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Last Updated on December 15, 2020

9 Simple Cardio/Core Exercises You Can Do At Home

9 Simple Cardio/Core Exercises You Can Do At Home

You want to work out but you don’t always have the time to implement a workout routine into your busy day. Finding time for daily exercise takes discipline and commitment, and often you feel like you need to go for a long run or intense workout at the gym in order to feel a sense of accomplishment.

There are many simple exercises you can do at home in order to improve your strength, agility, and cardio vascular endurance. The problem with some at-home workout routines or quick exercise routines is that you might be doing the wrong kind of exercise.

If you are trying to build upper body strength you don’t need to do squats or calf raises. On the other hand, if you are trying to build lower body strength knocking out a ton of pushups and bench dips isn’t going to help either. Make sure you determine what you want to improve on before you undertake an exercise regimen.
Often people focus too much on upper body and lower body strength when the core of your body needs more attention than any other part. Your core keeps you stable and balanced. I like to think of it as the fulcrum of your body. Without a strong core you probably aren’t going to experience as much strength and stability in your upper and lower body. Mixing in intense cardio is always a good idea as well, and you don’t need to run 10 miles to do it.

Instead of trying to 1,000 pushups per day focus on building your core along with some cardio. I guarantee you will feel stronger and more energetic than you ever have before, and your body will thank you.

Here are 9 great exercises that will improve your cardio and core strength. I have also included a sample workout plan at the end of the article which incorporates all of these exercises, so please read carefully so you know how to perform each exercise properly.

Please consult a medical professional first if you have any injuries or medical conditions to ensure you are able to perform physical activity.

1. Sitting Holds

This is a very simple but effective exercise to burn the core, legs, and arms all at once. Additionally you get to sit down while doing it, so it can’t be that bad!

Sit down in a position with your feet off the ground, straight out in front of you. Hands should be extended out in front as well. You are simply going to hold this position for a given amount of time.

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Try not to strain and tighten up your body too much while doing this. This is especially important with the back and neck. If you find yourself straining too much than stop. You can always build on the amount of time you hold this posture.

It is important that you also stay as still as possible throughout the duration of the hold. It is going to get difficult but challenge yourself to remain in the steady position throughout.

2. Burpees

Some people love them. Some people hate them. Even though I do these quite a bit during my summer training, I fall in the latter group. They are very challenging, but in my opinion, there is no better exercise that incorporates complete body training (core, cardio, upper body and lower body strength). You even get a little upper body strength training when you do these, so it is a win-win.

To do a burpee start standing straight up with your feet little more than shoulder width apart. Bring your hands to the ground in between the distance of your legs but slightly in front of your body. When you come down to the ground bend at the hips not at the back. You should bends your knees with your back straight as you bring your hands to the ground.

As soon as your hands are on the ground, you will jump back with your legs, so that you are in a plank position (hands are shoulder width apart aligned with your chest and your back is straight, not hunching towards the ground; legs are straight back and shouldn’t be touching the ground). For an extra challenge add a pushup at this point of the burpee.

After you get into the plank position you immediately bring your legs back up to your hands (like they were before you kicked them back into the push up position). With your knees bent, come up and jump straight up in the air. That is 1 repetition.

3. Mountain Climbers

If climbing mountains isn’t your forte than this will be probably be the closest you get to climbing an actual mountain. This is a great workout for your core, cardio, and lower body.

You are going to start in a plank position. It is important that you keep your core tight and strong the entire time you do this exercise. The tendency during this exercise is for your body to droop towards the ground or be arched towards the sky as you get tired. You want to make an effort to keep your back straight and don’t allow it to come out of the perfect push up position. This can lead to back problems.

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From the push up position you alternate your feet up and back towards your stomach. You are trying to knee yourself in the stomach (not literally but for the exercise purpose). When the right knee comes up, the left knee stays back. When the right knee goes back, the left knees comes up towards the stomach. You do this as rapidly as you can. You want a full range of motion so ensure you are bringing your knees up as far as possible and stretching them back as much as possible.

