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The 21 BEST Cardio Exercises for 2021!

Matt Skeffington

Matt’s primary role at Dynamic Strength and Conditioning is to make sure that our coaches and clients are consistently improving, all while operatin...

Matt’s primary role at Dynamic Strength and Conditioning is to make sure that our coaches and clients are consistently improving, all while operatin...

Dec 4 16 minutes read

Welcome to our 2021 Health & Fitness Kickstart Series!

Over the new few weeks we will be taking you through the 21 BEST exercises, workouts, and nutrition tips to build strength, burn fat, improve your health and get a massive head-start on your 2021 goals!

For many, 2020 was a tough year, both physically and mentally. 

The stress and inactivity took its toll on our health but in 2021 it's time to fight back!

It's time to get into a consistent workout routine, improve our diet, and feel our best.

2021 is the year of health and we are here to get you started!

We have created a complete guide to the 21 BEST cardio exercises for 2021! 🔥💪

These exercises are handpicked to deliver the most bang-for-your buck and are guaranteed to: 

  • Elevate your heart-rate

  • Burn calories

  • Shred fat

  • Improve your health, cardio, and overall fitness

  • Increase your strength

  • Help you feel your BEST in 2021!

We have also included a step-by-step coaching guide on how to perform each movement as well as a beginners guide to each movement if you're just getting started in 2021!

LET'S ROCK 2021! 

1| Med Ball Slams

One of our favorite forms of cardio is medicine ball work. 

They make any workout fun and challenging, plus offer some great variety!

They work well with all of our members, especially members who come to us with some kind of joint pain. 

We like these especially for our members with lower-body and/or low-back issues. 

Get some aggression out and get ready to sweat!

Key Points:

  • Get as tall as possible and reach ball high overhead without leaning back
  • Slam ball down right in front of feet
  • Finish slam in low squat position
  • Catch and repeat as fast as possible
  • Start with :30 of work followed by :30 of rest for 6-10 rounds.

2| Skierg

We are very fortunate here at Dynamic to have some of the most state-of-the-art fitness equipment. One of our favorite pieces of cardio equipment is the Skierg. 

If you've ever been cross-country skiing, you know how good of a workout it can be.

Now envision cross-country sprinting! 

These get your heart rate way up and challenge your entire body, especially your arms. As a bonus, these are incredibly FUN!

Key Points:

  • Start tall with feet hip width apart and hands on handles
  • In one motion, pull the handles down and back as you sit back into athletic position
  • Finish with hands behind your hips and chest tall
  • Reset to standing position with hands overhead
  • Start with :30 of work with :30 of rest for 6-10 rounds

3| Airdyne Bike Sprints

Bike sprints are the ultimate joint-friendly cardio exercise. 

They allow our members with aches and pains to train at a very high intensity, while keeping the stress off their injuries. 

They are great for bad backs, shoulders and knees. 

Sprints are also more fun and burn more calories than traditional low intensity, long duration bike rides. These are tough!

Key Points:

  • Set seat height of bike so there is a minimal knee bend when pedal is all the way down
  • Keep bike resistance minimal if on spin bike
  • Start with a 5 minute warm-up at medium intensity
  • Complete 6-10 rounds of :15 sprint followed by :45 rest

4| The Burpee (Advanced, Intermediate, Beginner)

The burpee is one of the most popular fat-burning, cardio drills on the planet and rightfully so -- they are tough and tax the entire body. 

The tough thing about burpees is that they require a great deal of mobility. 

For many, getting down to the floor can be a problem and can cause pain. 

For our members who do not have the ability to complete the full burpee, we simply shorten the range-of-motion by having them go off a bench rather than all the way to the floor. Win, win!

Key Points:

  • If new, start with the elevated burpee
  • Start tall with feet under hips
  • Bend from the waist and bring hands to floor
  • Keeping weight in hands, kick feet back to plank position
  • Add push-up if possible
  • Do not let hips sag when kicking legs out
  • Bring feet back in, stand up, and jump
  • Start with :15 of work followed by :45 of rest for 6-10 rounds

5| Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebell swings are a staple for many of our members. 

The dynamic, fast paced motion makes the swing a great exercise for getting your heart-rate up and burning calories. 

Prepare to sweat!

The majority of the work comes from your hips, hamstrings and glutes making the swing a great choice for individuals with bad knees, feet and ankles. 

The hamstrings and glutes are two of the most important stabilizers of the knee so strengthening these two muscles is a must for improving knee pain. 

Key Points:

  • Make sure all the work is done through your hips

  • Keep posture strong and tall throughout

  • At the top position, finish tall with glutes squeezed and legs straight

  • Start with 8-10 swings followed by :30-:45 of rest for 6-10 rounds

6| Versaclimber

We've nicknamed the Versaclimbers our "Unicorns" because they are so rare.

