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How to Get a Killer Cardio Workout at Home – Without Equipment

Right now, about 95% of Americans are under some type of stay-at-home order due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The specifics of these stay-at-home orders vary by state, but most are currently allowing outdoor exercise like running or walking your dog, provided that social distancing rules are followed. 

People crowding trail in Phoenix despite a stay-at-home order
Crowded trails in Phoenix AZ despite social distancing rules. PC: AZcentral.com

However, with everyone being cooped up in the house, way more people than usual are flocking to the trails. So much so, that some trails near city centers are beginning to look more like the line to get into Costco after they’ve just gotten a shipment of toilet paper, than wild places.

State and National Parks are also closing all over the country ( updated list of  park closures), and experts have asked people to stay out of the backcountry so that they don’t have to risk pulling first responders off the Covid-19 front lines to organize an unnecessary rescue. 

So what are adventurous folks to do during these strange times? How are we supposed to get our cardio workouts in when we can’t safely hit up our local trails, parks, or backcountry areas? Especially if we aren’t into running in the concrete jungle?

I’ve got three calorie crushing, blood-pumping, at-home cardio workout options for you to try in the safety of your own home. You don’t even need any fancy equipment! Most of these things can be found or made from things you’ve got laying around the house.

#1- Home-Made Agility Ladder

As the name suggests, the agility ladder was originally designed for athletes to improve their speed, agility, and footwork. But you don’t have to be an athlete to use it, and it’s a great tool for getting your heart rate up fast. (Not to mention it’s WAY more fun than regular old traditional cardio!)

Materials Needed

You will need either some sidewalk chalk or a roll of painter’s tape for the ladder. Painter’s tape is the blue stuff that peels off surfaces without leaving behind a sticky mess. So take a look in your garage or junk drawer, or pick some up on your next essential run to the grocery or drug store. A measuring tape or ruler could also be helpful, but is not necessary.

Decide How Much Room You Have

Since you are probably intending to use this ladder at home, first consider how much space you have available. Typical agility ladders come in different lengths and so have different numbers of boxes. I tend to prefer a little longer ladder, but if you only have a little room, you can do a shorter ladder, and just do more reps of each drill. Somewhere between 15 to 20 feet is a good length. 

Now that you have a ballpark length, decide how big you want each of your squares. 18 to 22 inch squares are pretty common. This really just depends on your shoe size. 

For our example, let’s use chalk, and we’ll do 20 inch x 20 inch squares and a 20 foot ladder. This ladder would have 12 squares. 

How To Make Your Ladder

  1. Draw a straight chalk line 20 feet long.
  2. Measure 20 inches to the left or the right of this line, and draw another 20 foot line parallel to the first.
  3. Every 20 inches, draw a line that connects the first two parallel lines that you drew – these are the rungs of your ladder.
  4. Enjoy an awesome workout!

The Drills

How to Set Up Your Workout

  • Choose a few drills – start easy and work towards more advanced moves.
  • Decide how many reps (trips through the ladder) you want to do for each drill. 
  • Rest as needed in between, but not too long if you want to keep the heart rate up!
  • Remember to keep it balanced! 
    • If it’s a single leg exercise, make sure you work both legs equally.
    • If you lead with the left foot one rep, lead with the right on the next. 

Extra Credit

Try these upper body ladder drills!

#2 – A Line On The Floor

You may be asking, “Is she crazy?!” but hear me out on this – you can get a great workout with just a line!

Materials Needed

Look around your house, you’ll likely find a line on the floor that you can use for this exercise. I have a line that is a seam on the concrete in my driveway and one on my back patio. My downstairs floor is made of large square stone tiles. I just pick a line between the row of tiles, and that works great. If your flooring switches from carpet to tile between rooms, use that. 

If you can’t find a convenient line, draw one with sidewalk chalk, or use painter’s tape. Or get creative – a broomstick, extension cord, or piece of rope can work too.

The Drills

Things to Keep in Mind

  • Remember, you are going for speed here, not height. So keep the hops low to the ground and quick.
  • You can also try the single leg version of these!
    • Single leg lateral hops
    • Single leg forward/back hops
  • Like the ladder, choose a number of reps you would like to do for each drill (or you can do a length of time like 20 seconds) and then rest as needed in between reps.

Extra Credit

Instead of using a line, try these same moves using a curb or a step!

#3 – Stairs

Plain and simple – you can get a great cardio workout on the stairs – as an added bonus, they are pretty good at working the glutes and quads too! 

Close up of a person in red shoes walking up a blue staircase

Options For How to Set Up Your Workout

There are a few ways you can set up your stair workout here – it all depends on your preference! Try them all out and see what works well for you.

If you’d like to aim for a longer workout, more similar to going for a jog, pick a period of time, say 15 minutes, and go up and down the stairs at a steady pace that you can maintain for that amount of time.

Or if you like to work hard for a short amount of time, and then rest and do it again – try going up and down the stairs 3 times as fast as you can and then rest for one minute. Repeat for 5-10 rounds.

To make these stair options a little more interesting, try taking 2-3 steps at a time on the way up (depending on your leg length), and then do fast-feet on the way down.

Extra Credit

Bunny hop up the steps – fast feet down. 

Conclusion

If Covid-19 is making it hard for you to hit the trails or get your other normal cardio in – try one or all of these methods to get that blood pumping. This way you will for sure be adventure ready when we get the all-clear to hit those trails again!

Your Turn!

Do you plan on trying one of these cardio methods? Did I leave off any of your favorite Covid-19-safe cardio types? Just have some questions? Let me know, either here or on any of my social media. 

Share the knowledge!

Author: clarissa.cabbage

Clarissa is a teacher, a coach, and an avid adventurer! Armed with a master's degree in Exercise and Wellness, she is on a mission to teach people how to build healthier habits that support the adventurous lifestyle of their dreams. There is nothing Clarissa is more passionate about than helping people get active and live their lives to the fullest!

6 Replies to “How to Get a Killer Cardio Workout at Home – Without Equipment

  1. I love this post! Your writing has great energy and you are very encouraging. Very clever ideas and things I can involve my kids with, too. Thank you!

    1. Thank you so much for the comment Shelly! I’m so glad this is helpful for you and the kiddos! I have always found ladder training to be much more fun than “traditional” cardio. It’s kind of like hopscotch, right? 😉

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