33 Cardio-Based Bodyweight Exercises
When we say "daily cardio exercise," odds are you immediately think about logging miles on a treadmill or elliptical. But it doesn't have to be that way. After all, you should never feel boxed in or bored by your workouts ("Ugh, I guess I'll just hop on for 20 minutes and hate every second of it" is probably the world's worst approach to fitness.)
What if we told you that you could get a kick-ass cardio workout that would keep you on your toes, without even leaving the house? Better still: The steps are broken down into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels, so you can adjust as needed. And the bodyweight-only moves are mostly low impact, meaning you can do them in the comfort of your own living room without worrying about annoying the downstairs neighbors.
Where did we come up with the moves? Well, we tapped Josey Greenwell, certified trainer and Barry's Bootcamp instructor, to show us some of his favorite heart-pumping exercises. You can create your own routine by following our guidelines—or try his workout at the end of the article. Either way, you'll be burning fat and upping your cardiovascular endurance—win-win!
Create your own workout: Pick 3 or 4 moves from the list below and add them to any workout. Do the moves between strength training exercises as an active rest or add them on to the start of a run or other cardio routine. Perform each exercise for 30 to 60 seconds and complete 2 to 3 rounds.
Try our workout: Skip the guesswork and scroll to the end to do Greenwell's workout.
Stand with feet hip width and core tight. Bend from the waist, place hands on the ground, and walk hands forward, keeping legs straight. When you arrive in a high plank, quickly walk hands back toward feet and stand.
Make it harder: Add a push-up when you are in the high plank position.
Stand with feet hip width and core tight. Raise right knee up as you bring left arm forward and hop off left foot. Land on the ball of your left foot then immediately bring right foot down and repeat on the other side. Focus on height not speed.
Stand in a split stance with right foot one step ahead of left foot and hips squared (facing forward). With right hand, punch up and to the left with a scooping motion. Quickly repeat on the other side. Continue to alternate as quickly as possible while maintaining loose knees and a tight core. Halfway through, switch stance to the other side.
From a high plank position with core tight, run left knee in toward right elbow, then right knee in toward left elbow. Continue to alternate as quickly as possible without hiking hips.
Make it easier: Run knees straight in toward chest rather than twisting.
Stand with your feet hip width and run in place by pulling right knee up toward chest, then left knee up toward chest. Continue to alternate as quickly as possible.
Make it easier: If running isn't part of your game plan, perform this move as a march, using your core to pull your knee toward your chest.
Start in the same split stance that you used for uppercuts, with right foot one step ahead of left foot. Raise both fists up, keeping elbows pulled in to rib cage. Punch forward with left hand, slightly rotating torso as you do. Punch as quickly as possible for half of your time, then switch your stance and punch on the other side.
From a high plank position, with core tight, jump feet apart then jump them back together. Repeat as quickly as possible while trying to maintain level hips.
Run in place kicking heels toward glutes. Swing arms at side or allow them to rest against butt so that heels kick palms. Make sure the movement is being driven from your hamstrings (not your feet kicking up dust).
With feet wider than hip width, bend knees slightly, sending hips back and keeping core tight. Shuffle feet to the right for 4 paces (or for as much space as you have), then shuffle back the other way. Stay low and make your feet move as quickly as possible to get the most out of this exercise.
From a high plank position with core engaged, shift back and pike hips as you lift right hand to tap left shin (or ankle if you're extra flexible!). Return to high plank position and repeat on the other side. Move through the exercise as quickly as possible while maintaining good form.
This classic cardio move is a great way to warm up or do active rest between more difficult moves. Start with feet together, hands at sides, core engaged. Now jump legs apart and bring arms overhead, clapping at the top. Keep knees bent as you jump feet back together and bring arms down. Repeat as quickly as possible.
The goal here is simple: Try to jump as high as possible. Stand with a slight bend in the knees and feet hip width. Swing both arms back as you bend a little deeper. Then, as you swing arms forward, jump up, extending arms overhead. Land lightly and repeat.
Stand with feet hip width and a slight bend in knees. Jump to the right with right foot, landing lightly on the ball of your right foot and sweeping left foot behind right leg. Do not put weight on left foot if you can help it! Immediately jump to the left with left foot, allowing right foot to sweep behind left leg. Continue to alternate sides.
Stand with feet hip width and a slight bend in knees. Swing both arms back and bend a little deeper, then swing arms forward and jump forward as far as possible with both feet, landing lightly on the balls of your feet. Now, as quickly as possible, jog backward to starting place and repeat.
It's time to catch some air. Stand with knees slightly bent and jump up, bringing knees to chest and extending arms out straight in front of chest. Lower arms as you land lightly on the floor.
From a high plank position with core tight, shift weight onto left hand, lift right hand off ground, then rotate to the right and kick left foot out to the right. Tap left foot with right hand. Repeat on the other side moving as quickly as possible.
If you've been to yoga before, you'll recognize this as a near chaturanga—but a little faster. Start in a down dog position with hands on the ground, hips high in the air, and feet on the ground so you form a triangle shape. In a fluid motion, dive head toward the floor, coming into a low push-up position, and then swoop chest forward and up so you end in an upward dog position. From there, push hips up to return to starting position.
