14 Bodyweight Squats & Push-Up Variations for Cardio
These exercises can help increase anaerobic conditioning, muscular endurance, and will effectively build full body strength. Squats and push-ups are the ultimate bodyweight exercises, and every cardio freak should consider incorporating them into their routine.
There is no doubt that weightlifting is superior over bodyweight exercises, but there may be times when you simply aren’t able to access gym equipment.
In this case, it is important to have a backup plan. Bodyweight exercises can be a great alternative.
These exercises are also a great alternative for cardio beginners because it will build a strong foundation for more advanced workouts in the future.
14 Squat and Push-Up Variations for Cardio
Make sure you are always practicing good form with each of these exercises! Remember that the negative portion of each exercise is equally as important as the positive, so don’t neglect it. Slow and controlled is the key.
Squat Variations: Easy to Difficult
Squats are effective with or without weight. This simple bodyweight exercise will build strength in the legs and core, and reduce unwanted fat in the lower half.
There are several squat variations that you can utilize including: traditional squats, sumo squats, deep squats, explosiveness squats, single-leg squats, and single-leg explosive squats.
Before I explain each squat variation, there are basic squatting rules to remember:
- Try to keep your back straight
- Lower your body by pushing your hips back
- Always go down to at least 90 degrees
- Keep your weight back on your heels
- Do not let your knees drift over your feet
- The negative portion of the squat is just as important as the positive.
1. Traditional Squats
Start with your feet at shoulder width, squat to 90 degrees, and return to the start position.
2. Sumo Squats
Start with your feet further than shoulder width apart. The further your legs are spread, the greater the difficulty. Squat to 90 degrees and back up without bend your back over, which is a common tendency with sumo squats.
3. Deep Squats
Deep squats are much more difficult than the previous variations because it requires more power and force from the legs to push up from such a low position.
This forces the quads, hamstrings, and glutes to work much harder compared to a traditional 90-degree squat.
Start with your feet slightly past shoulder width. You will then squats past 90-degrees.
There is going to be a tendency to bend your back, and your knees will also tend to shift past your feet.
The best way to prevent both of these mistakes from happening is by pushing your hips back, and balancing your weight on the heels as you squat.
It’s going to take practice, and a considerate amount of balance to perform the deep squat correctly.
I recommend sticking to the previous ones until you have built enough strength, and then advance onto deep squats.
5. Explosive Squats
A personal favorite of mine because it turns the traditional squat into both a strength training and plyometric exercise all with one explosive movement.
Start with your feet slightly past shoulder width, squat down to 90 degrees or further, and forcefully explode upward launched into the air.
Explosive squats are an effective anaerobic conditioning technique for athletes, and advanced fitness individuals. This exercise will strength fast twitch muscle fibers, and increase overall leg strength.
6. Single-Leg Squats
This is an advanced bodyweight exercise for cardio. Single-leg squats not only require an incredible amount of strength, but also excellent balance.
Start with one of your leg straight out in front of you, and then you will attempt to bend and squat down past 90 degrees, and back up.
Watch this video from Physical Living, he explains how you can use progressions to mastering the one-leg or “pistol” squat:
7. Single-Leg Explosive Squats
Difficulty: Extremely Hard
I don’t know many people that are capable of performing this squat, but if you can, congratulations. You will squat down like a single-leg squats, but will immediately explode off the ground.
Push-ups had survived test of time as an exercise because of the ability to produce not only upper body strength, but full-body strength as well. Like the squat, there are several unique push-up variations that can be used within your cardio training regime.
8. Traditional Push-Up
The traditional push-up is one of the most widely used bodyweight exercise throughout the world. This exercise will build strength in the chest, delts, triceps, back, and core muscles. Also, if you’re interested in weightlifting, then push-up are a great foundation building exercise.
Your hand positioning all depends on the muscles you’re targeting.
Starting your hands past shoulder width will primarily target the pecs, but by bringing your hand in closer, you will directly hit the triceps. Most people do not use the proper push-up form, and it’s necessary that you master the traditional push-up before advancing to other variations.
Watch this video from Built Lean, to see how to perform push-ups the correct way:
9. Wide-Grip Push-Up
This push-up variation will primarily target the pecs. The only difference is that your hand are about 6-8 inches beyond your shoulder. Be careful with this variation because it can put unnecessary stress on the rotator cuff.
10. Elevated Push-Ups
The elevated push-up is designed to build strength in the deltoid muscles (shoulders). You will elevate your feet on a platform such as a bench, and will utilize the same form as the traditional push-up.
11. Explosive or Plyometric Push-Up
Explosive push-ups were my personal favorite in college. This excellent exercise is not only an upper body strength builder, but it also increases the strength of fast twitch muscles fibers, which are responsible for explosiveness.
Start in the traditional push-up position, lower yourself, explode off the ground, and land softly with the hands.
12. Clap Push-Ups
The clap push-up is very similar to the plyometric variation. Like the plyometric push-up, you will explosively push off the ground, but instead you will clap your hands together while you’re in the air.
This push-up variation requires a considerate amount of upper body strength, explosiveness, and balance.
13. Handstand Push-Ups
This is a popular push-up variation used in the cross-fit model, but can be beneficial for advanced cardio training freaks. Handstand push-ups not only require a considerate amount of shoulder and tricep strength, it also requires great balance and core stabilization.
It’s recommended that you start near a wall, and you can use the wall to get to the starting positioning. Once you reach the handstand position, you will bend your elbow lowering your body and head towards the ground. Perform this exercise with caution, and in a smooth and controlled manner.
14. Single-Arm Push-Ups
Difficult: Very Hard
You’re an absolute strength and cardiovascular beast, once you can properly perform a single-arm push-up Unlike the other push-up variations, you will spread your legs in order to maintain the necessary balance.
With one arm behind your back, you will lower yourself towards the ground and back up. The single-arm push-up will primarily target the triceps, but will also hit the pecs.
I hope this gave you a better understanding of the potential benfeits of incorporating bodyweight squats and push-ups into your cardio training routine. These exercises are important to know for when you’re unable to find a gym, and need a quick workout.
Want more cardio training information like this in the future?
Become a subscriber, and get a free 4-week cardio regime that will help you accelerate your fat loss, and build lean muscle.