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The Best Cardio Workouts You Can Do at Home…

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor rush-hour lines at the gym have to stay you from getting your cardio in for the day. Just put on your gym clothes — or, hell, don’t. What do we care? — and you can still get a great cardio workout at home.

You don’t need a treadmill. You don’t need a stationary bike or rower. And you certainly don’t need an elliptical. Indeed, you don’t need to own or have access to a cardio machine at all. With some know-how, you can get an even better cardio workout in your living room without equipment than you can by pounding the pavement or spinning your wheels on a glorified conveyor belt.

But before we get into the nitty gritty of machine-free cardio workouts at home, it’s important to first determine what you want to achieve. That starts with understanding the different types of cardio exercise available to you.

What Is Cardio?

Anything that places sustained stress on your cardiopulmonary system qualifies as cardio, explains exercise physiologist Fabio Comana, NASM-CPT, CES, and PES. In practice, that basically means that if you’re doing something that elevates your heart rate for an extended period of time, you’re doing cardio.

Jogging is the classic example, but any sort of steady-state aerobic activity (e.g., cycling, rowing, swimming) qualifies. So does intense, intermittent exercise that alternates between extreme exertion and active rest, such as high intensity interval training (HIIT). And, while you might feel your heart beat faster after a tough set of deadlifts or hammer curls, traditional weightlifting doesn’t qualify as cardio, as your heart rate doesn’t remain elevated.

What Is the Best Cardio for Weight Loss?

Weight loss is the benefit most often associated with cardio, but there are plenty of other reasons to add it to your weekly routine. “Regular cardiovascular exercise can also boost energy levels, increase endurance, strengthen your heart and lungs, reduce stress, and, if the intensity is high enough — think sprint, circuit, and interval training — even build muscle,” says Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S., senior fitness and nutrition content manager for Beachbody. “But if your goal is fat loss, and you’re already in decent shape, high intensity cardio is your best option.”

Benefits of High Intensity Cardio

If you’ve ever done HIIT, you’ve felt the deep muscle burn it inspires. And the reason you’re feeling that burn is because your body has shifted from slower, oxygen-based (aerobic) energy production to faster, oxygen-independent (anaerobic) energy production to meet your muscles’ increased demand for fuel.

In short, you’ve crossed the anaerobic threshold, and there’s a price to pay for that. “Metabolic waste begins to accumulate faster than your body can clear it,” says Thieme. “As it does, your muscles start to burn, and you move ever more quickly towards exhaustion.”

Unlike slow to moderate steady-state cardio, high-intensity cardio isn’t sustainable. But here’s why it’s still a better option for fat loss: Exercising above your anaerobic threshold sends your body into what’s called “oxygen debt.” The greater that debt, the longer your metabolism stays elevated after you exercise in an effort to pay it back. Known as the “afterburn effect” — or, more technically, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) — it can keep your metabolism humming at a higher level for more than 48 hours.

“So don’t be fooled by the ‘fat-burning zone‘ on cardio machines,” says Thieme. “You might burn more calories during a longer, steady-state cardio workout, but you’ll burn more calories overall with a shorter, high-intensity one.”

And the benefits don’t stop there. “Studies show that HIIT can produce many of the same training adaptations as longer, steady-state workouts — including an increase in aerobic capacity [the amount of oxygen your body can process during exercise] — in significantly less time,” says Thieme.

“The only catch is that you have to be fit enough to exercise above your anaerobic threshold.” In short, it’s not for beginners. But once you build a strong aerobic foundation, high intensity cardio can be a powerful tool for achieving most cardiovascular fitness and fat loss goals.

How to find your anaerobic threshold

There are a few ways to determine your anaerobic threshold and reap these benefits. If you have a heart rate monitor, it’s approximately 80 percent of your max heart rate.

If you don’t, you can use the Borg rate of perceived exertion (RPE) scale, which goes from 6 (no effort, as in watching television) to 20 (max effort, sprinting full-tilt up a steep hill). “You’ll hit the anaerobic threshold at around 15 on that scale,” Thieme says.

