Cardio gets a bad rap. Part of the disdain for lung-burning, heart-beating cardio workouts come from one obvious thing: They’re very hard. Cardio hurts in ways that living just does not. The endorphins are slow to come and aren’t strong enough to counteract the pain of something like a stair workout, no matter how much you’d like to think they do.
But as all the most annoying fitness instructors will tell you, no pain, no gain. And if you want to lose weight and up your overarching fitness, you’re going to need to add more cardio to your exercise regiment. Whether it’s one at a time, or you pile on all the moves for a cardio feast, here are some serious moves, to inspire.
Stand at the base of the staircase. Raise your right leg and place your right foot one the second step. Push off the floor with your left foot and shift your weight onto your right as you step up. Swing your left leg in front of you, bending your left knee, while swinging your right arm forward for counter balance. Step back down to start position.
The only thing easy about this variation is the explanation. Perform a regular burpee and, at the end, jump 180 degrees so that you’re facing the opposite way. Then do another rep, alternating directions each time.
Starting at the base of the staircase, sprint to the top as fast as you can, moving your feet rapidly like a football drill. Do the equivalent of 5 flights of stairs. That means if you only have a single flight to work with, you’ll sprint to the top, sprint back down.
In the Pool: Skipping
Keep the movement small, focusing on form. Alternatively, make it a bounding skip and aim for height and power as you come out of the water.
Find a stairwell or stadium with at least four flights of stairs. Race to the top, then jog back down, five times.
With your feet in a split-stance, keep both arms straight in front of you and just below the water’s surface. Rotate at your core from side to side.
Stand at the base of the staircase. Work your way to the top taking three steps at a time. Pause in the lunge position between each step, allowing maximum load on your front quad with every step.
With a floatation belt on, get into the deep end. Use your breath and perceived rate of exertion to estimate your level of intensity. If you move to the shallow end, incorporate high knees and butt kicks. Use the side of the pool for intervals of flutter kicks.
To get the max heart rate benefit from this exercise, make sure you raise your arms overhead each and every time. Aim for one jack per second.
This is exactly what it sounds like — a traditional burpee performed using only one leg and then the other.
It may remind you of your childhood, but there’s nothing easy about jumping rope. Skip the bounce and jump only once per revolution, requiring you to spin the rope faster and work a little harder.
Butt Kicks/High Knees
Sprint drills will raise your heart rate, but they also require space. Instead, practice your quick feet and fine motor skills by moving your legs as fast as you can vertically, hiking knees high for 20 seconds, followed by 20 seconds of kicking your heels to your butt as many times as you can while running in place.
This variation is similar to the Box Jump burpee, except you jump over the box (or other stacked item) and continue your reps on alternating sides.
Stand with your back to the base of the staircase. Using caution, walk up the stairs backward, engaging your glutes and hamstrings with every step. Note: This moves requires a bit of balance and coordination (more than you might think!). Use the sidewall for support with one hand if needed.
In the Pool: Karaoke
In the deep end, cross your right foot over and in front of your left foot while extending your arms out to your sides. Step your left foot to the side. Cross your right foot behind your left foot. Continue moving laterally, then repeat, moving in the opposite direction.
From standing, bend your knees, crouch down to the floor, place your hands on the ground, and jump your feet back so you are in an extended plank position. Jump feet forward toward your hands again, push off the floor and jump into a vertical position.
They aren’t typically considered aerobic moves, but these all-over body strengtheners can really raise your heart rate if you do them all-out without rest. Drop and do 20 pushups, then flip over to your back and immediately do 20 sit-ups. With both, you’re aiming for a 1-1.5 second timeframe per move.
In the Pool: Side Jogger
Stand perpendicular to the staircase, right hip closest to the stairs. Bend right knee and step up onto the first step, bringing your left leg with you. Quickly step up onto the second step. Work your way to the top using your right side to propel you. At the top of the flight, work your way back down using your right side to lead you again. At the bottom, reverse and jog sideways up the stairs using your left side to lead the way.
Pushups and Squat Jumps
Alternate each move for 20 seconds on/10 seconds off for eight rounds total
Lunges and Dumbbell Rows
Alternate each move for 20 seconds on/10 seconds off for eight rounds total.
Hold a light dumbbell or medicine ball in both hands. Squat and twist to move the weight to the outside of your left leg. Lift the weight across your body and past your head on your right side. Pivot your feet as needed. Lower the weight back to the outside of your left leg and repeat. For your next woodshop set, move the weight from the outside of your right leg above and to the left of your head.
Burpee with Lateral Jump
Rather than jumping vertically during each burpee, jump horizontally over a stationary object.
Start with your feet hip-distance apart. Squat and bring your hands together in front of your chest. Move your right foot to the side and then move your left foot to meet it. Do this four times, then switch directions and move to the left.
Burpee Box Jump
It’s just like a regular burpee except, at the conclusion of your push-up, you pop back up to a standing position, then leap forward to a plyo box — or another item of similar stability and height. Leap back down behind you (carefully), and start again.
After you do a push-up, from plank give a two-armed row — lifting first your left elbow to the sky and back, and then your right. Repeat.
Sit-Ups and Leg Raises
Leg Raises: Lie on your back, legs straight and together on the floor. Lift your legs, keeping them together, until your feet are pointing straight above you. Slowly lower your legs to just above the floor without letting your feet come all the way down. Repeat.
Alternate Foot Steps Jump Rope
Hunt recommends beginning your trick trying with the alternate foot step, as it’s a fairly easy to master and lends itself to faster jumping. Instead of jumping with both feet together, bound with one at a time, as if you’re running in place. The rope should pass under your feet as you shift your weight from one foot to the other.
Double Unders Jump Rope
Double unders require the rope to pass under the feet two times for each jump. To do this, you need to bound a little higher and increase the rotational speed of the rope. Remember to maintain an upright posture, land with both feet together, and initiate the rope’s rotation with a fast flick of the wrists.
When in the down position of your pushup during a normal burpee, extend your hands and arms so that your body is completely flat on the floor. Bring your arms back in, push up, and continue the exercise like normal.
The side swing works the core and upper body, but since you’re not actually jumping over the rope, it requires far less coordination. Pull the hands together in front of your body and move the handles and rope in a figure-eight formation. You can jump or step from side to side. Or, if you’re using the side swing as an active rest, simply stand in place.
In the Pool: Flies, Lat Raises, Bicep Curls, and Tricep Press Downs
In a pool, use the palm of your hand to create resistance, or add a paddle or water dumbbell and do your usual workout bench moves.
Stand at the base of the staircase. Shift weight onto your right leg, lifting left foot off the floor. Bend right knee, swing arms behind you, then swing them forward as you push off the floor and jump onto the first step with the right leg. Hop back down, keeping left foot off the floor.
In the Pool: Lunges and Squats
Perform these just as you would on land. Add in jumps out of the water.
Mini Box Jumps
Stand at the base of the staircase. Bend your knees and swing arms behind you, then swing them forward as spring off the ground and propel yourself onto the second step. Land on both feet. Jump back down using both feet.
Incline Clapping Push-Ups
Stand at the base of the staircase. Place hands on the third step, arms straight. Keeping your back straight and in line with your legs, bend elbows and lower chest to the stairs. Hold for a second, then explosively push off the stairs and clap your hands together before landing in the extended push-up position.
Start in a squatting position, and roll backward until your shoulders touch the ground, and your legs come up over your body. Then, roll forward into your pushup, recover, and complete the rep with a vertical leap
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