Fitness Tips

The 11 Best Cardio Core Exercises, Ranked—And There’s Not a Sit-Up in Sight

Tehrene Firman

Photo: Stocksy/Javier Díez

On especially busy days when you don’t have a lot of time to work out, you want to be able to get your cardio and strength training done all at once. That’s where these cardio core exercises come in, allowing you to work every angle of your abs and get your heart pumping.

Even the littlest upgrades can add some cardio to your favorite ab exercises, like combining jumping jacks and planks or adding a side crunch to your squats. By the time you make your way down this list, you’ll be tired, sweaty, and sore all over. And that’s a promise.

The best cardio core exercises, ranked from easiest to hardest

1. Pike twist

This isn’t your typical side plank. You up the cardio by pushing your hips toward the ceiling, twisting your body, and tapping your back ankle before returning to your side plank.

2. High plank trunk rotations

High plank trunk rotations aren’t easy. Instead of staying in a high plank, you twist and fully extend your leg out to the side. It doesn’t take long for your heart to start pounding.

3. Plank jack

Get sweaty with plank jacks, which put your strength to the test as you hop your feet in and out.

4. Downward dog and knee drive

This downward dog gets an oblique-blasting makeover by adding in side knee drives.

5. Squat and oblique crunch

This move involves going into a deep squat, then bringing your knee up into a side crunch, giving you a cardio boost while strengthening your core and glutes.

6. Plank climbers

Plank climbers are similar to mountain climbers, except you’re in a forearm plank and you slowly pull your knees to your chest.

7. Mountain climbers

Ready to speed things up? Mountain climbers involve holding a high plank as you quickly bring your knees into your chest.

8. Plank hops

If you haven’t tried plank hops yet, prepare yourself because this exercise isn’t easy. Starting in a high plank, you’ll jump your feet to the outside of your left elbow, then hop them back out to your plank. It only takes a handful of hops back and forth to start to feel the burn.

9. Inchworms

Inchworms are in many HIIT workouts for a reason. Aside from strengthening your abs (and the rest of your body!), they’re also a great way to get in some cardio.

10. One-arm alternating mountain climbers

Mountain climbers, but make them one-armed. Yeah, it goes without saying that this exercise will require every ounce of strength in your body, so prepare yourself.

11. Burpees

You knew burpees would make this list of cardio core exercises. Even though it’s the exercise everyone loves to hate, it’s one of the best ways to up core strength while also getting your heart rate up.

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