Or simply try the talk test: “If you find it difficult to speak even in short sentences, you’re likely anaerobic,” Thieme says.

15 At-Home Cardio Programs on Beachbody On Demand

All of that scientific stuff aside, how do you get in a great cardio workout at home? “You don’t need a single piece of equipment,” Comana says. “Your body is a [cardio] machine.”

The more equipment (weights, resistance bands, etc.) you have at your disposal, the greater your exercise and workout possibilities are, of course. But no matter how large (or small) your equipment arsenal is, or how fit you are, or whether you prefer dance-based workouts or HIIT, there’s a program for you and your goals on the list below. And you can start streaming it right now on Beachbody On Demand.

Beachbody Workout Programs - 80 Day Obsession80 Day Obsession

Fitness level: Intermediate-Advanced

Program length: 13 weeks

Super Trainer Autumn Calabrese will help you build a strong, lean body — including a firmer butt and more sculpted abs — with 80 different unique workouts. You’ll do six workouts per week, each lasting between 27 and 60 minutes. The workout themes always remain the same (Booty, Total Body Core, AAA, Legs, Cardio Core, and Cardio Flow), but Autumn changes how you perform them each week, so you never do the same workout twice. If you’re not feeling ready for 80DO, no problem: you can prepare with A Little Obsessed, our five-day precursor program with slightly easier workouts.

Beachbody Workout - CORE DE FORCECORE DE FORCE

Fitness level: Intermediate to advanced

Program length: 30 days

Work your entire body without weights in this mixed martial arts-inspired program created by Joel Freeman and Jericho McMatthews. Each workout cycles through three-minute rounds that alternate between fight combinations and lung-busting cardio moves to build strength, torch fat, boost endurance, and increase power in just 27 to 47 minutes a day.

Beachbody Workout Program - FOCUS T25FOCUS T25

Fitness level: Intermediate

Program length: 10 weeks

If you can dedicate 25 minutes a day to exercise, you’ll get results from this fat incinerating program that combines cardio and strength training. During T25’s first half, or Alpha phase, Shaun T will guide you through various forms of interval training intended to help you build a foundation of strength, speed, power, and endurance, without equipment. You’ll add weights to the equation in the second, or Beta, phase, which features harder exercises, more explosive (plyometric) movements, and more resistance training. If Beta leaves you hungry for more, you can do the optional Gamma phase, which is more strength-training oriented.

Beachbody Beginner Workout Programs - Shift ShopSHIFT SHOP

Fitness level: Beginner to intermediate

Program length: Three weeks

Chris Downing‘s athletic training program alternates between strength and cardio workouts that increase in length, intensity, and complexity each week to help you ramp up steadily to a new level of fitness. Designed with athletes in mind, it’s also packed with drills that build agility, power, and coordination. You’ll need dumbbells, Beachbody Agility Markers, and the motivation to work hard to get started, although we recommend you also get the optional Beachbody PT Sandbag to optimize your results.

Beachbody Beginner Workout Programs - 22 Minute Hard Corps22 Minute Hard Corps

Fitness level: Intermediate

Program length: 2 months

This bootcamp-inspired program uses minimal equipment and a military-style cadence to work your entire body with basic, uncomplicated moves that get results — fast. All you need are dumbbells and a pull-up bar (or resistance bands with a door attachment) to get started. The program isn’t easy — and Super Trainer Tony Horton demands that you give everything you’ve got to every rep — but if you can commit to completing all eight weeks, you will emerge stronger, slimmer, and fitter.

Insanity | Shaun T | Cardio workout at homeINSANITY

Fitness level: Advanced

Program length: 60 days

The Shaun T program that helped popularize high intensity interval training (HIIT) will test the limits of your endurance (and accelerate the pace of your transformation) with brutal, bodyweight-only cardio workouts that will leave your legs shaking, lungs heaving, and body drenched in sweat. This program isn’t for the faint of heart. But those who complete every 40- to 60-minute workout during the two-month program will emerge with the heart and body of an athlete.

