When you think of a killer cardio workout, hoofin’ it on the treadmill or cranking out reps on the elliptical might come to mind. But you don’t always need a machine to turn up your heart rate and put calorie-crushing on full blast. Bust out of your typical routine with three new powerful pieces of equipment: an agility ladder, battle ropes and a plyo box.
Each of these 15-minute cardio workouts will challenge your body in new ways, whether that’s with upper body moves or coordination drills (or both!). Designed by Carlos Davila, a trainer at the Fhitting Room in New York City, these routines offer a full serving of high-intensity cardiovascular exercise, with a side of strength — and some fun!
3 Boredom-Busting Cardio Workouts
Climb It: Agility Ladder Workout
There’s good reason they call it an “agility” ladder. These sports drills will quicken your steps and improve your coordination. “You’ll use fast-twitch muscle fibers [necessary for explosive movements] and get your hip abductor and adductor muscles involved,” says Davila. He even includes an exercise to target your chest, back and arms. So you’ll leave no body part untouched with this fast-paced routine.
Part 1: Squats + High Knees
How to: Starting at one end of the ladder, perform 10 air squats with feet hip-width apart, dropping down low enough that your hip crease goes below your knees. Then, run with high-knees to the other side of the latter. You should step both feet into each box and pump your arms for power. When you reach the other side, perform nine squats. Then, do high knees back to the start. Repeat until you count down to one air squat, with high knees between each squat set.
Part 2: Planks + Push-Ups
How to: Get in a forearm plank position at one end of the ladder, with elbows under shoulders and body in a straight line. Hold for 30 seconds. Then, rise up onto your hands and perform one push-up. One hand should be inside the ladder. (Drop down to your knees for the push-up if you need to.) Move the hand outside the ladder into the same box, then move your other hand to the next box. Continue moving down the ladder as you perform one push-up between each box. When you reach the other end, perform another forearm plank for 30 seconds. Then repeat the push-up walk back down to your starting side. Rest for 30 seconds, then repeat from the plank. Do three rounds.
Part 3: Bounding + Quick Feet
How to: Start at one end of the ladder, feet outside the first box. Push your hips back and drop down into a squat, reaching for the inside of the box with both hands. When you reach the bottom of your squat, explode upward and forward. Try to land your feet outside the ladder and hands inside of the next box. (You should aim for more height and less distance on each squat jump.) When you reach the end of the ladder, do quick feet back to the start by beginning with both feet outside the box. Then tap both feet inside. You’ll do an in-in-out-out sequence until you reach the other end. Rest for 30 seconds. Repeat for two more rounds.
Break Through: Battle Ropes Workout
Two physical advantages you don’t often get from cardio equipment: superior shoulder stability and increased core activation. But that’s exactly what you’ll get from this workout featuring battle ropes. “Holding on to the ropes changes every exercise, because your shoulders are getting taxed, which forces your core to do more work too,” says Davila. Do 20 seconds of work, followed by 10 seconds of rest for each round and repeat for eight total intervals. You can do four rounds of the first move and four rounds of the second, or alternate each round. Ready for battle?
Tabata 1: Drummers + Double Arm Slams
Drummers: Stand with feet hip-width apart with a slight bend in the knees. Hold one end of the rope in each hand. Roll your shoulders down and engage your abs as you swiftly lower and lift one arm at a time, so the rope waves up and down. (Your hands should be moving in opposite directions, just as they would be while playing a drum.) Keep your elbows close to your sides.
Double Arm Slams: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Hold one end of the rope in each hand. Bend your knees and lower into a squat. Then explode up, bringing your arms above your head and taking a slight hop off the ground. Slam the rope back down to the ground to make one big wave, then repeat.
Tabata 2: Jumping Jacks + Snakes
Jumping Jacks: Stand with feet together. Hold the bottom of the rope’s handle in each hand. (Handle should be vertical.) Jump your feet wider than your hips for a jumping jack and bring your arms up above your head, elbows bent. Continue jacking.
Snakes: Stand with feet hip-width apart in a shallow squat position. Holding a rope in each hand, bend your elbows and move your arms in and out, so the rope waves in and out.
Tabata 3: Reverse Lunges Drummer + Forward Lunge Lateral Slam
Reverse Lunge Drummers: Stand with feet about hip-width apart. Hold the end of the rope in each hand. Bend your elbows and keep them in by your sides as you move your arms up and down in opposite directions. (Rope waves vertically.) As you’re moving your arms, step back with your right leg to perform a lunge, both knees bent 90 degrees. Step up to stand and repeat the lunge on your left leg. Continue alternating, as you continue moving your arms.
Forward Lunge Lateral Slam: Stand with feet about hip-width apart. Hold a rope in each hand. Step forward with your right leg to perform a lunge, both knees bent 90 degrees. As you step forward, bring the ropes up and over your right leg, swinging your arms to the outside of your right knee and slamming the rope in one big wave. Step back up to stand. Perform the forward lunge on your left leg, slamming the ropes to the outside of your left knee. Continue alternating.
RELATED: 5 Power Lunges for Killer Glutes
Fly High: Plyo Box Workout
Want to become a more powerful athlete? Make the plyo box your BFF. This routine will work your fast-twitch muscle fibers, build explosiveness, and hit both your lower and upper half. “I like that you can see your progress over time in terms of how high you can jump,” says Davila. “And you can also regress the move and make the box shorter or start with step-ups instead.” Whatever your level, you’ll see your skills (and heart rate!) soar with this cardio workout.
Part 1: Around the World (8 Minutes)
Do each exercise below for 45 seconds each, then rest for 15 seconds. Move around the box with each move. Complete two full rounds.
Lateral Step Ups: Use your right leg only, box positioned on your right side.
Push-Ups: Start with your hands on the box and feet on the floor or if you’re more advanced, swap it so your feet are on the box and hands on the floor.
Lateral Step Ups: Use your left leg only, box positioned on your left side.
Dips: Start with your knees bent and if that feels easy, straighten then out in front of you. Try to get your elbows to bend 90 degrees.
Part 2: Lunge to Step-Up (3 Minutes)
You’ll do 30 seconds of work on one leg, then switch to the other. Repeat for three total rounds.
Lunges: On your right leg, do a reverse lunge. Then return to standing. Next, step up onto the box with your right leg, and back down. Repeat.
Step-Ups: On your left leg, do a reverse lunge. Then return to standing. Next, step up onto the box with your left leg, and back down. Repeat.
Part 3: Box Jumps (4 Minutes)
In typical Tabata style, you’ll push through this plyometric move for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds. Repeat for four total rounds. Feel free to start with step-ups, or jump up and step back down. If you’re feeling super strong, perform a burpee with a box jump at the top.