Exercise & Fitness

10 Upper Body Cardio Exercises for Enhanced Fitness

Upper Body Cardio Exercises

When we talk about staying fit, many of us think of jogging or using machines like treadmills. But did you know you can get a great cardio workout for your upper body too? Yep, that means your arms, shoulders, chest, and back can get in on the action too! It’s not just about running or cycling; there are lots of exercises you can do to get your heart pumping while also giving your upper body a good workout. Whether you’re looking to mix things up or just want to target your arms and shoulders more, we’ve got you covered.

In this article, we’ll show you 10 upper body cardio exercises that’ll help you boost your fitness. From simple moves you can do anywhere to using equipment like dumbbells or resistance bands, there’s something here for everyone. Get ready to feel the burn and see some real results!

1. Jumping Jacks

Jumping jacks are a traditional exercise that engages both the upper and lower body. However, by incorporating arm movements, they can become a great upper-body cardio exercise.

How to Do Jumping Jacks:

1. Start by standing with your feet together and your arms by your sides.

2. Jump your feet out to the sides while raising your arms overhead to form a “star” shape.

3. Jump back to the starting position with your feet together and arms by your sides.

4. Repeat continuously for 1-2 minutes.

Jumping jacks are simple yet effective in raising your heart rate and engaging your shoulders, arms, and chest.

2. Burpees

Burpees are a full-body exercise that significantly boosts your heart rate and provides a robust upper-body workout. They combine squats, jumps, and push-ups, making them intense and effective.

How to Do Burpees:

1. Commence by standing up.

2. Place your hands on the ground and lower yourself into a squat.

3. Kick your feet back into a plank position and perform a push-up.

4. Jump your feet back to the squat position.

5. Explosively jump up, reaching your arms overhead.

6. Land and immediately go into the next burpee.

Performing burpees for 1-2 minutes can be very challenging, but it’s an excellent way to get a high-intensity workout that works your chest, shoulders, arms, and core.

3. Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers are a high-intensity, dynamic workout that works the arms, shoulders, and core.

How to Do Mountain Climbers:

1. Begin in a plank stance, ensuring your hands are positioned directly beneath your shoulders.

2. Bring one knee towards your chest.

3. Quickly switch legs, bringing the other knee towards your chest while the first leg returns to the starting position.

4. Continue alternating legs rapidly for 1-2 minutes.

This exercise mimics the climbing motion and provides a great cardio workout while toning your upper body and core muscles.

4. Battle Ropes

Battle ropes are an excellent tool for upper-body cardio workouts. They provide resistance while allowing for various intense movements that can get your heart pumping.

How to Use Battle Ropes:

1. Hold one end of the rope in each hand.

2. Position yourself with your feet at shoulder width, maintaining a slight bend in your knees.

3. Alternately move each arm up and down rapidly, creating waves with the ropes.

4. You can also perform jumping jacks, squats, or lunges while moving the ropes for a full-body workout.

5. Continue for 30 seconds to 1 minute per set.

Battle ropes are an excellent way to strengthen your arms, shoulders, and back while also getting a great cardiovascular exercise.

5. Punching Bag

One really good upper-body cardio exercise is punching a bag. Powerful, repetitious motions that work the whole upper body are involved.

How to Use a Punching Bag:

1. Place your hands up and your feet shoulder-width apart to assume a fighting posture.

2. Throw punches at the bag, alternating between your left and right hands.

3. Include a variety of punches such as jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts.

4. Continue punching for 1-2 minutes per round.

Punching a bag works your arms, shoulders, and chest muscles while raising heart rate.

6. Arm Circles

Easy to learn yet effective, arm circles may be used as a warm-up or as part of a cardio circuit to keep heart rate up.

How to Do Arm Circles:

1. Arrange your feet shoulder-width apart, then straighten your arms to the sides.

2. Make small circles with your arms, gradually increasing the size of the circles.

3. After 30 seconds, reverse the direction of the circles.

4. Continue for 1-2 minutes.

This workout has a little aerobic benefit and helps to increase shoulder endurance and flexibility.

7. High Knees

A terrific approach to raise your heart rate and work your upper body for extra intensity are high knees.

How to Do High Knees:

1. Your feet should be hip-width apart when you stand.

2. Run in place, lifting your knees towards your chest as high as possible.

3. Pump your arms as you move your legs, keeping your core engaged.

4. Continue for 1-2 minutes.

High knees work wonders for building your arms, legs, and core muscles as well as your cardiovascular conditioning.

8. Shadow Boxing

In shadow boxing, one strikes an illusory opponent. It may increase upper-body strength and coordination and provide an excellent cardiovascular exercise.

How to Do Shadow Boxing:

1. Stand like you’re ready to fight, with your feet as wide as your shoulders and your hands up.

2. Throw various punches, including jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts, as if fighting an opponent.

3. Move around as you punch, incorporating footwork and dodging movements.

4. Continue for 1-2 minutes per round.

Without the need for equipment, shadowboxing works well to increase heart rate and tone your arms, shoulders, and chest.

9. Jump Rope

Your heart will benefit much from jumping rope workout. Your upper body, particularly your shoulders and arms, is also worked.

How to Jump Rope:

1. Hold the handles of the jump rope in each hand.

2. Swing the rope over your head and jump as it passes under your feet.

3. Maintain your elbows near your sides and use your wrists to turn the rope.

4. Continue jumping for 1-2 minutes.

Jumping rope tones your upper body and helps you develop your cardiovascular endurance and coordination.

10. Rowing Machine

A full-body exercise with a strong emphasis on the upper body may be had on a rower. It works wonders to raise your heart rate and increase strength at the same time.

How to Use a Rowing Machine:

1. Sit on the rowing machine and secure your feet in the foot straps.

2. Grab the handle with both hands.

3. Push off with your legs while pulling the handle towards your chest.

4. Extend your legs fully, then lean back slightly as you pull the handle.

5. Reverse the motion, returning to the starting position.

6. Continue rowing for 5-10 minutes.

Amazingly low-impact and gentle on the joints, rowing develops your back, shoulders, arms, and core.


Cardiovascular exercise boosts fitness and heart health. Upper-body cardio workouts strengthen arms, shoulders, and chest. They also elevate heart rate for calorie burning. Popular upper-body cardio exercises include jumping jacks, burpees, and boxing. Jump rope and battle ropes engage arms while intensifying cardio. Mountain climbers and swimming provide dynamic upper-body workouts. Rowing targets arms, shoulders, and back for both strength and cardio. Kettlebell swings offer powerful arm and shoulder workouts with cardio benefits. HIIT with upper-body focus combines strength and cardio training effectively. Incorporating these exercises into your routine ensures a comprehensive upper-body cardio workout.

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