These are also a favorite here at DSC. 

They are another joint-friendly piece of cardio equipment that are awesome for your legs.

The great thing about the Versaclimber is their versatility!

You can lower the resistance, allowing you to sprint and really get your heart-rate up.

You can also crank the resistance up, making these one heck of a leg workout.

Key Points:

  • For more of a sprint workout, keep resistance low
  • For more a of strength workout, keep resistance high
  • Step into foot pedal straps and grab handles
  • Alternate pushing down with one foot to get climber moving
  • Keep motion small and sharp and core tight
  • Start with :30 of work followed by :30 of rest for 6-10 rounds

7| Mountain Climber + Push-Up Combo

Mountain climbers are another great exercise that can be done just about anywhere. They are great for challenging your cardio as well as your core and shoulder stability. If you are new to mountain climber, start with your hands on an elevated bench or chair rather than the floor.  

Key Points:

  • Maintain a stable upper-body plank position throughout
  • Keep hands placed directly under shoulders
  • Quickly bring one knee forward at a time, while keeping the back leg straight
  • Complete 10 total mountain climbers and then 2 push-ups
  • Complete your push-up from your toes or drop down to your knees to make it easier
  • Once you complete your 2 push-ups, go right back to your mountain climbers
  • Repeat this sequence until time runs out
  • Start with :15 of work followed by :45 of rest for 6-10 rounds

8| Single or Double Kettlebell Thruster

When it comes to cardio, total body exercises are the name of the game. This is why we love the thruster. It works every part of your body, burning some serious calories and building some serious strength. These are tough!

Key Points:

  • Start feet shoulder width, toes slightly pointed out
  • Have two KBs in racked position or DB held above shoulders
  • Staying tall, lower into squat position
  • Keep abs braced and weight in heels
  • Drive out of squat as your press weights overhead
  • Finish arms inline with ears
  • Lower weights to shoulders and repeat
  • Start with :15 of work followed by :45 of rest for 6-10 rounds

9| Wall Ball

Think of wall ball as the reverse med ball slam. 

These are a bit tougher as you are forced to use your lower body, core and arms to catch the ball, squat, and get the ball as high as possible. 

Key Points:

  • Start feet shoulder width apart, medicine ball at chest
  • Drop into squat, keeping chest tall
  • Use your legs to drive up out of squat
  • In one motion, throw ball as high as possible
  • Ball should touch wall
  • Catch and repeat as fast as possible
  • Start with :20 of work followed by :40 of rest for 6-10 rounds

10| Kettlebell Head-Cutter

The head-cutter might be our favorite total-body cardio and strength exercise. 

It taxes your shoulders, legs, and abs, while burning some serious calories and getting your heart-rate sky high. 

You will LOVE these!

Key Points:

  • Start feet shoulder width with KB between feet
  • Keeping chest tall, push hips back into deadlift position
  • Drive through heels to lift KB
  • As the KB comes up, pop it up and catch it at chest level
  • Drop into squat by sitting back and pushing knees out
  • As you come out of squat, press KB overheard
  • Start with 10 reps followed by 1:00 of rest for 6-10 rounds

11| Rower

Looking for a fantastic total-body cardio exercise? Enter the rowing machine.

These are great for burning fat as they work your entire body from your legs to your neck and burn a ton of calories. 

Key Points:

  • Start in seated position with knees bent and arms extended

  • Initiate movement by pushing through your feet and driving your body back

  • Finish movement with legs extended and arm handle pulled into chest

  • Think legs push, arms pull and keep it one smooth motion

  • Return to starting position by extending arms and bending knees

  • Start with :30 of rowing followed by :30 of rest for 6-10 rounds

12| Sit-Throughs

Ready to bring a little break dancing into your workouts? 

These are fun and tough. They require body control and strength but the fast paced motion make these one of our cardio favorites.

Key Points:

  • Start in a bear crawl position with hands under shoulders and knees bent under your hips
  • Keeping weight in right hand, rotate right leg underneath your body
  • Straighten right leg and drop butt to floor
  • You should finish with leg straight with belt buckle and right toe pointed to ceiling
  • Return to starting position and rotate to other side
  • Start with :20 of work followed by :40 of rest for 4-8 rounds

13| Med Ball Burpee Slams

This combo is a crowd favorite at DSC. 

It blends too fantastic cardio exercises in the burpee and slam.

They are FUN and will get that heart rate up!

Key Points:

  • Start tall with med ball about a foot out in front of you
  • Bring your hands down to med ball and stabilize the ball
  • Kick your feet out into plank position
  • Kick your feet back in stand up with the med ball
  • Exhale and slam the med ball down
  • Start with :30 of work with :30 of rest for 6-10 rounds

14| Wideout Squat Hand Touch

Now it's time to really get that heart-rate up!

