I don't know about you, but I can't imagine anything much more boring than spending an hour of my day indoors on a treadmill — especially as the weather starts to warm up and the first signs of spring are finally showing outdoors.
Luckily, there are several exercises you can do without a treadmill (or any other exercise machine) that are not only 100 percent portable, they're also more effective than steady state cardio, especially when you do them as part of a fast paced interval workout.
So whether you like taking your workout outside, travel a lot, or just want to mix things up a bit, here are 5 equipment-free cardio exercises you can do anywhere to burn calories and get your heart rate up fast:
Not only will burpees work nearly every muscle in your body, they’ll also make you breathless in a hurry, boost your VO2 max, and as an added bonus, burn a ton of calories in a very short amount of time.
To do a burpee, get into a squat position, then put your hands on the floor in front of you. Kick your feet back quickly and land so that your chest hits the floor. Bow your chest up slightly, then jump your feet back toward your hands and immediately jump up and get some air, adding a clap at the top position for pizazz.
2. High knees
High knees will get you the same benefits as sprinting — without having to go anywhere. As a result, they’re a perfect cardio exercise when you don’t have a lot of space, and are a fantastic addition to any workout.
To do them, drive your left knee toward your chest as high as you can get it, then immediately bring it to the ground and replace it with your right knee. Try and focus on keeping your body as tight as possible, and use your arms to pump you and move you faster, just as you would if you were sprinting. Try and go as fast as you can!
Optional: Add a jump rope. This will work your shoulders more and help you increase your coordination as well.
3. Jump lunges
Jump lunges are one of those exercises that are difficult for even the most fit person since they not only require quite a bit of leg strength, but also coordination, balance, and a high V02 max.
But every bit of pain is worth it, since jump lunges are one of the best body weight exercises to strengthen your legs and get you in good conditioning shape, fast.
To start, get into a lunge position with one leg bent forward in a 90 degree angle and the other bent behind you. Jump up explosively with your front leg, switch positions in the air and land with the opposite leg forward. Although at first you should focus on form and make sure you don’t fall over from lack of balance, eventually you should try and do these as quickly as possible.
4. Tuck jumps
Tuck jumps are another fantastic conditioning exercise that require very little space but will get you breathless in a hurry.
The key with tuck jumps is to jump and immediately drive your knees toward your chest while keeping your body tight. Your goal should be to keep your knees together in a tight tuck to keep the movement as efficient as possible.
For the most benefit, try and do tuck jumps consecutively without pausing in between (don't worry if this is hard for you at first—you will get better with time!).
5. Squat jumps
Squat jumps will not only make your heart feel like it's going to pound right out of your chest, they'll also strengthen your lower body—making them challenging for even the most well conditioned athletes.
To do them, start by standing straight up, then squat down until your knees are at about a 90 degree angle or lower. Make sure to keep your shoulders pulled back, your chest out and core tight. When you reach the bottom of the squat, jump up explosively, straightening your legs as you do so and get enough power so that you jump off the ground. You’ll land immediately back in the squat position before doing it all over again.
Krista Stryker, NSCA-CPT is the author of The 12-Minute Athlete: Get Fitter, Faster, and Stronger Using HIIT and Your Bodyweight and a leading expert on high intensity interval training (HIIT) and bodyweight fitness. She currently lives in Venice, California, and is a certified personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
From trying her first push up in college, to teaching herself to do pull ups and handstands, Krista is living proof of her philosophy that everybody is an athlete. She has helped tens of thousands of people to unlock their full athletic potential through her 12 Minute Athlete HIIT Workouts app and 12 Minute Athlete blog. You can find her @12minuteathlete on all social platforms.