The Best Machine For Cardio Is You

There’s a temptation to head straight to the cardio machines when wanting to get a sweat on. And there’s nothing wrong with it because all movement is good movement. There are great benefits from using machines, it’s just I’m not a huge fan.

Some go from sitting at their job or life to sitting on a machine at the gym. Too much sitting is not great like too much standing isn’t great. Part of what makes exercise great is to undo some of the stuff you do too much of. Like sitting or standing. Think of it like a reset or like restarting your computer.

When you restart your computer it almost always works better and the same can be said for exercise. After exercising (if you do it right) your body works better.

While all those shiny toys at the gym are great and extremely beneficial but there’s something a lot of us forget. Your body is a machine. In fact, so much of a machine that human beings are yet to be replicated. Although yes, we are complicated and sometimes we break down but your body is a fine piece of machinery.

So next time you are considering heading to the treadmill, use the best machine going around, you.

Benefits of Bodyweight Cardio

Besides burning calories and making you feel less guilty about what you ate last night, there are several benefits to doing bodyweight cardio.

Do It Anywhere

There is no need for cardio machines to get your heart rate up and bodyweight cardio is performed either in a gym or home.  For a great cardio training simply pick three exercises that you can do with only your bodyweight. More on that later.

Build Muscle And Lose Fat

The training below helps boost your metabolism more than slow cardio. These increase your demand for oxygen during training but especially when you’ve finished.  This is known as Excess Post Oxygen Consumption or EPOC.  EPOC is the amount of oxygen required to restore your body to homeostasis. And therefore, your body can continue to burn calories long after you’ve finished your training.

Plus, because you’re using your bodyweight, you’ll improve your relative strength (how strong you are relative to your bodyweight) and muscular endurance. Both set the table to help you build lean muscle.

Improved Recovery

Improving your aerobic system improves blood flow and your body’s ability to carry away waste products of exercise and from other things. 😊 This lead to improved recovery and less soreness.

Reduced Heart Disease Risk

Regular cardiovascular exercise reduces the risk factors of heart disease like high blood pressure and high cholesterol through the reduction of LDL (bad cholesterol) and the increase in HDL (good cholesterol).

Improved Work Capacity

Improving the efficiency of your cardiovascular system through regular cardio boosts your aerobic system.  And improves your ability to do more work whether it be in the gym, or I’ll leave it up to your imagination.

Better Mental Health

Cardio activities like bodyweight cardio have been proven to reduce anxiety and depression. (1). Even if you don’t suffer from those, cardio will help you clear your head in times of stress.

Bodyweight Cardio Exercises

There are many types of bodyweight exercises to get your heart rate up and they are all great depending on where you are on your journey. But below are a few of my favorites that are simple to do and easy on the joints.

Bodyweight Squat

Set your feet in your preferred squat stance and stand up straight. Either put your hands behind your head or hold your hands together at chest level. Or reach your hands forward. Squat down between your knees, keeping your chest up until your thighs are almost parallel to the ground. Drive your feet through the ground, squat back up and finish with your glutes and repeat for reps or time.


Stand on one leg with your other leg bent at the knee and then bring this leg behind you and jump laterally and land on your opposite leg. Stick the landing, reset and jump back sideways to your starting foot. Continue this back and forth for the desired amount of reps or time. If jumping hurts your joints, you can take big steps side to side.

Triple Extension

Stand with your feet hip width apart and your arms by your side. Quickly drop into a squat and touch your ankles with your hands, Quickly squat up raising your feet off the ground and hands above your head. Roll back down to your heels and repeat as one continuous movement for time or reps.

High Knee Skip

Stand with feet hip width apart and bent your arms to 90 degrees. Skip in place by hopping on your right leg while bringing the left knee up toward your chest. Stand tall as you drive your knee towards your chest. Repeat on the other side while skipping and pumping your arms. If the hop/skip hurts don’t do it and march quickly on the spot

Windmill Side Lunge

Stand up straight and hold your hands together and raise them above your head. Then step out to the right with your right leg, pushing your right hip back while the left leg is straight. Bring your arms to the right inner thigh and step back, bring your arms overhead and repeat on the other side. Alternate sides in a rhythmic motion for reps or time.

Bear Crawl

Begin on all fours, hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Press your hands into the ground, hover the knees just above the ground and get your spine in neutral.  Crawl forward by taking small steps with your right arm and left leg, and then left arm and right leg for the required distance or time.

Mountain Climber

Set up in a strong push up plank position with your feet hip-width apart. Pull your knee towards your chest quickly with your foot hovering above the ground. Return foot to start and repeat with the other leg. Quickly alternate driving knees in towards the chest as if you’re running. Do for either reps or time.


Stand tall with your arms at your sides and squat down until both hands are flat on the floor. Push your hands into the floor and jump and thrust your legs backwards until you’re in the push up plank position. Perform a push-up (if you can) and then jump your feet back to your hands. Then squat back up and jump in the air raising your hands above your head. The rest and repeat.

Incline Plyo Push Up

Place your hands on a secure incline surface (weight bench, wall, couch, or chair) roughly shoulder width apart. And set up in the push up position on your toes. Lower your chest down towards the bench by bending your elbows and exploding up so your hands leave the bench. Land slowly and repeat. If your hands do not leave the surface, don’t fret. It’s the intent more than the action matters here.

How Use Bodyweight Cardio

The two main types of cardio are high intensity and steady state cardio. The main differences between them are time and duration. One is short, sweet, and intense and the other is longer and less intense.

It’s often thought that high intensity is better for fat loss than steady state cardio, but both have been proven to be equally effective. (2)  Choose the following training based on your preference and how much time you have because both types are great.  

Steady-State Training

Choosing five bodyweight cardio exercises below for 30 seconds of work and 30 seconds of rest for two 10-minute blocks is an effective way of improving your aerobic fitness. For example,

Windmill Side Lunge 30 seconds

30 seconds rest

High Knee Skip 30 seconds

30 seconds rest

Bodyweight Squat 30 seconds

30 seconds rest

Iceskater 30 seconds

30 seconds rest

Triple Extension 30 seconds

30 seconds rest

Windmill Side Lunge 30 seconds

30 seconds rest

High Knee Skip 30 seconds

30 seconds rest

Bodyweight Squat 30 seconds

30 seconds rest

Iceskater 30 seconds

30 seconds rest

Triple extension 30 seconds

30 seconds rest

Then choose another five exercises or vary the order and repeat the following format.

High Intensity Training

Reducing your rest periods or trying to fit in as much work within a certain time will make your bodyweight cardio more intense. Here are a few examples.

Pick one exercise above as use the following work-rest periods

10 seconds work/20 seconds rest

20 second work/10 seconds rest

40 seconds work/20 seconds rest

Repeat for six to eight rounds.

If you have anything left in the tank, choose another exercise, and repeat.

Or pick three exercises above and choose the time and the reps and keep the reps the same as the time. For example, 10 minutes

1A. Bodyweight Squats 10 reps

1B. Bear Crawl 10 steps forwards and backwards

1C.  Ice skaters 10 reps both sides

Do as many rounds as you can in 10 minutes.

Wrapping Up

When you hear the word ‘cardio’ your thoughts drift to the drudgeryand the time spent on cardio machines. But think of cardio like bad-tasting medicine that’s good for you. The trick is to find something you dislike the least and for me it’s bodyweight cardio. The best machine to use to improve cardio is not a treadmill, rowing machine or bike but your bodyweight.

Take your finely tuned machine out for a spin with these 9 exercises. You can thank me later. Or not.


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