SELF – Men’s and Women Health & Fitness
If you’re not into running or bike riding, you may think your cardio options are limited. But this cardio for beginners workout will help you get your heart rate up—and you can do it right in your living room.
When you think of cardio workouts, you probably think of the steady-state options, like going for a jog, a walk, or even hopping on an elliptical. But exercises you probably associate more with strength training, like certain kinds of squats, can actually be used to create a workout that’ll really challenge you cardiovascularly, too.
It all comes down to the programming of the workout and the exercises you choose, ACE-certified personal trainer Sivan Fagan, owner of Strong with Sivan in Baltimore, tells SELF. For instance, using a circuit format—going from one exercise to the other without resting—is going to keep your heart rate more elevated than performing the move with straight sets (say, a prescribed number of reps, followed by a rest period, before doing it all again) will. The moves matter, too: Exercises that work multiple muscle groups are going to be more taxing than isolation moves that work smaller muscle groups (think a squat rather than a hamstring curl).
Plus, moves that are explosive—like those that add jumps or hops—are also good choices for a cardio workout, since you’ll be working harder to create that power, she says.
If you’re just getting started with a cardio for beginners workout like this one, it’s important to keep your exertion level in check. While you definitely want to be working hard—and as a result, breathing hard—you don’t want to be so exhausted or gasping for breath that your form starts to falter, says Fagan.
“If you can’t maintain proper form, take a little more rest before each move,” she says.
It’s also important for beginners to make sure they master the traditional version of any move before they start adding explosive work or speed to it, she says. So if you’re just getting started out, make sure you try the moves out beforehand to be sure you have the form down.
One final note: Because many home cardio workouts do require jumping, they may not be the best option for people with hip, knees, or ankle issues or instability, says Fagan. If you’re dealing with these issues, make sure to check with your physical therapist or doctor before beginning a program that includes high impact work.
Want to get started with a beginner cardio routine? Here’s what you need.
What you need: An exercise mat for comfort.
- Jump Squat
- Blast Off Plank to Shoulder Tap
- Perform each exercise for 30 seconds, going from one exercise to the next without rest. Rest for 2 minutes or until you can catch your breath. Complete 4 rounds total.
Demoing the moves below are Cookie Janee (GIF 1), a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve; Nikki Pebbles (GIF 2), a New York City–based fitness instructor for over nine years and an AFAA- and NCCPT-certified personal trainer and group fitness trainer; Teresa Hui (GIF 3), a native New Yorker who has run over 150 road races, including 16 full marathons; and Morit Summers (GIF 4), an NSCA-CPT-certified trainer.