Measuring your heart rate gives you a window into how hard your body is working. The higher your heart rate, the more energy the body uses. In turn, this increases your ability to lose weight, improve cardiovascular health, and just generally crush your fitness goals.
Many fitness buffs monitor their heart rate while exercising to measure how hard the heart is working. Plenty of wearable tech is available to take the measurement, including but not limited to:
- Apple Watch
- Garmin Vivosmart
- Oura Ring
- Fossil Gen 5 Garrett Touchscreen Smartwatch
- Cardiio (smartphone app for Apple devices)
- Whoop Heart Rate Monitor
These impressive apps and devices can help you monitor your heart rate, but it’s still on you to actually raise your heart rate to the ideal range. That’s where exercise comes in, and while all exercise is good exercise, some moves are more effective than others when it comes to amping up the heart rate.
To that end, we scoured the internet for the 10 exercises that really get the job done. The best part is that you can do them all anywhere, anytime, with no equipment needed.
How to figure out your target heart rate
Heart rate can be measured using a wearable device or through sensors on a cardio machine, which provides the heart’s beats per minute. Heart rate can also be taken manually on your wrist or neck — simply count the number of beats in 15 seconds and multiply by four to give a beats per minute prediction … We want to make sure our heart rate reaches a certain range for maximum benefit.
To find your optimal range, follow this formula. For percentage of maximum heart rate, increase the percentage based on how hard you wish to work.
(220) – (age) – (resting heart rate) x (percent of maximum heart rate you wish to achieve) + (resting heart rate)
If you want to understand more about cardio-boosting exercise, start with one word: Plyometrics.
Plyometric exercises are quick-burst movements that cause the affected muscles to exert maximum force in very short periods of time. Think of it as full-body cardio.
There are moves for the expert and novice alike. Some of our favorite plyometric exercises include:
- Mountain climbers: Start in a plank position and drive knees forward and under your body in an alternating pattern.
- Jump squats: Stand with feet hip-width apart and jump; when you land, lower your body down so your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Donkey kick pushup: Perform a standard pushup, but as you return to normal position, raise or “kick” out one leg so that your heel touches your backside.
- Burpee: Squat down and shoot your feet back so you are in a pushup position, then return your feet to squat position and stand up.
- Step jack: This is a great option for those just starting out. This spin on the classic exercise involves stepping to the side instead of jumping, alternating legs as you complete the reps.
- Prisoner squat jumps: This one is much like the jump squat but is just a bit more demanding. Put your hands behind your head (hence prisoner) throughout the set to better isolate your lower body.
- Plyo jacks: Where step jacks are a lower-impact spin on the jumping jack, this one increases the difficulty. Perform each jumping jack more slowly, and as you bring your feet together, go into a deep squat (are you sensing a trend with squats?).
- Lunges: Stand up straight, then step forward and extend your body downward until your front leg is at a 90-degree angle. Return to standing position and repeat with the other leg.
- Jogging in place: There’s not always a need to reinvent the wheel. Jogging in place does a great job of lifting the heart rate. Lift the knees higher for greater impact. Jumping rope is a similarly effective variation.
- Football wide sprints: This is akin to running in place, but it is done in a very wide stance in order to open your hips. After a bit of running in place in this position, drop to the ground on your stomach, then reset and continue.
Ideal for bad weather or those days when you can’t get outside or make it to the gym, these plyometric exercises are just the ticket for quickly raising the heart rate and getting you into the calorie-burning zone — with little or no equipment needed.
These 10 exercises work well for beginners, intermediates, and advanced practitioners. Just raise or lower the intensity and number of reps so that the moves match your desired goals. As always, check with your health care professional before starting any new fitness program, and be forgiving with yourself if you’re just starting out. If you stick with it, you’ll surely see results over time.
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