Quick cardio exercises for maximum impact

  • 02 Oct - 08 Oct, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear “cardio?” Probably running, or perhaps the elliptical machine, stationary bike, or even a rower, maybe? But there’s so much more to cardiorespiratory training than steady-state endurance workouts – AKA trucking it for the long-haul.

The best way to get your heart pumping and the sweat dripping? Compound exercises, which involve multiple joints and more than one muscle group. This way, you get every part of your body in on the action and burn more calories.

Another way to turn up the burn: Swap the steady-state for a HIIT workout or circuit training sequence with moves like high knees, butt kicks, and jumping rope. The higher the intensity of your sweat session, the more energy and oxygen you use and the greater after-burn effect (otherwise known as EPOC) you experience. Basically, you'll continue to burn calories at a higher rate after your workout as your body returns back to its regularly scheduled program #balance.

The real deal-sealer here, though, might just be that you can cut your cardio time in half (from 150 to 75 per week, per the US Department of Health's physical activity guidelines) by opting for HIIT or circuit training. That means more free time for you!

Use this list of the best cardio exercise to create a whole slew of heart-pounding workouts that also offer full-body benefits. Oh, and you can do them practically anywhere, too.

High knees

Start in a standing position on mat with arms bent at 90 degrees, elbows close to sides, and hands at hip height in front of body. Bend right leg and lift right knee up to tap palm. Return right knee to floor and quickly repeat on left side. That's one rep. Continue alternating sides, increasing speed for an added challenge. Perform 20 reps.

Donkey kick burpees

Start standing, with hands at sides. Hop up into the air. As you land, squat down, press hands into ground, and jump into the air, higher than shoulder height. Let feet land directly under body, then hop up. That's one rep. Do up to 10 with proper form.

Jump rope

Start with feet together and arms by sides. Bend at elbows (but keep them close to body) to bring forearms wide and up to hip height. Begin making small circles with both forearms in a forward motion while simultaneously taking quick hops with feet. (If you're using a jump rope, the goal is to revolve the cord around body and clear it under feet with every hop.) One jump equals one rep. Perform 20 reps.

Squat jump

Start in a squat (feet under shoulders, toes facing forward, thighs parallel to floor) with torso upright and hands clasped in front of chest. Press through feet to straighten legs and jump up off the floor while swinging straight arms behind body. Land back in a squat position. That's one rep. Perform 10 reps.

Kettlebell swing

Start in a hinge (hips back, knees slightly bent, torso leaned forward at 45 degrees) holding the handle of a kettlebell with both hands, arms extended straight toward floor and bell between knees on the floor. In one motion, squeeze glutes, straighten legs, lift torso, and thrust hips forward, while swinging the weight to chest height, keeping arms straight and core tight. Reverse the movement, bringing the kettlebell between thighs this time when you hinge. That's one rep. Perform 10 reps.