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10 Must-Try Cardio Bodyweight Exercises

READ TIME:8 min.

When you hear “strength workouts,” your mind may conjure images of dumbbells or weight machines. For “cardio workouts,” you’ll likely think of walking, running, hiking, or even sprinting. Just like you don’t need weights to build strength, you don’t need to become a runner to work on your cardiovascular health1. Cardio classes can take on a whole new meaning with bodyweight workouts!

Bodyweight exercise is another way to try to become more physically fit and hit those daily cardio goals. Traditional avenues of cardio exercise may not always be what you’re in the mood for. Fortunately, you can harness the underrated power of bodyweight exercises2 to ramp up your heart rate and get your sweat on anytime, anywhere (even in your living room!). With regular bodyweight training3, you may notice a difference in your endurance, metabolism, and general fitness ability. In a recent study4, researchers found that after four weeks of whole-body aerobic-resistance training, participants demonstrated improved cardiovascular fitness. This was in opposition to the other control groups, one that solely performed treadmill exercise and another that engaged in no exercise. Using your weight as resistance is one of the easiest, most convenient ways to get fit.

iFIT 10 must-try cardio bodyweight exercises

There are many different types of bodyweight exercises to choose from for your next workout, some of which you may find are better for cardio than others. Below are 10 cardio bodyweight exercises to try the next time you’re ready to work on your endurance! Since they only require your bodyweight, you can create a workout to do right in your home gym. Note that these exercises can be challenging, but don’t worry—we’ve included modifications to accommodate any fitness level.

1. Skaters

With this side-to-side bodyweight exercise, skaters allow you to work on your balance and agility.

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Knees should be slightly bent.
  • Jump to the right with your right foot. Sweep the left foot behind your right leg. 
  • Tap your right foot with your left hand.
  • Alternate sides by jumping to the left with your left foot while the right foot sweeps behind you. Tap your left foot with your right hand.
  • Use your arms to help keep the momentum.

Note: Instead of distributing your weight on the foot, land lightly on the ball of your foot and quickly alternate to the left.

Modification

Instead of lateral jumps, you can also perform skaters by taking lateral steps.

2. Jumping jacks

A timeless, full body exercise! It’s easy to get into the rhythm of jumping jacks, which makes them a worthwhile exercise to add to any workout routine.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms by your sides.
  • Jump with your feet out to your sides and your arms overhead. Your body should resemble an “X.” 
  • Return to the starting position.

Modification

To make jumping jacks easier, replace the jump with alternating left and right steps.

3. Woodchops

Work your core with no sit-ups necessary! Woodchops are one of those cardio exercises that target your obliques and help strengthen your abdominals.

  • Start with your hands together towards your right side. Hold them about eye-level so your arms are bent at the elbows.
  • Put your weight on your right foot with the left foot slightly raised.
  • As if you were holding an axe, chop your arm across your body with bent knees. Transition your weight from your right to left foot, slightly raising your right foot at the end of the exercise. You should be in a slight lunge position.
  • Bring your arms back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for your left side.

4. High knees

High knees are a bodyweight workout that challenges your quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and abdominal muscles.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Begin to run in place, lifting your knees to waist level. Make sure you engage your abs during this exercise. Watch your posture—don’t slouch!
  • You can hold your arms out and use your hands as a measure of knee height.

Modification

Instead of hopping from one foot to the other, perform high knees at a slower pace. Bring one knee up, pause, and then bring the leg back down. Repeat this for the other side.

Woman works out with iFIT bodyweight exercises

5. Mountain climbers

Testing your stability, mountain climbers simultaneously work your shoulders, arms, core, and legs. These can be taxing for beginners, so take the time to nail down the form.

  • Begin on your hands and knees. 
  • Position yourself in a high plank position with your core engaged. Make sure your lower back is not bowed.
  • Bring your right foot up towards your right hand until you reach a lunge position.
  • Quickly jump and switch your feet, so that the left foot is now in front.
  • Continue this alternating pattern.

Modification

You can modify this bodyweight exercise by slowing it down without jumping. Instead of the quick bursts to transition your feet, you can simply start with the right foot and then bring it back down to alternate to the left foot.

6. Burpees

The burpee is a bodyweight workout that is both loved and hated. They are highly effective and offer an intense cardio workout all on their own!

  • Get into a squat position with your knees bent and back straight. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.
  • Lower your hands to the floor in front of you, so they’re just inside your feet. 
  • With your weight in your hands, jump and kick your feet back. You will be in a plank position. 
  • Do one push-up, and then perform another jump moving your feet back to their starting position. 
  • Stand and jump into the air with your arms outstretched over your head. Land where you began.
  • Come back to a starting position.
  • Repeat.

Modification

If burpees are a little too advanced, that’s okay! You can bring the difficulty of this exercise down with up-downs. These will help build your strength up so you can easily move through a set of burpees in the future.