The wideout squat is a fast-paced exercise designed to get you moving a bit faster, burn some serious calories and shred some fat.

It's also a great lower-body strength builder!

Key Points:

  • Start tall with feet close under your hips
  • In one motion split feet just outside shoulder width as you drop into squat
  • Keep posture upright and feet flat
  • As you squat down reach towards floor with one hand
  • Quickly reverse motion by coming out of squat as quick as possible and brining legs back in
  • Repeat motion and reach down with other hand
  • Start with :30 of work with :30 of rest for 6-10 rounds

15| Sled March

The sled march is an absolute favorite amongst our members here at Dynamic. They are great for building an incredibly strong lower-body and core. 

Sled marches are a fantastic fat shredding cardio tool as they get your heart-rate up and burn some serious calories. Load these up HEAVY! You'll be surprised how much weight you can push! 

Key Points:

  • Keep arms straight and keep a straight line from head to back foot
  • Keep body leaning at 45 degree angle
  • March forward one step at a time keeping head and upper body still
  • Push through your mid-foot
  • Start with 3-5 rounds of 15-25yd march

16| Battling Ropes

Battling ropes might be our member's favorite cardio exercises. 

They are especially great for anyone with lower-body or back pain as all of the work is done through the arms, shoulders and core. 

Not only are they tough but they are a lot of fun! 

These are great for getting that heart-rate up and building some great looking arms!

Key Points:

  • Stay in a low, athletic position throughout
  • Using just your arms, make quick and even waves with the ropes
  • Keep the ropes moving together or alternate arms
  • Start with :15 of work :45 of rest for 6-10 rounds

17| Body-Weight Jumps

The body-weight jump is a great exercise to improve the strength and power of your lower-body. 

Because they are extremely challenging and fast paced, they are also great for burning fat and improving your cardio. If you are new to body-weight jumps or have any knee problems, keep your jumps small or stick to body-weight squats.

Another great feature of the body-weight jump is that they require no equipment and can be done anywhere.

Key Points:

  • Start in an athletic position with feet hip width
  • Knees should be bent with hips and arms back
  • Keep good upper posture with a flat back
  • Throw hands up to chest height as you jump
  • Land softly in starting position

18| Sled Push and Pull

You're going to LOVE these. 

Not only do they work your entire body, they are extremely great for improving your cardio, building strength, and shredding fat.

What we love most about them is that they are FUN!

Key Points:

  • Start in low athletic position with chest tall
  • Pull the sled in with a "hand over hand" motion
  • Once the sled comes all the way to you, march it back in to starting position
  • Rest 1:00 and repeat for 4-6 rounds

19| Lateral Bounds

Time to channel that inner-athlete with the lateral bound.

These are fantastic for elevating your heart-rate, burning calories, strengthening your legs, and improving your balance.

We also love them as you force you to move side to side which is an often overlooked but important aspect of health and fitness.

Key Points:

  • Start on one foot in low athletic position
  • Keep chest up through out
  • Push through your foot to bound to the side and land on other foot
  • Think about landing soft and low
  • Repeat this sequence
  • Make these easier by keeping your bounds small and slow or harder by bounding fast and far
  • Start with :30 of bounds followed by :30 of rest for 5 rounds

20| Curved Treadmill Walk, Jog, or Sprint

One the best equipment investments we have made has been our curved, self-propelled treadmills. 

They actually do not have a motor, therefore similar to running on the road, you have to be the one to move the belt. 

The difference between our treadmills and traditional running or treadmill running is the curve feature in the front of the treadmill where your foot strikes. 

This actually dampens the impact forces, making these much more joint friendly for our members with bad feet, ankles and knees. We have even had people run on our treadmills who have not run in years because of pain. 

They are also great for those with elbow or shoulder issues. The low impact allows our members to do one of the world's greatest cardio exercises -- SPRINTING! 

Key Points:

  • Stay tall throughout
  • Try to stay to front of treadmill
  • Keep hands on railings if needed
  • Focus on getting knees up
  • Start with :15 sprint, jog or fast paced walk followed by :45 walk for 6-10 rounds.

21| Split Jumps

Warning! You will be sore after doing these. Split jumps are one of our more advanced cardio exercises as they require a great deal of coordination, mobility and lower-body strength. If you have any knee issues, keep the motion small. 

Key Points:

  • Start in low lunge position with weight in front foot and hands by your sides
  • Maintain great upright posture throughout
  • In one motion, throw hands up and jump up, switching feet in the air
  • Land softly in low lunge postion on other side
  • Start with :15 of work followed by :45 of rest for 6-10 rounds

Take back your health!

Join DSC in December and your first month is FREE!

Available with our in-person classes or online fitness program!

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