From a high plank position with core tight, bring right foot forward to the outside of right hand so you are in a low lunge position. Jump and switch feet in midair so that you land with your left foot to the outside of your left hand with your right foot straight back. Continue to alternate as quickly as possible.
Make it easier: Skip the hop. Instead, step right foot back then quickly step left foot forward.
Hop over an invisible rope (no need to jump more than 1 or 2 inches off the ground) by staying on your toes and pushing off with the balls of your feet. Make quick, small movements with your wrists as if you’re holding a rope.
Stand on right foot with left foot elevated and core tight. Hop 3 times then bend down and quickly walk hands out so you are in a high plank position with left foot still off ground. Do 3 push-ups, never putting left foot down. Walk hands back and stand up to return to starting position. Repeat for half the time on one side only, then switch sides.
You'll need a bench or sturdy chair for this move. Place right foot on the bench and, using glutes, push up so right leg is straight and left foot is off the ground. Slowly lower, allowing left foot then right foot to come down to the ground. Repeat, focusing on using only your right glutes (do not push off with left foot).
It's the move we love to hate (and our model makes it look so easy!). Stand with feet hip width and core tight. Jump up then immediately drop to the floor, placing hands on the ground and shooting feet back so you're in a high plank position. Do a push-up. Quickly jump feet back to hands and, in one movement, stand and jump up to complete 1 rep.
Stand on right leg, lift left foot off ground, and brace core. Jump forward 3 to 5 times, each time landing lightly on the ball of your foot. Switch feet and jump back to start.
Make it harder: Jump in a box formation: forward, side, back, side, then switch directions before hopping on the other side.
Start in a low lunge position with right foot forward, left foot back, and fingertips touching the ground for balance. In one smooth movement, bring left foot forward and, as you stand on right foot, continue to lift left knee toward chest and hop up on right foot. Land lightly on right foot and immediately slide left foot behind you to return to starting position. Repeat for half the time then switch to the other side.
Lie faceup on your back with navel pulled toward spine. You can slide both hands under the curve of low back for added support. Using your core, lift both feet 3 to 4 inches off the ground and kick feet up and down several inches, keeping core engaged throughout. If you feel any discomfort in your low back, skip this exercise.
Start in a seated position with legs extended in front of you and arms bent to 90-degree angles (think robot). Lean back slightly as you lift right leg with right knee bent and bring left elbow to right knee, engaging obliques as you twist upper torso to the right. Return to starting position and repeat on the other side.
Do a perfect squat. As you come up, jump up, extending legs fully and pushing arms down to help with your momentum. Land lightly on toes and immediately drop into a squat again. Greenwell suggests holding hands behind head (as shown), which helps to keep chest open and posture straight.
Master a perfect push-up before attempting this move. Do a perfect push-up, but as you push up, push even harder so that both hands come off the ground and you can clap hands together before landing in a high plank again. Plyometric moves are great for building strength and power. Get even more ideas in our article here.
Two moves is better than one, right? You may want to do this move on a mat or a towel for padding. Start in a high plank position with core tight. Lower onto both forearms at the same time, maintaining a tight core and level hips. Now push back up onto hands at the same time to return to starting position. Finish by drawing right knee into chest, then left knee into chest, doing a mountain climber.
Make it easier: Lower and push back up one arm at a time, rather than both arms at once. You could also perform a push-up on your knees then lift knees to do the mountain climber.
You'll need a box or sturdy bench to complete this move. If you've never attempted box jumps, start with a box that is mid-calf height and progress to higher heights from there. Stand in front of box with feet shoulder-width apart. Bend knees, send hips back, swing arms back, and, as you swing arms forward, explode up onto box. Land lightly on toes (no loud thuds!) then step down one foot at a time and repeat.
From a high plank position with core tight and hips level, jump feet up and kick butt with heels. Your weight should come forward onto hands, but shoulders should stay in line over wrists. Extend legs and land lightly on toes to return to starting position.
This move works best if you use a low bench. With the low bench at your right side, start with knees slightly bent and hips back. Shift weight to left foot then jump over the bench first with right foot, allowing the left foot to follow. Land lightly on right foot first then left foot. Reverse the move, starting with left foot, to return to starting position.
This move is sure to get your heart racing in no time. Master a basic lunge before progressing to this version. With right foot ahead of left foot and core tight, drop into a low lunge, bending both knees to 90 degrees. Now jump up, switching feet in middair so you land with left foot ahead of right foot and immediately drop into a low lunge on the other side.
Greenwell created this inventive (and sweaty!) quick cardio workout by combining 3 of the moves from our list above. Do each move below in order for the indicated number of reps.
- Tricep Push-Up With Progressing Mountain Climber
Start with 1 push-up and 1 mountain climber. Next time, do 1 push-up and 2 mountain climbers. Then 1 push-up and 3 mountain climbers. Continue until you get to 10 mountain climbers.
- Hops and Push-Up Combo
Do 3 hops on one leg then 3 push-ups. That's 1 rep. Do 10 to 15 reps per side.
- Squat Jump
Do 20 seconds of squat jumps followed by a 10-second squat hold. Repeat for 5 minutes.
Originally published July 2014. Updated May 2017.