You didn’t think that cardio could be done with just your arms, did you? Let’s take a look at the possibilities.

What Is Cardiovascular Exercise?

“Cardio” is short for cardiovascular exercise. It refers to the type of exercise that stresses your heart and gets it beating. Seeing as how cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death, let’s go over some ways to train this muscle called the “heart.”


It’s not what you think. You don’t literally have to go and punch someone.

But you can go punch a punching bag for intervals of 30 seconds or 60 seconds at a time. If you don’t have a punching bag, then punch a wall.

I’m serious. Don’t punch it so hard that you break yourself, but just throw a punch and tap, tap, tap your way along for 60 seconds (obviously wearing boxing gloves).

An example workout would be:

5 rounds of:

A warmup would obviously be needed, but that is one way to work your upper body without really engaging your legs.

If you didn’t want to do abdominals or back exercises, you can just do 60 seconds of punching the wall with a 15 second break. Do that for 5 or 10 rounds and you’ll feel your heart beating.

That is cardiovascular exercise. Your arms may also feel like noodles afterwards, but your heart also got a workout.

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Elliptical Machine

Most elliptical machines have handles that move back and forth.

If you want to use your arms on these machines, I’ve worked out a simple method that works.

You’ve got to use your legs a bit in this exercise, but the approach is one of percentages. Your legs usually do 95% of the work on the elliptical, if not 100%.

I’m proposing that you change that percentage to 50/50 for about 30 seconds. Work your arms like mad and then go back to 100% legs. This is a system I’ve played with both on myself, and my clients and it actually makes for an interesting warm-up or mid-workout heart rate boost.

Breaking up the work into small chunks of 30 seconds and resting for a bit, then 30 seconds of intense work with your arms, then breaking, etc., really makes the elliptical machine more interesting.

And it is a way to get your cardiovascular exercise with your arms.

Stationary Bike (Using Your Arms)

There are upright bikes that have handles where you can also use your arms. Use it.

This is another game of percentages. If you’re doing 5 minutes on the bike, do:

  • 1 minute legs only
  • 1 minute heavy on the arms
  • 1 minute legs only
  • 1 minute heavy on the arms
  • 1 minute legs only

Or reverse it so that you do three minutes heavy on the arms.

There is no magical formula to the amount of time with your intervals. It is just easier to work it with intervals. So, find out what intervals work for you and push hard.

Push Ups and Pull Ups

Try doing push-ups and pull ups – alternating the two for 20 minutes. Your heart will be pounding.

If you can’t do a full push up, then do one on your knees. If you can’t do a pull up, then do ring rows or another alternative.

Rowing Machine

There is an obvious use of your arms when you use the rowing machine. This, without even modifying the exercise, is a great way to get your arms involved in cardiovascular exercise.

In fact, the limiting factor in performance on the rowing machine is usually arm strength/stamina.

So train it regularly. It will quickly drain your arm strength at the beginning.

Then you’ll catch on.

When To Use Arm-Only Cardio Exercises

The whole point of this is to answer a question of: What can I exercise on my arms that also works my heart?

This is usually asked by people who have leg injuries and can’t work their legs the same as everyone else. Here’s the basic, fundamental, core piece of information: Working your legs works your heart because your legs have so much muscle. You can work your arms and get the same result, but you’ve got to work them a bit harder and/or a bit longer.

I’ve injured my knee and been frustrated with my lack of cardio. There are plenty of people missing lower limbs who could benefit from this data.

It’s also a cool way to change up your routine. If you know anything about exercise, it is that change is good.


I wanted this to be short and sweet and we kind of achieved that.

There are thousands of band exercises, dumbbell exercises, bodyweight, etc., that can be combined to create some amazing arm-only cardiovascular results.

But I’ve given you several ideas that should get your mind turning. There is not some secret science to this. Try it out for yourself and see if it gets your heart pumping.

If it gets your heart pumping, it can be included under the umbrella term of “cardiovascular exercise.”

Fitness trainers didn’t go to some secret esoteric school. This knowledge is available to anyone.

I’m letting out my trade secrets here, guys. Keep your ears open.

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