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Cardio Exercises At Home

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If you’re looking for cardio exercise ideas that you can do at home, this blog is for you. Below, I have compiled an eclectic mix of effective exercises for enhancing aerobic conditioning.


In addition to promoting heart and lung health, some of the exercises – such as burpees and jump jacks – also improve muscular endurance. By bundling the exercises together into a cardio circuit, you’ll be able to burn fat and increase your fitness while sharpening muscle tonality. All without leaving your home!


Many of the exercises require little to no equipment. This means that you can get started straight away. For those that do require kit, I’ve included links to well-rated budget products. Procuring a few items of inexpensive cardio equipment – a skipping rope or if you've got a bit more cash to splash an indoor trainer, for example – enables you to diversify your routine.


Varying cardio exercises reduces your risk of incurring an overuse injury. Not only that, but each exercise ‘requires the body to move somewhat differently, presenting a unique stress to the muscular and cardiopulmonary systems,’ (NSCA’s Essentials of Tactical Strength & Conditioning – p. 395). In short, mixing up your cardio workouts will help you cultivate a more well-rounded fitness.


But enough chat, let’s take a look at the exercises.


Cardio exercises at home quick finder

Cardio exercises at home #1: Running

Cardio exercises at home #2: Burpees

Cardio exercises at home #3: Skipping

Cardio exercises at home #4: Squat thrusts

Cardio exercises at home #5: Cycling

Cardio exercises at home #6: Jump jacks

Cardio exercises at home #7: Rowing

Cardio exercises at home #8: Squat jumps

Cardio exercises at home #9: Shadowboxing

Cardio workout at home #10: Putting it all together


 

Cardio exercises at home #1: Running

Fitness benefits: Though many people find running both boring and a struggle, it is one of the best cardio exercises for improving heart, lung, and vascular health. Running is also an effective fat burner. In his book Exercised, Professor Daniel Liberman outlines a study illustrating the fat-burning efficacy of running.


Researchers put two groups of overweight people on a 12-week training program. One program consisted of weightlifting, the other 12 miles of weekly running. At the end of the study, the researchers discovered that the weightlifters lost almost no fat while the runners lost loads. Running is also beneficial for:


  • Strengthening the heart

  • Improving vascular efficiency

  • Increasing the elasticity of the heart

  • Increasing capillarisation

  • Improving body composition

  • Enhancing lower limb muscle endurance


Tips to start running

Tip 1: Beginners should start nice and slow. Also, intersperse running bouts with walking. Run a couple hundred metres then walk fifty.

Tip 2: Apply Matt Fitzgerald’s 80/20 Running Principle. That is, 8 out of 10 runs should be conducted at a low-intensity pace. The other two sessions could include HIIT Running or hill sprinting.

Tip 3: Do your ankles, knees and hips a favour and ensure that you’ve got a good pair of running trainers! Honestly, well-cushioned, supportive trainers are worth ten times their weight in gold.

Tip 4: If you identify yourself as a ‘runophobe,’ and for you running is a form of self-inflicted torture, there are a few simple strategies you can use to make running a little more enjoyable. One simple method is to form a fitness friendship. Running with a partner is an effective distraction tactic. When you’re busy chewing the cud, you’ll forget just how much you abhor running. Another tried-and-tested method is to mix up running routes and training plans. Keeping your workouts fresh helps to reinvigorate motivation.


Related: Feel the burn with this HIIT Running Workout!

Cardio exercises at home #2: Burpees

Fitness benefits: Burpees are a great all-round fitness developer. Because they involve such a large number of muscle groups, performing burpees in high sets stimulates the aerobic energy system. So, in addition to engaging your legs, back, core, chest, shoulders, and arms, burpees also activate your cardiac muscle.


Collectively, these qualities make burpees an effective exercise for burning fat and improving muscle tonality. Also, there are many modification options. For example, you can add a press-up to your burpee or throw a plyometric squat.


Tips to start burpees

Tip 1: Burpees are often performed incorrectly. So, the first tip is to master the technique. (Watch this quick video demonstration of how to perform a burpee >)

Tip 2: Because burpees require no equipment, just a patch of ground, they can be performed anywhere: in the living room, outside in the garden, or at your local park.

Tip 3: Once you’ve polished your burpeeing technique, the next port of call is to integrate the exercise into your routine. One of the simplest ways to do this is by bolting a 5-minute burpee AMRAP onto the end of a run. Alternatively, you can get your burpees fix by completing this Bodyweight Workout >


Cardio exercises at home #3: Skipping

Fitness benefits: Skipping is one of the best cardio exercises for developing aerobic conditioning. Unlike other CV exercises, such as cycling and running, skipping engages the muscles of the lower and upper body. By recruiting a wider range of muscle groups, skipping consumes more energy per training minute. These qualities make skipping an efficient form of cardio training as well as an effective method of burning fat.


Another benefit of skipping is that it can be performed at home. Some cardio exercises require expensive and/or cumbersome equipment. The Concept2 Rowing Machine, though a brilliant piece of CV equipment, costs £1000 and requires a generous space to situate. A skipping rope, by contrast, can be purchased for under £10. In addition, they take up next to no room and they are portable.


