the fitness industry. It can be time-consuming, hard and usually requires some of the expensive equipment. Or does it?
The fact is, you don’t need an expensive rowing machine or a treadmill you can watch Netflix on. Many of us think that cardio is all about running and jogging, but cardio is anything that raises our heart rate and improves our cardiovascular system.
Cardiovascular exercise is crucial for heart health, burning calories, improving brain function, helping sleep and making you feel good. For strength athletes, cardio increases the efficiency of your blood capillaries. Vital nutrients to the muscle can be transported more efficiently so you can recover faster and train harder for longer, again and again.
So, no matter what your goal is, cardio has a place in your programme. We’ve taken the guesswork out of cardio at home and provided 7 ideal exercises to get your heart racing.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock your whole life, you likely know what a burpee is. It’s a simple, whole-body movement that when done with intensity, becomes a lung-busting and energy-burning exercise.
- Take a standing start
- Quickly crouch down and place your palms on the floor
- Shoot your legs out straight behind you, taking a press-up position
- Bring your feet back into your hands and explosively jump upwards
- Land on your feet and repeat
Perform 10 at the top of every minute for 10 minutes to start and increase the reps and times as you get fitter.
You can make these harder by combining with press-ups at the bottom or star jumps at the top.
This energetic movement isn’t as taxing on the muscles as the burpee but still raises the heart rate, which means you can perform for longer and combine in a circuit without affecting your ability to perform other movements.
- Start in the press-up position
- Bring your left knee up to your chest and touch the floor with the ball of your left foot. Keep your other leg firmly planked.
- Return your left foot and knee to the original position whilst simultaneously moving your right knee to your chest and right foot to the floor.
- Repeat the movements in a flowing singularly motion.
Perform for 30 seconds with 30 seconds rest for 6 sets. Increase the times as you get fitter.
If these are a bit too dynamic, you can do a slower movement. Simply remain in a plank position and bring one knee carefully to your chest and back – repeat with the other knee.
A simple variation of the squat. Adding in the jump will get the heart racing and the blood pumping. It’s also great for the quads, too.
- Adopt a squat position
- Squat down as low as you can with your arms by your side
- Explode upwards, firing through your quads and glutes, and get as high as you can
- Land in the squat position and repeat.
The best thing to do here is 5 rounds of 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off. Try to go as fast as you can in the time on but make sure you land softly to help prevent injury.
A simple movement that requires a small implement – such as a step or a sturdy box or bench. Toe taps are dynamic and exciting exercise to perform.
- Stand at the base of your stairs or implement of your choice.
- Spring off one foot, bringing your knee-high and ‘tapping your toe’ on the step.
- Bring your foot back to the starting position whilst simultaneously doing the same with the other foot on the step.
- You should never be standing still.
One minute on, 30 seconds off – 3 – 5 sets. Adjust as per for your fitness.
Lunges are already a hard exercise, but how about we make them harder? Let’s add in a jump. These are great for the legs and can leave you out of breath if you underestimate them.
- Start standing with your feet staggered, your left foot slightly in front of your right.
- With your core engaged, push off the bottom of both feet into a jump, switching the position of your feet in mid-air, landing in a basic lunge with your right leg in front.
- Without rest, repeat this movement alternating legs. To prevent injury, make sure your back leg is bent directly underneath your body and your front leg is bent at 90 degrees at the knee and hip.
3 sets of up to 20 reps would do the trick here.
Try focusing on keeping the distance between your feet the same — don’t worry this will be hard at first but practise makes perfect.
These are good for cardiovascular fitness and a great finisher for this working.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Lift your left knee to your chest.
- Switch to lift your right knee to your chest.
- Continue the movement, alternating legs and moving at a sprinting pace.
Perform 3 sets of 20 seconds on and 10 seconds of rest.
These make the burpee look like a piece of cake. They essentially add a squat position to an already intense movement.
- Bend your knees (not your back) and place your hands on the floor.
- Jump or walk your feet back into a full plank position.
- Jump your feet back in and simultaneously drive off your hands and land in a squat position.
- In the squat position, you should lift your chest, aim to have your back straight and your thighs parallel with the floor.
Perform 3 sets of 20 seconds on and 10 seconds of rest.
Take Home Message
Cardio doesn’t have to be a chore, and you can do it from the comfort of your own home. If you can get out of the house, running and cycling will be most people’s go-to form of exercise. They’re both fantastic options to get the heart racing, but if you want to change things up, perform a circuit, train around that niggling injury that running on concrete seems to aggravate, then the exercises in this list are ideal.
Plus, these exercises can be performed at home with no equipment and very little space – providing the perfect dose of cardio at home.