Beachbody Beginner Workout Program - 21 Day Fix21 Day Fix

Fitness level: Beginner to intermediate

Program length: 3 weeks

Do a different workout each day of the week with Autumn Calabrese’s wildly popular fitness program, which combines cardio and strength training to achieve dramatic results in just three weeks. It’s also a good introduction to interval workouts, and each week is capped off by a yoga session to optimize recovery. Some workouts require dumbbells. Others only require your bodyweight. But every single one will challenge your strength, endurance, and grit. Do multiple rounds of the program to build the body you’ve always dreamed of having.

Beachbody Beginner Workout Program - CIZECIZE

Fitness level: Beginner to intermediate

Program length: 4 weeks

Get ready to have the most fun you’ve ever had sweating like crazy with this dance-based cardio program. Shaun T breaks down each move step by step, gradually building on them to create a full routine. Once you have them all mastered, it’s time to do the full dance to a popular song.

Beachbody Workout Program - 21 Day Fix Extreme21 Day Fix Extreme

Fitness level: Advanced

Program length: 3 weeks

For those who’ve graduated from 21 Day Fix with honors, or already have a solid fitness base, this more challenging version of Autumn Calabrese’s breakout program promises even more dramatic results. You’ll use some form of resistance (weights, resistance bands, etc.) in nearly all of the workouts, which range from high-intensity cardio to strength training to build explosive power and create a leaner, more defined physique.

Beachbody Beginner Workout Program - YOUv2YouV2

Fitness level: Beginner

Program length: Four weeks

Join Super Trainer Leandro Carvalho and the amazing ladies of YOUv2 for a dance party in your home. Entry-level cardio dance routines are set to ’80s and ’90s hits. You’ll also do bodyweight strength workouts to firm up your physique. Each routine takes only 30 minutes. You have time for this!

Beachbody Workout Program - INSANITY MAX:30INSANITY MAX: 30

Fitness level: Advanced

Program length: 60 days

Another grueling program from Shaun T, this series of intense cardio and Tabata-style strength workouts pushes you to work as hard as you can for as long as you can — and then just a little longer each day — until you can go the full 30 minutes. Two things you can dispense with for this program: equipment and ego. This is bodyweight-only. And it’s hard as hell.

Beachbody Beginner Workout Program - P90P90

Fitness level: Beginner to intermediate

Program length: 90 days

A simpler, less intense, but still effective version of P90X, this program is excellent for those looking to get (back) into shape — especially if your goal is to muscle up and slim down. Tony Horton takes you through a variety of cardio, strength, and core workouts based on intensive anaerobic intervals to create rapid body composition changes.

Beachbody Beginner Workout Program - Country HeatCountry Heat

Fitness level: Beginner

Program length: 30 days

This beginner cardio option pairs low-impact, dance-inspired moves with popular country songs. The moves are broken down simply, so even if you think you can’t dance, you’ll be moving, working up a sweat, and burning calories. There’s no routine to learn — simply follow the steps as Autumn Calabrese calls them out. You’ll have so much fun, you’ll forget you’re working out.

Beachbody On Demand Workout Programs - Shaun WeekSHAUN WEEK: INSANE FOCUS

Fitness level: Intermediate

Program length: 7 days

This week of intense, boot camp-style workouts from Shaun T can be used as a break from your regular routine, or you can string together multiple rounds of it to create a short program. The workouts are inspired by those from Shaun’s other programs, such as FOCUS: T25 and INSANITY. The main focus is cardio, but weights are also used in two of the workouts to help build strength as you sweat off the pounds.

Beachbody Beginner Workout Program - Brazil Butt LiftBrazil Butt Lift

Fitness level: Beginner to intermediate

Program length: 60 days

Leandro Carvalho’s collection of popular cardio workouts for women is designed to help lift, firm, and sculpt your butt without bulking up your thighs. Four workout calendars — volumizer, lift, slim, and classic — allow you to customize your workout program to your unique butt type. Just choose your schedule and start dancing to build a body that feels and looks great from every angle.


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