Cardio-Based Bodyweight Exercises

Get your heart rate going and build up your muscles with high intensity bodyweight exercises.


By Tesa Johns


We all know this to be too familiar:  we want to get a workout in, but are too busy or don't feel like leaving the house. Guess what! Your body can be the best machine or weight to utilize without having to pick out the perfect workout outfit or finding the keys. High intensity bodyweight exercises can get your heart rate going while building strength.

Dynamic warm-up

Warming up is a loose term that covers a wide range of activities but with one goal in mind, to get the heart and body prepared to begin exercising. A proper warm-up will begin to raise body temperature, stretch body parts being worked, open up neural pathways, and pump blood into the targeted muscles. If you begin your workout cold then your muscles will surely let you know in the weeks to come. Injuries can happen due to not properly warming up. Static stretching or stretching with your body at rest (i.e. sitting and reaching for your toes) can be a good workout but it can also rob your muscles of energy before you even begin your workout. Dynamically warming up improves blood circulation and activates your central nervous system.

Utilize these three workouts to accomplish all warm up goals! Do these activities in a row for 30 seconds each.

1. High knees

Start by standing tall with your feet shoulder width apart then alternate pulling one knee at a time up to your chest and replace it back to the ground. This can be done continuously for 30 seconds. This activity really targets the heart rate. High knees involve pumping your legs and arms which gets blood flowing through the extremities.

2. Butt Kicks

Butt kicks are just like high knees but now you are bending your knees back toward your butt. Start by standing tall with your feet shoulder width apart, then alternate kicking one leg at a time back and up toward your butt and replace back to the ground for the next one. This can be done continuously for 30 seconds.

Butt kicks like high knee involve the extremities which makes it a great exercise to accomplish warm-up goals.

3. Jumping Jacks

The average person will burn 5.1-9.1 calories per minute performing jumping jacks at moderate to high intensity! Start by standing tall with your arms by your side with your feet shoulder width apart. Simultaneously bend your knees and jump out while moving your arms overhead. Arms should be lifted to the ears and feet should be greater than shoulder width apart. Jump back into the starting position. To increase intensity go faster. Jumping jacks are a great any where any time workout. They allow for the whole body to be utilized.

Lets raise the Heart Rate!

Do these exercises continuously as a workout or change it up by doing five resting and doing the next five. Also, try repeating the exercises 2 or 3 times for a longer harder workout!

Heart Rate/Upper Body

1. Stair Climbing (1 min)

Let the stairs become your new best friend. Whether it’s two steps or a flight, the stairs can be a great cardio workout. Try to incorporate stair climbing in daily life by choosing stairs over the elevator or escalator. Go as quick as you can or briskly climb either way it will raise your heart rate.

2. Mountain Climbers (1 min)

Pretend you’re climbing mountains with this high intensity move. Start in a straight arm plank position which is a push-up position except your forearms are on the ground instead of your hands, your body should be in a straight line from your toes to your elbows.

Bring the right foot forward and up toward the right side of your chest then replace and bring the left foot forward and up toward the left side of your chest and replace. Keep alternating for 15-20 reps or one minute. Remember to engage your core for a full body workout!

3. Plank to Push Up (15 reps)

Begin in a forearm plank, and then lift into a pushup position by moving one hand at a time. Quickly return to the plank position. This power move can be done for 15-20 reps or 30 seconds.

4. Uppercut (1 min)

Stand tall and with your feet shoulder width apart. One foot should be slightly more forward, than the other. Alternate punching up like you’re trying to punch the clouds or ceiling. Keep going for 1 min.

5. Basic Burpee (15 reps)

I think we all have a love/hate relationship with this move. It engages the full body and burns a lot of calories, but it’s hard! Start by standing tall and your feet shoulder width apart. Jump straight up and come down into a low squat position. Place your hands on the floor and kick your legs back into a straight arm plank position. Quickly return to a squat position and jump straight up to begin the next burpee. This is a hard exercise your may have to work at reaching 15-20 reps or 30 seconds. The quicker you go the more intense and high the calorie burn will be.

Push-up Burpee (15 reps)

If you've conquered the basic burpee try adding in a push up when your hit the plank position.


Catch a breath or grab a water! If you don’t feel the need to stop add in a minute of crunches!

Lower Body

6. Squat Jump (1 min)

Keep your heels in contact with the floor and bend your hips and knees to become parallel with the floor and squat down. At the bottom of the squat, immediately jump straight up and land in a squat position to begin the next rep. Shoot for 15-20 reps or 1 minute.

7. Lunge Jump (1 min)

Start standing feet together and begin by lunging one foot forward bending the knee about 90 degrees. Jumping straight up and switch legs to bring the other leg forward into the lunge. Try to get some air in between you and the ground each jump! Try for 15-20 reps or 1 minute To increase the intensity add some weights to your hands. No weights at home? That's ok! Check the kitchen for some heavy soup cans.

8. Warm up exercise (1 min)

This is where you get to switch it up. Add in one of the warm up exercises for a great lower body workout. Don’t forget to increase the intensity! Each round try a different exercise.

9. Flutter Kick (1 min)

Kick up the cardio by lying on your back with your arms at your side and your torso crunched up. Lift your heels about six inches off the floor and kick small alternating kicks. Try this move for a minute.

10. Jumping Jack Planks (15 reps)

Planking with a little something extra! Start in the plank position either on your forearms or straight armed with your feet together. Then do jumping jacks with your feet only. Out and in would be one move, so try for 15-20.

These moves are an awesome way to get a workout in wherever your life takes you like a hotel, living room, or one your lunch break. All of these moves can be made harder by increasing the speed and intensity. Create your own workout by changing the reps into minute long intervals. Try adding weight for some of the moves! If you get tired between moves add in a few crunches to lower the heart rate before the next move jumps it back up!

So your workout would look like this:

  • 1 min stair climbing
  • 1 min mountain climbing
  • 15 rep plank to pushup
  • 1 min uppercut
  • 15 rep burpee
  • Rest or 1 min Crunches
  • 1 min squat jump
  • 1 min lunge jump
  • 1 min jumping jacks, or high knees, or butt kicks
  • 1 min flutter kicks
  • 15 rep jumping jack planks

Repeat circuit 2 or 3 times.

Tesa is new to blogging, but hopes to make a big impact with her vast knowledge of athletics and experience. Tesa recently earned her bachelor's degree at the Pennsylvania State University. While majoring in Athletic Training and minoring in psychology, she worked with various division one collegiate sports teams. Tesa is continuing her education by pursuing her Master's of Science in Kinesiology with a concentration in sports pedagogy at The Louisiana State University. Tesa is a board certified Athletic Trainer and a Performance Enhancement Specialist. Outside of the training room, Tesa enjoys going on runs and working out for leisure.

Main Photo Credit: Viacheslav Nikolaenko/; Second Photo Credit: Real Deal Photo/; Third Photo Credit: Denis Belitsky/; Fourth Photo Credit: Vadim Martynenko/; Fifth Photo Credit & Eighth Photo Credit: BlackDay/; Sixth Photo Credit: Liukov/; Seventh Photo Credit: Undrey/; Ninth Photo Credit: Jacob Lund/