Tips to start skipping

Tip 1: The one limitation of skipping is that it takes time to learn. Until you can jump rope without tying yourself in knots every two turns, you won’t be able to sustain output long enough to tap into those fitness benefits. But, like riding a bike, once you learn how to skip, you’ll never forget. Get started with this Guide To Jumping Rope Like A Pro >

Tip 2: Once you can skip proficiently, you’re ready to integrate it into your workouts. A simple way to do this is by including skipping into circuits or CrossFit-style AMRAPs. Alternatively, you can just do skipping-only workouts.

Tip 3: Another good way to start skipping more is to make it part of your morning routine. After completing this whole-body stretch, you could finish off with a 10- to 20-minute skip session. Alternatively, you could include skipping in this Bodyweight Circuit.


Cardio exercises at home #4: Squat thrusts

Fitness benefits: Though the squat thrust is a super-simple exercise, it works the whole body. The movement is driven exclusively by the big muscles of the legs – glutes, quads, and hamstrings. But, to hold the squat thrust position requires constant core, back, chest, shoulder, and arm activation. So basically, the whole body.


Because squat thrusting involves multiple muscle groups, they are an effective callisthenic exercise for stimulating the aerobic system. Thus, if they are completed in high repetition sets, as part of circuits or AMRAPs (as many reps as possible), they will provide an engaging cardio workout.


Tips to start squat thrusting

Tip 1: Whenever we begin learning a new exercise, the most important thing is to master the movement. When we can safely execute the exercise, only then are we ready to start introducing it into our workouts.

Tip 2: The versatility of squat thrusts makes them suitable for a wide range of training methods. As mentioned above, squat thrusts work well in a circuit. You can also bolt a 5- or 10-minute AMRAP (or EMOM = every minute on the minute) onto the end of a run or row session.


Cardio exercises at home #5: Cycling

Fitness benefits: Cycling is an effective exercise for burning fat and stimulating the cardiovascular system. Studies have shown that people who cycle regularly, such as commuter cyclists and those with a home stationary bike, are typically at a healthier weight.


Another benefit of cycling is that it is a low-impact cardio exercise. This makes it an ideal training substitute for those rehabilitating a lower limb injury. In addition, because cycling is gentler on the joints than running, it makes cardio training more accessible for the elderly.


Tips to start cycling

Tip 1: Dust off that old stationary bike and start using it!

Tip 2: If you don’t own a stationary bike, consider investing in one for your home gym. With over 15,000 five-star reviews, ATIVAFIT’s Folding Exercise Bike is a fan favourite. And it only costs £108!

Tip 3: Embark on a training programme. The best way to reap the rewards of cycling is to establish a consistent exercise routine. Start by working up to the NHS’s recommendation of 150 minutes of weekly activity. Set aside one hour every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for your cycle sessions.


Cardio exercises at home #6: Jump jacks

Fitness benefits: Because of the simplicity of jump jacks, they are often dismissed as an inferior exercise. However, in addition to engaging all the major lower limb muscles, including many smaller stabilisers, jump jacks involve an explosive plyometric movement.


As well as being an effective way to get your heart rate up and burn calories, studies have shown that plyometric training promotes general physical performance. This accounts for why ‘plyometrics have been a popular method of training for athletes who seek to run faster, react quicker, jump higher and throw further,’ (Physical Fitness &Athletic Performance).


Tips to start jump jacking

Tip 1: If you’ve never attempted a jump jack before, your first task is to master the key techniques. Thankfully, learning the movement pattern is far easier than performing it. Applying the following teaching points:


  1. Initiate the exercise with a squat jump.

  2. As you spring up in the air, splay your legs to the sides.

  3. Simultaneously raise your arms until your hands touch directly above your head.

  4. To increase the intensity of the exercise, simply squat lower and jump higher.


Tip 2: Once you can perform a jump jack, your next port of call is to start including them in your workouts. As they require no equipment, you can do jump jacks anywhere. This makes them ideal for kit-free bodyweight circuits or you could conclude your cardio sessions with a 5-minute jump jack AMRAP (as many reps as possible).


Cardio exercises at home #7: Rowing

Fitness benefits: Perhaps second only to cross-country skiing (not an exercise that most people can do at home), rowing is arguably the most effective cardio discipline for developing fitness and burning fat. This is because the action of rowing, unlike running or cycling, challenges ‘both the upper and lower musculature’ thus ‘placing higher demands on the cardiopulmonary system,’ (NSCA’s Essentials of Tactical Strength & Conditioning).


But, by way of caveat, there is one significant limitation to rowing – and that, of course, is the need for a rowing machine. While there are plenty of well-rated budget rowers on the market, I suspect most won’t be seaworthy after a year or two of regular use. It’s for this reason that I only ever recommend the Concept2 Rowing Machine. If you can foot the thousand-pound purchase price, you’ll procure yourself a faithful training partner. One that will last a lifetime. My Concept2 has been going strong for a solid decade now and, with well over a million metres on the clock, I’ve not had to do more than oil the chain.


