The Best Cardio Exercises and Workouts to Keep You Active Indoors

The Best Cardio Exercises and Workouts to Keep You Active Indoors

Look, we get it: lots of guys hate cardio.

We try to stay as exercise-neutral as possible here at Men’s Health, since we really just want you to get up and moving to stay healthy and happy. But we’ve shared some perspectives that weren’t particularly complimentary of cardio workouts and training in the past. There’s certainly some justification to these views—they’re not all just weight room bro science bluster, and actually enjoying your workout of choice is important—but ultimately, if you want a truly balanced fitness regimen, you’re going to need cardio. No matter how much you despise the thought of it, you’re going to need to get that system going.

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And if you’re working out to lose weight, cardio is even more important than just having a balance to your life. A study published in BMC Public Health found that people who were overweight and obese had more success in a 12-week program exercise program that consisted of both cardio and weight training than people who performed only cardio or only weight training protocols. Participants who used both exercise modalities together lost more body fat—including unhealthy belly fat, a.k.a. visceral fat, which puts you at risk of a long list of health problems—than the other participants.

So you’re going to want to do at least some cardio training. What that doesn’t mean, however, is that the only choice you have for cardio is implementing long, boring outdoor jogs, or investing in expensive pieces of equipment like bikes or treadmills. You can find ways to sneak cardio work into your more traditional strength training workouts, making your workouts even more effective and your body healthier.

One way to do that is to ramp up your cardio work indoors. Here are a few of our favorite cardio workouts that will get your heart rate up, scorch some serious calories, and leave your muscles feeling pumped.

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Indoor Cardio Exercises

These moves are easy to implement into HIIT-style circuits so you can get a sweat on without heavy equipment like treadmills or rowers.


Yes, you knew this was coming. Burpees are often the go-to bodyweight cardio move trainers use to challenge (and sometimes punish) their clients. When you add them to your workout, focus on form, not speed, to keep yourself healthy and safe. You’ll jack up your heart rate either way.

Kettlebell Swings

You’ll build power and strength with this killer exercise for the posterior chain, but you can string long sets of reps together to get your heart pumping, too. If you’re working with lots of volume, grab a lighter weight than if you’re more focused on power.

Ball Slams

Ultimately, slams are an exercise that is all about power. When you add them to circuits that include some of the other featured moves, however, you can begin to work up quite a sweat. Make sure to avoid rushing through the reps to get the most out of the move.

Battle Ropes

Used properly, battle ropes are an absolute torcher. Try working through alternate sets of waves, slams, and other iterations to keep your workout fresh.

Jump Rope

Jump roping isn’t just for the playground. The highly effective tool, which some studies have found can be much more effective than running, can pack a ton of work into a short, engaging workout.

Dumbbell Thruster

Compound exercises with weights are a very easy way to get your heart rate going without running. String enough reps together, and you’ll be breathing heavy in no time—just make sure to keep your form on point.

Rowing Machine Workouts

best indoor cardio workouts


When rowing machines first hit the market decades ago, most hardcore exercisers didn’t even give this piece of equipment a second look. But now, these machines seem to be the cornerstone of most gyms.

The rower gives you an awesome workout that challenges your cardiovascular system, upper body, and legs—essentially giving you a total body workout.

Men’s Health Advisory Board member David Otey, P.P.S.C., C.S.C.S. uses this rowing workout with his clients.

How to do it:

1. Row for 200 meters (m) at a moderate pace for a warmup

2. Row for 250 m at 70 percent effort. Rest two to three times as long as your “work” interval. For instance, if it takes you one minute to row 250 m, your “rest’ period would be two to three minutes.

3. Repeat this six times total.

Related: I Added Rowing to My Workouts. Here’s Why You Should, Too

Airdyne Machine Workouts

best indoor cardio workouts


If you have access to an Airdyne bike that uses both your arms and legs, hop on and get moving. The goal here is to work your quads, hamstrings, and glutes with a harder resistance, while pumping your arms to increase your overall cardio conditioning.

Here’s one of Otey’s favorite cardio crushers.

How to do it:

1. Pedal for 10 calories with just your arms, followed immediately by 10 calories with your legs, and then 10 calories with your full body.

2. Rest for 90 seconds.

3. Repeat for five times total.

Barbell Complexes

gym   men doing front squats

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The barbell complex is for the guy who refuses to get on any piece of cardio equipment, period. But beware, this workout is intense.

Otey starts most guys off with 95 pounds on the bar, but you can adjust the weight depending on your fitness level. You’ll go directly from one exercise to the next, with no rest until your entire circuit is done.

How to do it:

1. Perform 15 front squats.

2. Perform 15 shoulder presses.

3. Perform 15 bent-over rows

4. Perform 15 Romanian deadlifts

5. Rest for two minutes. Perform five to eight rounds total.

Bodyweight Workouts

indoor pushups


Men’s Health training advisor David Jack re

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