Cardio Workouts, Home Workouts, Upper Body Workouts
upper body cardio exercises

10 Best Upper Body Cardio Exercises Without Weights

If you want to do upper body cardio workouts without legs, this article will show you the most effective upper body cardio exercises you can do without weights.

Most people stop exercising when they suffer a leg injury. But it doesn’t have to be like that. You can use upper body cardio exercises to stay in shape when injured.

Most of these below exercises can be performed at home and don’t require any equipment. If you want to exercise outdoors I’ve also got you covered.

Below the exercises, you will find a 10-minute upper body cardio workout you can do every morning.

Upper Body Cardio Exercises

10 best upper body cardio exercises without weights for weight loss

Arm circles

Arm circles are a simple exercise you can perform sitting or standing. This exercise tones the shoulders and arms. Feel free to hold dumbbells or water bottles in each hand, if you find the exercise too easy.

How to perform  

Stand or sit upright and then extend your hands straight to the side. Keep the arms parallel to the floor.

Slowly start making clockwise circles and keep the arms straight throughout.

Make 20 clockwise circles then alternate to counterclockwise circles. Do the same number of reps and repeat.

How to do Big Arm Circles

Shadow boxing

You don’t have to be a fighter to shadow box. Anyone can do this fat-burning exercise. If you’re not familiar with shadow boxing, it’s basically throwing punches in the air.

Now, for fighters, shadow boxing involves a lot of footwork but you can do it without leg movement. Don’t focus much on the fighting technique – just throw punches at shoulder level and at high intensity.

Shadow boxing for 5-10 minutes can give you a good upper body cardio workout. Wear boxing gloves or hold light dumbbells to increase resistance. This exercise can also be done while sitting.

How to do Side to Side Punches

Overhead arm claps

I always recommend this exercise to morbidly obese people who are starting out. It activates the arms, shoulders, and trapezius muscles. Overhead arm claps may seem easy but they’ll increase your heart rate in seconds.

How to perform

Stand or sit upright then stretch your arms to the side. Keep them straight and parallel to the floor.

Raise your hands and clap them over the head. Lower them to starting position and repeat.

Clap as fast as you can (aim for one clap per second) for one minute. Rest and repeat at least 3 times.

Battle Ropes

You’ve probably seen athletes do battle rope workouts. That’s because battle ropes can give a kick-ass workout. They tone the abs, shoulders, arms, and back muscles. This exercise also builds cardiovascular endurance.

Battle ropes burn about 10 calories per minute. So you can easily burn 100 calories in 10 minutes. And the best thing is you can perform it while sitting.

How to perform alternate waves

Grab the battle ropes with each hand.

Start to swing the ropes up and down to create a wave with each rope.

Keep alternating the swings and swing the ropes as fast as possible.

Perform the exercise for one minute, then rest and repeat.

Rhomboid pulls

This upper body cardio exercise strengthens the arms, shoulder and back muscles. This may be one of the least challenging exercises in this list so you can use it as a warm-up exercise.

How to perform

Stand/ sit upright and stretch your hands out to the side. Keep them parallel to the floor.

Bend your elbows at 90 degrees and keep your forearms facing forward.

Squeeze all the arm muscles then pull back your elbows as far as you can.

Slowly bring the elbows forward to starting position and repeat.

Do 3 sets of 20 reps.

Wall pushups

Wall pushups are a good beginner exercise for people who can’t perform regular pushups. They tone the arms, shoulders and chest muscles.

How to perform

Stand two steps away from a wall. Lean forward and place both hands on the wall at shoulder height.

Keep the hands shoulder-width apart.

Bend your elbows and press in until your chin touches the wall. Then push back until the arms are fully extended.

Standing close to the wall makes this exercise easier.

Perform this exercise at high intensity to get a good upper body cardio workout.

How to do wall push ups

Hand walkouts

This is one of the most effective upper body exercises. It builds the core, arms, shoulders and back muscles. Hand walkouts engage the legs but you should be able to perform them without pain unless you have a bad injury.

How to perform

Stand upright and keep your feet shoulder-width apart.

Bend forward and place both arms on the floor. Keep the hands as close to the legs as possible.

Make short strides with your arms until you get in the push-ups position.

Walk back with your arms to starting position and repeat.

How to do hand walkouts


If you want an outdoor workout, kayaking is the best option. This exercise doesn’t use legs and it burns lots of calories. A 150-pound person burns an average of 340 calories per hour. While a 200-pound person burns about 455 calories per hour.

Go hire kayaks and get your upper body cardio workout!


Swimming is a low impact exercise perfect for injured people. You can even swim without kicks if you’re a skilled swimmer. Or hold leg floaters between the thighs to prevent your legs from sinking. Swimming without kicks will give you a killer upper body workout.

Other than toning the upper body, swimming also builds cardiovascular endurance and improves lung capacity.

Hand pedaling

A hand pedaling machine is one of the best workout equipment for upper body cardio. This machine has pedals you can turn with your arms and it allows you to adjust the difficulty to march your strength level.

In fact, there are pedaling machines you can mount on your desk. So what’s stopping you from doing upper body cardio workout while at the work?

Upper body cardio workout

You only need 10 minutes to complete this workout.  It will tone your arms, shoulders and abs. Perform the exercises at high intensity.

Upper body cardio workout

1 minute of rhomboid pulls x2

1 minute of arm circles x2

1 minute of overhead arm claps x2

1 minute of shadow boxing x2

1 minute of wall pushups x2

Final word

Spare 10 minutes every morning to do this upper body cardio workout. It will tone your upper body and improve your cardiovascular health.

But remember that full body training will give you the best results. So include leg exercises in your routine.

What’s your favorite upper body cardio exercise?

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