Your hands shouldn’t be too far out in front of you. They should be right around your shoulders. By this, you are also receiving an upper body workout because you are holding the plank position as well as moving your feet as fast as possible.

4. Running High Knees

This is a great cardio exercise that incorporates an intense range of motion from your legs. You can do this exercise running in place or with movement. The goal of this exercise is to get your knees up as high as possible and as quickly as possible. It is beneficial when you stay on your toes and utilize quick movements. As soon as your toe hits the ground you explode back up with your knee.

Use your arms properly when doing this exercise. Similar to running you want to alternate your hand and knee movements. When the right knee goes up, the left arm comes up simultaneously. When the right knee goes down, the left arm goes down. Maintaining an effective arm and leg movement balance will help you get into a rhythm as you speed up and increase the intensity of the exercise.

5. Step Ups

Find something in your house that is solid and won’t move if you step on it. I suggest using a sturdy couch or chair, maybe even a bench if you have one available. If you don’t have anything solid then place a chair against the wall so it won’t move. Make sure the height of the chair or bench is not too high to where you can’t step onto it comfortably.

The goal of this exercise is explosive movements. Again you are focused on a complete range of motion. Step up onto the platform of your choosing with one leg. With the opposite leg you are going to explode it in the air and then step back down onto the ground. If this motion is too difficult than simply step onto the platform with the other leg. Alternate legs and repeat.

Use your arms effectively during this exercise to ensure that you give your arms a solid workout, and to assist you as you explode your legs onto the platform. For example when you put your right leg onto the platform, the left arm is already up in the air. As you explode onto the platform with the left leg, the right arm raises up to boost this movement. The left arm falls to the side.

As you create a dynamic pace, challenge yourself to see how quickly you can alternate feet. This will increase the intensity of the cardio. Stay on your toes and focus on swift movements up and down from the platform.

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6. Jumping Jacks

You probably did these when you were a kid. These are a staple for many youth physical education classes. Even though this is a basic exercise it can be quite effective when completed with vigor and you guessed it, full range of motion.

Start standing straight up with your hands at your sides and your legs together. Jump your legs out so that they land wider than shoulder width apart. Simultaneously, your arms should move straight out over your head until your hands meet. It is not imperative that your hands touch over your but it is an effective reference point to ensure you use full range of motion with your arms. Then jump back to the starting point. This is one repetition.

The focus of the exercise is to work both the lower body and the upper body. By jumping the legs to a point that is slightly uncomfortable you are stretching out the hips and gluteus maximus muscles, which are all essential for core strength as well.

The more rapidly you perform this exercise the better cardio results you are going to experience. As is the case with most of these exercises, stay on your toes as much as possible. Try not to land on your heels when jumping out because this will restrict the pace at which you exercise.

7. Towel Knee Bends

This exercise is great for the entire body but it really targets the middle core. You will need a large towel or two small towels for this exercise as well as a slippery surface in which to perform it.

Start out in a plank position with the towel(s) at your feet. Hands should be shoulder width apart underneath your shoulders. Bring both feet up at the same time as far as possible. Then bring your legs back down into the plank position. This is one repetition.

Similar to the mountain climbers, you are attempting to knee yourself in the stomach. You don’t want your knees to come together because this takes away from the isolation of the exercise. Each leg must work on its own to thrust towards the stomach. This range of motion is important because you want to experience the full benefits of the exercise.

Keep your core aligned the entire time you do this exercise. Don’t allow the back to hunch upward or slouch downward. Part of the challenge is holding the plank position coupled with the leg movement.

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8. Towel In and Outs

For this exercise you are going to need two small towels, one for each foot. Start out again in the plank position just as the previous exercise. This is a core exercise as well, but it focuses more on external oblique muscles, or the side of your abdominals.

Instead of bringing both feet towards your stomach you are going to extend both feet outward, away from one another. You want to push your legs out as far as possible depending on how flexible you are in the hip region. Try to extend your legs at least shoulder width apart. If you are unable to stretch them that far, than go as far as you can. Then bring your legs back together to the starting plank position. That is one repetition.

