If you have suffered a lower body injury or you are training for a specific sport that requires a lot of upper body endurance, upper body cardio is a great alternative to traditional cardiovascular training.
If you are not familiar with the term, “cardio” refers to any cardiovascular exercise such as the treadmill, elliptical, stairmaster, stepmill, running and anything else that gets the heart rate going.
Cardio even includes high intensity interval training (HIIT), which has become more and more popular in recent years.
Why Is Cardio So Important?
Cardio is important because one of the keys to health and longevity is having both your cardiovascular system and circulatory system functioning at peak efficiency.
When your systems are functioning at an optimal level, the rest of the body can receive the proper nourishment it needs to perform at the highest level.
Any type of cardiovascular fitness will also bring you a sense of well-being.
And last but not least, cardio training is one of the best ways to burn belly fat, tone your muscles and help to boost your metabolism naturally.
How Much Cardio Is Ideal?
Cardio training sessions that are at least 30-60 minutes in length is ideal.
On the short end of 30 minutes, this will be just enough to get your heart rate to a level which you can receive health benefits such as a reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes as well as increased level of fitness.
On the high end, a 60 minute session will be geared more toward fat loss and will help you to burn the greatest amount of calories.
If you opt for HIIT sessions, a 15-20 minute session is all you are going to need to reap the benefits, since the intensity is going to be extremely high.
Isolated Upper Body Cardio
When it comes to focusing on targeted cardio for the upper body, the best way to get a good workout is to move your arms at a level above your heart.
And the trick to getting enough movement for the exercise to be effective enough to burn calories is to get your arms moving as fast as possible.
You can try any of the following examples, which can all be performed either sitting or standing, which is great if you are dealing with a lower body injury.
Phantom Jump Rope
All you have to do in this exercise is to move your arms in a circle, mimicking the movement as if you were using an actual jump rope.
This can be done either standing or in a sitting position.
The key to getting in enough time with this workout is to alternate the direction of the arm movement, circling your arms in a forward motion for five minutes and then reversing the direction for another five minutes.
There is no doubt that you can get a really great upper body cardio workout with a speed bag; just ask any boxers and they will tell you so!
But this is another exercise where you can do a “phantom” version if you don’t have access to the equipment.
All you have to do is pretend you are using a speed bag that is situated in front of you, just like a boxer would.
Keep your hands moving in a circular motion around each other in front of you, making sure that your fists and elbows stay above the level of your heart.
Similar the phantom jump rope, rotate the motion of this exercise, going forward for five minutes and then reversing the motion, moving your hands backward for five minutes.
Hand pedaling requires that you imagine your hands are on the pedals of a bicycle.
Imagine trying to turn the wheels of a bicycle as fast as you can.
Start off by pedaling in a forward motion for five minutes and then alternate the motion and go in reverse for five minutes.
If you are able to work out at a fitness facility then you might be able to use an actual hand pedaling machine.
The great thing about using a machine is that you can increase the resistance to burn more calories and give yourself a better workout.
Upper-Lower Body Cardio Combos
If you don’t have any type of injury to your lower body that is preventing you from using your legs, you have few more options that you can use to challenge your upper body.
Swimming is one of the best cardiovascular workouts that you can do, hands down.
Swimming challenges the upper body like nothing else and is also extremely beneficial for the lungs as well as the joints.
And the best part is that it works the entire upper body all at once; your arms, shoulders, chest, back and abs too.
If you want to strictly focus on your upper body, just let your legs float rather than using them to kick.
While an elliptical machine is normally considered a lower body cardio workout, you can focus on using the handles to pull and push with your arms rather than using mostly your legs to do the work.
Just make a conscious effort to use your arms amore than your legs and you will be able to reap the benefits.
Push-Ups and Pull-Ups
Pushups and pull-ups are typically exercises that are used for building muscle.
But if you create a circuit with these two exercises and repeat it with little rest between sets, you will be able to get a cardiovascular benefit from it.
The key is to perform different variations of the exercises such as regular pull-ups, underhand grip pull-ups, close grip pull-ups and so forth.
Then you can combine that with regular pushups, pushups with your feet elevated at different levels and then with placing your hands at different widths apart.
Don’t Let An Injury Hold You Down!
Now you don’t have to let a nagging lower-body injury hold back your progress.
You can still burn belly fat, keep your heart healthy and your entire body fit with the simple tips presented in this article.