Cardio exercise, by a very general definition, is simply exercise that keeps your heart rate elevated for an extended period of time. It doesn’t just have to be a jog or running. If you are lifting lighter weights, adding any sort of balance or plyometric components, you can turn it into a cardio workout! So, here are some basic moves as well as some new forms of cardio. Variety is the spice of life and a great workout. Get ready to sweat, ladies!

1. Stair Runs: While this exercise certainly not easy, it shouldn’t be hard to find a set of stairs to utilize. Up and down is one rep. Get in as many reps as you can in one minute! Mix it up by making sure each foot taps each stair, or skip every other stair. Check out our Sweatfest Cardio Stair Workout.

2. Donkey Kick Jumps: Start in a pushup position. Don’t strain your neck; it should be aligned with your spine. Tighten your core and glutes and push off with your feet, kicking both legs into the air while bending your knees to bringing your feet toward your butt. Land softly in the starting position, legs extended. Do as many as you can for one minute.

donkey kick

Photo Credit: Women’s Health

3. Speed Bag Punches: Most people automatically assume your whole body (and your legs in particular) has to be moving for cardio, but squatted speed bags will prove that wrong. Get into a half squat. Make fists with your hands but keep them loose. Raise them up about two inches above and in front of your forehead, elbows pointed out. Rotate your fists in clockwise circles around each other as if you were punching a speed bag. Go as fast as you can (without hitting your face) for 30 seconds, then switch directions for another 30. For more details, click here.


4. Jump Rope: Some people may think jumping rope is a little boring — even though it was too much fun as a little kid! But don’t underestimate this exercise. Every minute of jump rope burns about 10-20 calories, so it’s just as effective as jogging. If you have the stamina to jump faster for a longer amount of time you can even surpass the caloric burn of running!

jump rope feet

5. Plank Jacks: For a plyometric move that works your muscles and gets some cardio in, plank jacks are just what the doctor ordered. Get into plank position and jump both feet out to the sides, then jump back into plank position. It’s a tough one, but works your arms, legs AND core. Here are more details.

Plank-Jacks brooke griffin skinnymom

6. Squat Jumps: Adding jumps and weights to these exercises double the impact. Your heart and leg muscles will be screaming in no time. Get in a squat position: weight in your heels, butt back, chest up and your knees behind your toes. Place your hands in a boxer stance, elbows bent, hands in loose fists in front of your chest. Dip down a little lower, swinging your arms back, then power up from your heels through your knees and jump up until you are vertically extended in the air. Land in a squat and do it again. Click here for more details.


7. Frog Jumps: If you thought squat jumps hurt, think again. Crouch down with your weight in your toes, your hands on the floor directly in front of your feet and your knees pointed outward — think leap frog. Power up through the balls of your feet and try to get your legs fully extended in the air. As you land, keep a soft bend in your knees and return to the crouched position. Do as many as you can for a minute straight. Click here for more details.

frog jump

8. Walking Lunges: Don’t underestimate this move. Though it says “walking,” it’s not a stroll in the park. Stand tall and step your right leg out. Bend down into a lunge, focusing on dropping your left knee straight down but not touching the ground. Your weight should mostly be in your right foot. Make sure your right knee is behind your toe. Push off your left leg and either step back together. Repeat the movement on the opposite leg. That’s one rep. Try to get 10 reps in one way, turn around and do them back towards your starting point (another 10 reps). Click here for step-by-step photos.