As the intensity of this exercise increases and you become tired, there is a tendency to use more legs than core. You want to try to avoid this. Concentrate on using your core to extend your legs back and forth. Do less reps if necessary but make sure this is a core exercise, not merely a lower body exercise.

9. Wall Sit

This title doesn’t leave much for the imagination. You are literally going to sit against the wall. This is a great way to finish your workout. It is primarily a lower body workout but it also integrates some core training.

Sit against the wall with your back straight against the wall. Your feet should be right under your knees. Make sure your knees are not extended over your toes. This can be detrimental and cause knee pain. On the other hand your feet should not be extended too far out underneath your knees because this takes away from experiencing the stretch in your quadriceps and the rest of your legs. You should be sitting in a position with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle. Arms should be above your head or laterally at your side the entire time. Do not place your hands on your knees.

Your Training Plan

Exercise                               Repetitions/Time                                      Rest
Sitting Hold                           15 seconds-1 minute                                   15 seconds
Burpees                                5-20                                                           30 seconds-1 minute
Mountain Climbers                 5-25 each leg                                              30 seconds-1 minute
Running High Knees               5-15 each leg                                             30 seconds-1 minute
Step Ups                              10-25 each leg                                            30 seconds-1 minute
Towel Knee Bends                 5-20                                                           30 seconds-1 minute
Towel In and Outs                  5-20                                                           30 seconds-1 minute
Wall Sit                                 15 seconds-30 seconds                              30 seconds

These are simply repetition and time estimates for a basic workout plan. I have no idea what your conditioning level is. If you can’t do the allotted repetitions, that is perfectly ok. Figure out how many repetitions you can do but challenge yourself by doing them correctly every time. When you can’t do anymore reps properly, then you are finished with that exercise.

The rest periods are seemingly low and not enough time but in order to improve your cardio on your own it is imperative that you perform highly intensive exercises with shorter recovery times. This will challenge your cardio, help you lose fat, and stress your body in an appropriate manner. If it becomes too intense and you need more time to rest, than take the time you need. You know your body better than anyone else. These are mere guidelines. Eventually as you continue exercising you may notice you need less and less time to recover before the next exercise.

The amount of sets you execute is ultimately your decision. Start out with one set and see how it feels. If you are unable to complete one set of all these exercises, then finish what you are capable of. I think you will observe profound changes in your fitness levels by consistently taking the time to perform these exercises. Good luck and have fun!

Featured photo credit: Girls With Muscle via girlswithmuscle.com

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Mike Oppland

Mike is the Creator of Carpe Diem Motivation. He aspires to inspire individuals who are seeking a little extra boost in their lives.

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Last Updated on February 25, 2021

15 Static Stretches to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

15 Static Stretches to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

Stretching is one of those aspects of fitness that many people conveniently forget about. Perhaps you’re one of those who consider stretching nothing but a mere chore meant for ballerinas and gymnasts. While they are great for both, static stretches can offer a boost to any workout routine for people of all fitness levels.

Irrespective of your reasons for working out, be it for sports or personal fitness, one thing is certain: stretching can help you. Static stretches come with myriads of benefits, such as improvement in flexibility and reduction in muscle tightness, which ultimately allow you to go through your workout routines with greater efficiency.

For the purpose of this article, we’ll zero in on several great static stretches and take a look at the benefits and when they should be done.

Benefits of Static Stretches

Static stretches come with tons of benefits that can help you make the most of your workout routine. Some of them include:

Improved Flexibility

If you want to perform better, flexibility is of tremendous importance, irrespective of the specific workouts you do. Luckily enough, static stretches are all you need to get all the flexibility you desire.

Flexibility, also known as the range of motion (ROM) around a joint, has been shown by several studies to be improved by static stretching.[1] And although the specific mechanism through which this occurs is still unclear, static stretches have been shown to greatly increase muscle and joint flexibility[2] and tissue length[3], which work in tandem to make your workout more effective.

