20-Minute No-Equipment Cardio Workout at Home

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Getting in a no-equipment cardio workout at home might seem like a challenge for those of us used to indoor cycling classes or runs either outside or on the treadmill. But with gyms and studios closed due to the coronavirus—and some neighborhoods a little too crowded for exercising outdoors safelyat-home cardio routines have become the new normal for a sweaty workout.

It’s actually pretty simple to get in a great, no-equipment cardio workout at home: The best way to do it, as we reported previously, is to choose exercises that are compound movements (meaning they work multiple muscle groups at a time, like squats or push-ups) and dial up the intensity: Think exercises with lots of movement that you can rep out quickly.

This no-equipment, at-home cardio routine is a high-intensity interval workout (HIIT), so you’ll be alternating between periods of intense work and rest. Because it’s a cardio workout, expect to increase your heart rate. You’ll definitely be breathing hard during the work intervals (of course, slow it down or take a break if you start to feel a little too breathless), and you’ll be able to take full advantage of the rest periods.

One way to gauge how hard you’re working during these intervals is through the scale of perceived exertion, where a 1 means no effort and a 10 means maximal effort. You can use the “talk test” to see where you fall on that scale: Low effort, when it’s easy to talk, might be a 1 to 3 on the RPE scale; medium effort, when you can still talk but it takes a bit more effort, might be a 3 to 5. When things get harder and you can really only puff out a few words at a time, you’re working at about a 5 to 7. And when you can no longer talk because you’re working so hard, you’re at a 7 to 10.

So where should you rank on the scale when you do this no-equipment cardio workout at home? There’s no one answer—it’ll vary depending on things like your fitness experience or level, how much sleep you got the night before, and how you feel that day. But a good rule of thumb is to aim for a 6 or 7 to start with, and then see how you feel.

The cardio workout below can also be modified according to your fitness level: The beginner effort starts with equal rest and work, while the more advanced option has you working for 50 seconds and resting for 10 seconds. You can choose which protocol is right for you—and it’s perfectly fine to go harder one day and ease off the next. Remember, you want to choose a workout that works for you, not one that adds more stress to an already hectic time.

Ready to start sweating? Remember to complete a dynamic warm-up first to get your muscles ready for the effort, and then get started below!

Workout Directions

Do the moves below in order for your selected time interval, resting between moves for your selected rest interval. Do all 4 moves, then rest for 60 seconds. Repeat the circuit 4 times.

  • Beginner: Work for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds
  • Intermediate: Work for 40 seconds, rest for 20 seconds
  • Advanced: Work for 50 seconds, rest for 10 seconds

Demoing the moves are May Yu (GIFs 1 and 3), an avid yogi and gardener; Cookie Janee (GIF 2), a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve; and Denise Harris (GIF 4), a NASM-certified personal trainer and Pilates instructor.


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