  • Get into a squat position with your knees bent and back straight. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.
  • Lower your hands onto the floor in front of you, so they’re just inside your feet. 
  • With your weight on your hands, walk your feet back, so you’re in a plank position. 
  • Hold the plank position.
  • Jump to move your feet back to their starting position. 
  • Stand and stretch your arms overhead. 
  • Come back to a starting position.
  • Repeat.

7. Squat jumps

This variation of a classic bodyweight squat calls the leg muscles into action in a big way. A few sets of these will give you that feel-good muscle burn.

  • Position your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Perform a squat with your arms bent and hands together in prayer position.
  • Rise up into a jump with your legs fully extended. Pushing your arms down during the jump will help get you going.
  • Land lightly and immediately transition into another squat. Do not land with your knees locked, but instead slightly bent to absorb the jump.

Modification

Are squat jumps feeling too challenging? Perfect regular squats first! Ensure your feet are stable with your back straight and head neutral. You can also perform squat reaches, which are regular squats that require you to bring your arms overhead and hold the squat position.

Woman works out to an iFIT bodyweight exercise

8. Up-down planks

Add more of a challenge to the classic plank by lowering yourself onto your forearms with up-down planks.

  • Get into a plank position on your hands and toes. Engage your core.
  • Lower your left elbow to the floor and then the right. You should be on your elbows.
  • Bring yourself back up to a full plank position by straightening your arms and putting weight back onto your palms. During this exercise, keep your lower back straight.
  • Alternate sides from left to right and vice versa during these planks.

Note: If you encounter wrist pain, think about gripping your mat with your fingers. This will create a hollow space between the floor and your palms, which may help ease discomfort.

Modification

Perform up-down planks starting on your knees instead of a full plank. Make sure your body stays in a line without dipping your lower back. Do not hinge at the waist for this exercise.

9. Lateral bunny hops

Bunny hops are an easy way to keep your heart rate up during bodyweight workouts.

  • Start with your feet together.
  • Pretend there is an invisible line at your side.
  • Using your arms for momentum, quickly jump side to side over the line. Keep your legs close together during this exercise.

10. Split lunge jumps

Upgrade your classic lunges with explosive jumps! Split lunge jumps are all about power and form with focus on the leg muscles.

  • Stand with your feet together with soft knees.
  • Get into a lunge position first and then continue with a jump. Land in an opposite lunge (if you began with the right foot forward, land with the left foot forward).
  • Quickly jump back up and into the starting position with your feet together.
  • Repeat on the other side.
Man does iFIT bodyweight workouts

Cardio bodyweight classes with iFIT

After getting the hang of these cardio bodyweight exercises, you’ll always have an exercise routine ready for a home workout or while on vacation, a work trip, or wherever else life takes you. With the iFIT fitness app, you’ll have access to a wide variety of bodyweight classes that will incorporate exercises like these and more.

Simply join an iFIT bodyweight workout series and get ready for a unique, immersive workout experience that will keep you coming back for more. Not sure where to start? Here are a few cardio bodyweight workout series that will get you going!

These bodyweight series are led by iFIT Trainers, who will build up your confidence alongside your endurance. With iFIT, you can travel to destinations all over the world while chipping away at your fitness goals.

Try an iFIT cardio bodyweight workout

No matter what bodyweight workout you choose, each is designed to challenge you in ways that will keep your motivation high. With a personal trainer guiding you through your iFIT cardio workout, you might be surprised by how much you progress!

Cardio workouts can be so much more than a run or casual walk. Whether you’re new to fitness or consider yourself a fitness enthusiast, there are bodyweight classes for every level! You don’t need to be a runner to learn new cardio exercises and techniques while building strength.

Sign up for your free iFIT 30-day trial to start a bodyweight workout today!

References

 1.  Gaz, D. V. (2017, January 20). Body-weight training: Ditch the dumbbells. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/body-weight-training-ditch-the-dumbbells/art-20304638. 

2.  Laskowski, E. (2020, October 10). Is body-weight training effective as a strength training exercise? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/body-weight-training/faq-20147966.

3. Gaz, D. V. (2017, January 20). Body-weight training: Ditch the dumbbells. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/body-weight-training-ditch-the-dumbbells/art-20304638. 

4. McRae, G., Payne, A., Zelt, J. G., Scribbans, T. D., Jung, M. E., Little, J. P., & Gurd, B. J. (2012). Extremely low volume, whole-body aerobic-resistance training improves aerobic fitness and muscular endurance in females. Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism = Physiologie appliquee, nutrition et metabolisme, 37(6), 1124–1131. https://doi.org/10.1139/h2012-093.

Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. iFIT assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article. Always follow the safety precautions included in the owner’s manual of your fitness equipment.


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