Prevent Injuries

If you’re looking to push yourself to your training limits without coming down with injuries, then stretching will do you a great service. Research has shown time and again that performing the right stretches  pre- and post-workout greatly helps with injury prevention.[4]

Think of it this way:

When you stretch, you literally push your joints and muscle fibers to their limit. This increases the stretch tolerance in these muscles and joints over time, and the increased tolerance allows you to perform more rigorous exercises without negatively impacting your body or risking an injury.

Increased Blood Flow to the Joints

Another benefit of stretching is increased blood flow – and by extension, nutrient supply – to the joints and muscles of the target areas. This, in turn, improves the performance of these muscles and joints due to the availability of more nutrients, improved oxygenation, and removal of metabolites.

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For static stretching though, the mechanism of action isn’t as straightforward. When stretching statically, blood flow (capillary oxygenation) temporarily reduces due to vascular compression.

However, immediately after releasing the stretch, the blood flow to these areas nearly doubles the pre-stretching levels.[5]

Improvement in Recovery

If you’ve been working out for some time, then you’ve probably discovered that a rigorous workout session can leave you battling sore muscles for days.

Recovery essentially means getting rid of this soreness and returning your muscle fibers back to their tip-top condition.

Research has shown that practicing static stretches after your workout session helps to reduce muscle soreness. And while some may argue that this effect is minimal, the fact still remains that stretching does help shorten your recovery time.

Stretching allows tissues to be better hydrated after the induced tension is released, and this encourages reduced inflammation and faster repair of such tissues.

Other reasons why you really should incorporate stretching into your workout include:

  • Improved relaxation
  • Increased movement efficiency
  • Reduction in the risk of lower back pain
  • Reduction in muscular tension
  • Improvement in neuromuscular coordination
  • Improvement in balance and postural awareness
  • Provision of relief from cramping

15 Static Stretches to Enhance Your Workouts

Here are some amazing exercises that will keep your body in tip-top condition and take your workout routine to the next level.

1. Neck Stretch

    • While sitting tall or standing, place your right arm gently on the right side of your head and place the other arm out to your side.
    • Slowly pull your head towards your right shoulder until you can feel the stretch on the left side of your neck.
    • Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing.
    • Repeat for the opposite side.

    2. Chest Stretch

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      • Stand upright, with your fingers interlocked behind your back, near your buttocks.
      • While keeping your shoulder blades together and your back straight, push your arms up behind you until you feel the stretch in your chest.
      • Hold for about 20-30 seconds before releasing.

      3. Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch

      Shoulder Cross-Arm Stretch « CASS FITNESS

         

        • Stand upright or sit up tall on a chair or mat.
        • Extend one arm to your front to shoulder height.
        • Grab the extended arm with your other arm and pull it towards your chest while keeping the extended arm straight.
        • Continue the pull until you feel the stretch in your shoulder.
        • Hold for 30 seconds and repeat for the other arm.

        4. Triceps Static Stretch

          • Lift your arms overhead, with both arms slightly behind your head and bent at the elbow.
          • Use your right hand to pull your left elbow until you feel a stretch in your triceps.
          • Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the other arm.

          5. Biceps Stretch

          Arm Exercises | Seated Bent-Knee Biceps Stretch

             

            • Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
            • With your fingers pointing away from your body, place your two palms flat on the floor behind you.
            • While your hands are steadily in place, slowly slide your butt downward toward your feet until you can feel the stretch in your biceps, shoulders, and chest.
            • Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing.

            6. Wrist Stretch

              • While standing straight or sitting tall, extend your right arm forward to shoulder height with your fingers pointing toward the ceiling.
              • Grab your right fingers with your left hand, and pull your right hand to bend the wrist until you can feel the stretch.
              • Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat for the opposite arm.

              7. Side Stretch

                • Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart.
                • Take your right arm and reach over your head towards your left side while bending your side.
                • Keep bending your side slowly until you can feel a stretch on your right side.
                • Maintain this position for about 30 seconds and repeat for the opposite side.

