5 Cardio Sports-Inspired Drills

5 Sports-Inspired Drills That Totally Count as Cardio
Photo courtesy of James Farrell

Think back to the good old days when getting a solid cardio workout didn’t involve stepping on a machine. If high school sports were your thing, you probably got your heart pumping with some serious pre-practice warm-up drills and outdoor play. And you know what…we miss those days!

To cure our nostalgia, we turned to Zack Daley, head coach at NYC’s Tone House, which specializes in athletic-based group training. On “the turf” (aka in the studio), they use sports conditioning drills to rev up your heart rate and build strength. (Believe us, they definitely know how to get people sweating!) If you never played sports, no fear: You’ll still love the change of pace (literally) that these moves provide.

Time to channel your inner athlete! Do these five exercises to score one calorie-scorching cardio workout — all of which you can do right at home.

RELATED: 5 Smarter Ways to Train Your Heart (and Lose Weight)

5 Sports-Inspired Moves for Killer Cardio

Perform each of these exercises in a row, taking a 10- to 30-second break in between (longer or shorter, depending on your skill level). Repeat the entire sequence three to four times through for a winning cardio workout that takes 20 minutes max.

Forward Bounds for Cardio

1. Forward Bounds

Coach says: Focus on form for this plyo move and keep your chest and head up the entire time. Try to continuously jump forward and backward without resting in between. But if you’re just getting back into the fitness game, feel free to stop for a breather (or two!) when you need it.
How to: Standing with feet hip-width apart, push your hips back and descend into a squat, bringing your hands together in front of your chest (a). As soon as you hit the bottom of your squat, swing your arms slightly behind you for momentum, then explode up and forward about two feet. Make sure to push off your toes (b). Land softly back down in a squat position, shifting weight to your heels (c). Without coming fully out of your squat, explode up and backward this time, still pushing off of your toes (d). Repeat for 10 reps (jumping forward, then backward counts as one).

In and Out Plyo Push-Ups for Cardio

2. In and Out Plyo Push-Ups

Coach says: Daley may make this look easy, but the move is no joke. If you need to start with a modification, drop to your knees. Aim to mimic the explosive push-up for as many reps as you can, while maintaining good form. (That means keeping your hips and shoulders in a straight line.) Can’t get enough momentum for the push-off? Try a regular push-up on your toes, but walk your hands out farther, one at time and then back in, one at a time.
How to: Start in a high plank position, hands shoulder-width apart. Drop down into a tricep push-up position (a). Instead of slowly pushing back up, give yourself a more powerful boost so you can explode off the ground and bring your hands out wider than shoulder-distance apart (b). Land with bent elbows for a wide-grip push-up (c). Next, as you push back up, explode off your hands and bring them back to the close-grip position, landing with elbows bent (d). Repeat the in and out motion for 8-10 reps.

RELATED: 3 Common Plank Mistakes (And How to Fix Them)

Knee Tuck Jumps for Cardio

3. Knee Tuck Jumps

Coach says: While your legs will definitely feel the burn on the squat and jump, you’ll work your core on the knee tuck, too. Be sure to look straight ahead and keep your chest up throughout the entire exercise. If you notice your form starts slacking, stick to regular squat jumps.
How to: Start standing with feet hip-width apart, toes facing forward. Push your hips back and descent into a squat (a). When you reach the bottom of your squat, explode back up, pushing off your toes and bringing your knees up as high as you can (preferably chest level) to perform a tuck jump (b). Land with control in a squat position, knees bent and hips pushed back to absorb the impact (c). Repeat for 20-25 reps.

Figure 8 Drop Down for Cardio

4. Figure 8 Drop Down

Coach says: Like a burpee, but way better — because this tests your agility. It’s OK to take slow steps at first, but work on moving your feet faster as you continue to do this routine. To modify the move, step your feet back instead of jumping as you drop your chest to the ground.
How to: Start starting between two cones (or towels or whatever you’ve got on hand), positioned about two feet apart (a). Jump your feet back, place your hands on the ground and drop your chest to the floor (b). Push yourself back up and jump your feet forward (c). Next, run forward and around the cone on your right (d). When you get back between the cones, drop down to the floor again (e). Jump back up, this time running around the cone on your left (f). Repeat the full figure eight, with a drop down in between each for 10 reps.

RELATED: 7 New Burpee Variations to Test Your Strength

Backward Lunge to Stationary Skip for Cardio

5. Backward Lunge to Stationary Skip

Coach says: Working out outdoors or in a bigger space? Instead of staying in the same spot, turn this into a moving skip — just remember to get low in your lunge as you go. Standing on one leg will challenge your stability, so you’ll sculpt your entire body with this exercise.
How to: Start standing, feet nearly together, and lunge one leg backward so both your knees hit a 90-degree angle (a). Explode off your front foot and drive your back knee forward and up to chest height, as you push off the toes on your front leg. (You should hop slightly off the ground.) (b). Land softly back on your standing leg with your knee bent. Place your other leg behind you to hit the lunge position again (c). Repeat for 15-20 reps, then switch sides.

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