Tips to start rowing

Tip 1: Splash the cash and treat yourself to a Concept2. Granted, your bank account won’t thank you, but your health and fitness will.

Tip 2: A common misunderstanding is that rowing requires little technical consideration. Just get on and pull! However, unlike running and cycling (which is just a matter of getting the bike setup right), rowing is a comparatively complex movement. This is made clear in the NSCA’s Essentials of Tactical Strength & Conditioning where it states that ‘The rowing motion requires some practice to master.’ To help you get started, I’ve listed the key teaching points.


  1. In the start position (referred to as the ‘catch’), your knees are at full flexion, heels are about six to eight inches from the seat. Your back is slightly rounded, and your arms are stretched out straight.

  2. The exercise is initiated by powering out of the catch with the legs – quads and glutes – not the back.

  3. During the drive phase, the arms remain straight.

  4. As the legs extend, now engage the back muscles.

  5. Leaning into the stroke exploits gravitational assist.

  6. Finally, pull the paddle to your navel.

  7. The core techniques can be distilled into three distinct phases: legs, back, and arms. However, they are performed in one smooth succinct movement.


Tip 3: A simple way to get more rowing into your exercise routine is by training for a marathon.


Cardio exercises at home #8: Squat jumps

Fitness benefits: Like jump jacks, squat jumps activate the large muscle groups of the legs – mainly the quads and glutes. The exercise involves an explosive plyometric movement. When performed in high repetition sets (or AMRAPs), squat jumps off a simple yet effective way of stimulating the cardiovascular system.


A non-fitness-related benefit of squat jumps is that they require no training equipment. This enables you to incorporate them in a wide variety of workouts. For example, they could be enlisted as a standalone station in a bodyweight-only circuit or used as a form of reduced-intensity active recovery between bouts of HIIT hill sprints.


Tips to start squat jumping

Tip 1: Though a technically simple exercise, squat jumps are often performed incorrectly. A couple of common mistakes include excessively hinging at the hips (typically a consequence of inflexible Achilles or fatigued quads) and landing flat-footed (or with a thud). The first technical misdemeanour impairs the effectiveness of the exercise by constricting the range of movement. The second subjects the joints – specifically the knee – to unnecessary impact which over time could increase injury risk. To ensure that you are performing squat jumps correctly, consult this bodyweight tutorial.

Tip 2: Of course, as with any exercise or training task, the only way to tap into the purported benefits is to perform it regularly. That means we must find opportunities in our routine to incorporate it. This couldn’t be easier with an exercise like the squat jump as it requires zero equipment and minimal space. As briefly mentioned above, you can apply it as active recovery between heavy resistance sets. Alternatively, you can complete the CrossFit Murph workout.


Cardio exercises at home #9: Shadowboxing

Fitness benefits: Shadowboxing is a dynamic, multifunctional exercise that engages a vast array of different muscle groups. For example, the action of hitting air, uses the shoulders, upper back and much of the core. In addition, if you imitate the movement patterns of a boxer (bobbing and weaving and throwing in the occasional Ali shuffle), all the muscles of the legs are activated as well.


That’s the dynamism aspect explained (and I decided against lulling you to sleep with a discussion on the numerous fitness components shadowboxing can develop – such as muscle endurance, power, coordination, balance, agility, reaction time, and speed). But what about the multifunctionality?


As it happens, there are loads of ways of spicing up your shadowboxing sessions. My personal favourite is holding light hand weights or entangling myself in a resistance band. Either of these two modifications increases the resistance of your punches thus making the exercise much more challenging. Then there’s the option of working up – and then back down – a punch ladder. Start by throwing two punches . . . then four . . . six . . . eight . . . you get the picture. (I’ve never gone beyond one hundred – see if you can beat me.)


And in the space where those three dots are (which of course signify brief pauses), you can pop out a set of squat jumps (jump jack, burpees, press-ups, or shuttle sprints). But enough theory. Let’s get practical.


Tips to start shadowboxing

Tip 1: Only one tip is needed for cardio exercises at home #9. And that is see the Hungry4Fitnee Complete Guide to Shadowboxing >


Cardio workout at home #10: Putting it all together

Right, up to this point, we have reviewed an eclectic mix of cardio exercises that you can do at home. In addition to outlining the relevant fitness benefits of each exercise, we also considered two to four practical tips on how to incorporate them into your routine.


However, instead of just leaving you to figure that out for yourself (though I’m not suggesting that you couldn’t), I thought it would be a good idea to round off this article with an example of how the exercises can be configured into a workout.


So, I have created a session plan in the form of a circuit that is comprised of the above exercises. But, to improve the accessibility of the workout, I haven’t stipulated a cardio station. That way you can select your preferred cardio exercise.


Home workout plan

Cardio Exercises At Home workout.

 

About Adam Priest –

A former Royal Marines Commando, Adam Priest is a content writer, college lecturer, and health and fitness coach. He is also a fitness author and contributor to other websites. Connect with Adam at info@hungry4fitness.co.uk.

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