                8. Abdominal Static Stretch

                  • Lie down on your stomach with your face towards the ground and your palms facing the floor as though you’re about to do a push up.
                  • While keeping your pelvis firmly on the floor, gently push your upper body up from the ground. This should make your feel some stretch in your abs.
                  • Maintain this position for about 30 seconds before releasing.

                  9. Reclined Spinal Twist

                  Supta Matsyendrasana - Supine Spinal Twist - Yogaasan

                     

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                    • Lie down, with your arms extended to the sides and placed on the floor.
                    • While keeping the right leg extended, pull up your left knee towards your chest, tilt it toward your right side, and then drop it slowly over your extended right leg.
                    • Keep your shoulder blades flat on the ground, and you should feel the stretch around your back.
                    • Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the opposite side.

                    10. Knees to Chest

                    Knee-to-chest exercise from Physical Therapists' Advice to Manage Pain at Home - The Active Times

                       

                      • Lie on the ground facing the ceiling, with your knees bent.
                      • Hold your shins and pull up your knees toward your chest.
                      • This should make you feel some stretch in your lower back.
                      • Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing.

                      11. Hip Flexor Static Stretch

                      How to Do the Standing Lunge Stretch

                         

                        • Stand right in a standard lunge position.
                        • Place your two hands on your hips.
                        • Step out on your right foot into mini-lunge position, without your knee going beyond your right toe.
                        • Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left side.

                        12. Figure 4 Stretch

                        How to Do a Figure 4 Stretch | Openfit

                           

                          • Sit tall on the ground with both knees bent and both feet on the floor.
                          • Lift your right leg and cross it over your left thigh, while your left knee remains bent.
                          • Pull both legs inwards toward your abdomen for a deep stretch of your glutes.
                          • Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.

                          13. Standing Quad Stretch

                            • Stand tall while maintaining a straight posture.
                            • With your left hand, grab a pole, wall, or anything durable for balance.
                            • With your right hand, grab your right foot and pull up your heels until they touch your buttocks.
                            • Keep your knees close together while doing this, push your hip forward, and you should feel the stretch in your quadriceps.
                            • Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat for the other side.

                            14. Hamstring Stretch

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                              • Sit on the floor with your right leg extended straight in front of you and your left leg bent.
                              • Reach forward with your right hand and touch your right toes. This should cause a stretch in your right hamstring.
                              • Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left leg.
                              • If you’re unable to reach your toes, try holding your shin instead, but seek to go further every time you perform the stretch until you can touch your toes.

                              15. Calf Stretch

                                • Sit on the ground and extend your right foot straight in front of you.
                                • Gently pull your right toes backwards with your right hand. This should cause a noticeable stretch in your calf.
                                • Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left leg.
                                • If you’re unable to reach your toes, use a rope or towel to pull your toes inward.

                                Bonus: Stretch With a Resistance Band

                                Resistance bands offer a unique benefit from free weights and create tension throughout your movement. Get the free 30 Day Resistance Band Full Workout Challenge, and challenge yourself to stretch with a resistance band.

                                When Should You Do Static Stretches?

                                Static stretching is great when done correctly and at the right time. Over the years, research has shown that static stretching produces best results when done after working out or on rest days,[6] but not as a part of warm up routines before an explosive workout session.

                                This is because static stretches have a “cool-down” effect on the muscles and are more effective when done after the muscles are already warm.

                                That doesn’t mean you must never ever perform static stretches before working out. Just do it sparingly. Dynamic stretches, which involve more movement, are generally recommended for warming up as it helps the body to prepare better for the work ahead.

                                The Bottom Line

                                Carving out the body of your dreams isn’t only about lifting weights and running; you need to keep your body “elastic” if you’re going to make the most of your training. And that’s the whole point of static stretches.

                                Starting today, be sure to incorporate these static stretching exercises into your routine, and in no time, you’ll find yourself recovering faster and performing better than ever before.

                                More Tips on Stretching

                                Featured photo credit: Alora Griffiths via unsplash.com

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