How to Do Cardio Without Legs – 8 Amazing Exercises You Need to Know!

If you’re finding it hard to use your legs because of a knee injury, sprain, or even just a hard leg workout the day before,  you’ll need to know how to do cardio without legs!

Cardio is a crucial part of any workout because of all the great health benefits it provides your body.

However, the most common cardio exercises all involve using your legs and can leave you feeling stumped on how to get in a good cardio workout.

Here are eight amazing cardio exercises that you can work up a sweat doing without using your legs!

How is it Possible To Do Cardio Without Legs?

Before we dive too deep into all the different methods for doing cardio without legs, let’s first address what cardio does and how it’s possible without your legs!

The goal of cardio is to get your heart rate up and breathe faster for an extended period of time to make your lungs and heart stronger and more efficient. 

Your legs are such a big part of your body that you can do exercises that get your breathing and heart rate up without exhausting your muscles.

If you can’t use your legs but still want to do cardio, picking the right exercise that won’t exhaust your smaller upper body muscles can be hard. Keep reading to learn about our eight picks for these types of exercises!

Go Swimming!

Swimming is by far the best method of doing cardio without using legs. You can just let your legs float behind you, which puts no stress on them at all!

To prevent your upper body from getting tired, there are many different swimming styles and strokes you can use to change things up.

The beauty of swimming is that if one of your legs is uninjured, you can still swim with that leg and get a full-body workout.

If you don’t have access to a pool, don’t worry! We included exercises in this list that you can do anywhere to get in a good cardio workout without your legs.

Use an Air Bike or Arm Bicycle

Air bikes or almost any other bike at the gym have the option to bike by pumping your arms as well. 

Pumping your arms forwards and backward on the bike is a shockingly good workout that will get your heart rate pumping because all the major muscles of your back and chest get activated!

This is another great no-impact cardio exercise to do because you can leave your legs out of it completely, or if you’re recovering from an injury still pedal very lightly. 

Rope Pulldown Machine

Rope pulldown or never-ending rope machines are normally used in strength workouts, but if you turn down the difficulty they make a great cardio workout as well!

It’s essential to start on the easiest difficulty setting and work your way up because the rope pulldown machine only uses your upper back muscles and biceps, and can exhaust them quickly if you’re not careful.

To get a cardio workout in on the rope pulldown machine without using your legs, it’s best to bring a bench over to sit on so you don’t have to sit on the ground!


Rowing is a common cardio movement, but most rowing machines require you to brace your legs when you’re rowing back.

To row without using your legs, try angling your body back so your hips are behind the seat. This will put your body in more of a sitting position and will take the stress off of your legs!

Try out Boxing

Boxing is another great cardio workout that doesn’t involve your legs. It’s a lot easier to do if you can stand, but you can box sitting down as well.

Try to box with a heavier bag so that the bag won’t move around as much, it’ll make your life easier from a sitting or standing position!


Working out with only your body weight is called calisthenics, and there are a lot of great movements for your upper body!

Calisthenics is perfect for people who are recovering from injuries because they don’t require any equipment and are easy to do anywhere. 

The pushup is the most common calisthenics cardio movement without legs. Since this exercise has so many possible variations, it’s easy to mix up the type of pushups to get a longer workout in! 

how to do cardio without legs

Pullups or table pulls are a great exercise to pair with pushups to get a better cardio experience. For people with more upper-body strength, full pull-ups can be done, but table pulls are probably better for getting through your cardio workout without burning out your arms!

HIIT Upper Body Workout

HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) is a type of training where you alternate workout sets between high-intensity intervals and low-intensity intervals.

Any of the exercises we’ve mentioned in this article work great for both the low and high-intensity intervals.

For the high-intensity intervals, the goal is to have a short burst of intense activity, so pick an exercise that you can speed up safely. The rowing machine or arm bike is a great movement for high-intensity intervals.

Low-intensity intervals are used in between the high-intensity intervals to give a full and well-rounded workout. A less challenging exercise like the pushup should be used, and your reps should be slower to recover for your next high-intensity set! 

Try Single-leg Exercises

If you can still use one of your legs, take advantage of it! Your legs are the biggest muscle group in your body, and it’s a lot easier to get a lot of blood flowing using them. 

A couple of great single-leg exercises to try are lunges and step-ups. 

The most important thing to remember when doing these single-legged exercises is to keep the exercises easy so that one leg doesn’t get stronger than the other!

Final Thoughts

Don’t expect exercises like boxing or swimming to look exactly the same – boxing is going to have a little less power, and swimming might be a little slower. 

Even though they might look a little different, if you put your mind (also your arms, chest, and back) into it, these eight exercises can make for a fantastic cardio workout!

I personally like mixing up these exercises together to make a more full workout. Doing a HIIT workout with pushups, pullups, and the air bike,  a bit of rowing afterward, and then going for a swim is a fantastic workout that feels great on the body.

Drop a comment below and tell us your favorite no-leg cardio exercise, and as always happy lifting!

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