Equipment, Guide, Home Gym

6 Ways To Do Cardio Without Legs

September, 2016 • By

People with knee problems unite! If you are like me and have been cursed with crappy knee genetics, then you know the pain of having to do any type of high impact/exertion exercise. Whether it be running or squats, having to use your knees can literally be a major pain to do. You may also want to do cardio after lifting legs, but anyone who has tried leg based cardio after leg day knows how useless that is. Any of those reasons may drive you towards trying to do cardio without legs.

In this first article of what I’m sure of many more to come about knee issues, I’d like to go over some of the best ways to do cardio work without putting a toll on your legs. Some of these will require minimal use of your knees while others will not require them at all.  Choose what works for you and help get your heart back into shape!

Our Picks For Products For Doing Cardio Without Legs:


 Very Light Impact: Sunny Twister Stepper & Stairmaster Stepmill


I know, I know, technically this does require the use of picking up your legs off the ground, but it is probably the lightest way of using your legs during cardio where you actually have to remove you foot from the ground. For the obvious explanation, stair machines mimic going up stairs. A few minutes on these will remind you why we all like to take the elevator.

The Sunny Twister Stepper is one of the cheapest stair machines you can find on the market. Using hydraulics to provide resistance, the Twister Stepper allows you to mimic walking up stairs without you actually having to pick your feet up, making it really easy on the joints. It is also rather simple to assemble as customers have said it takes less than an hour to put together. No one wants to waste their time assembling an exercise machine instead of actually using it! With over 600 reviews on Amazon it has an average rating of 4.2/5, so you know people are liking it! People like how sturdy it is while still being compact, a rare combination. One customer even says after a whole year of using it the Twister Stepper still works great! People also like the price. For around $60 you get a great cardio machine that takes up little space!

For a more exact replication of going up the stairs, the Stairmaster Stepmill is pretty much a portable set of stairs. It kinda works like an escalator, with a revolving set of stairs you can walk on. The big difference between this and an escalator is you can adjust the speed (imagine if you could on a public escalator though). It also comes with different programs in it you can run, a heart rate monitor, and a fitness test! The major downside of course is the space it requires, not many people can have to room or height to put it in just any room of their house. As for customer reviews it only has three, but out of those three the average is 4.5/5, so you know it is at least trending well. The three reviews all rave about how effective it is for a cardio workout. One customer even says that after two months his resting heart rate dropped from 75 to 57! Another says that after 30 minutes on this machine he was drenched in sweat and even a few minutes on it is a workout!

While these are not completely doing cardio without legs, they are very light impact and are extremely effective.

No Lifting of the Foot: Sunny Magnetic Rowing & Schwinn Elliptical 


Now we move into the category of not having to pick up your feet from a surface. This way there is no major impact, causing any pain from that type of stress. Both of these machines are fairly leg optional as well. You can operate both by just using your arms if you want.

The first example, a Sunny Magnetic Rowing Machine operates by using magnetic tension. This machine comes with eight different levels of resistance. It also has a built in heart rate scanner in the handles so you can monitor your heart rate on the digital monitor. Customers have also praised how remarkably quiet it is, making it perfect for people who don’t want to make a lot of noise when working out. It is easy to assemble with all the parts intelligently separated and organized. No one ever mentioned going over an hour to set it up. It also has a rather small foot space and can be moved rather easily with wheels they provide. While the traditional rowing movement requires you to bend your knees, if you really wanted to you can only use your arms making it a exercise work with no leg movement. With over 100 reviews it has an average rating of 4.5/5 stars on Amazon, a great reception. People seem to like how cheap it is for a rowing machine. For around $230 you get a quality rowing machine. Usually you have to pay way more than that. One reviewer with a lumbar problem says hit works well for her, and even though she is in her 60s she can use this to keep her endurance up. Many people also note how well it is packaged.

If you are a fan of elliptical machines, or want to try one out, a solid choice is the Schwinn 430 Elliptical Machine. It comes with 20 different resistance levels, 22 programs to choose from, and a nice LCD monitor to track 13 different metrics. It is also the most bells and whistles machine I have seen. It has a USB port so you can charge your phone or Ipad while watching it, a fan to help keep you cool, speakers if you don’t want to wear headphones, and it syncs to popular fitness tracking apps. With over 500 reviews on Amazon it has an average rating of 4.2/5 stars, so you know it is well liked. Many like the price as ellipticals can be rather expensive. This one costs around $530, which is way less than much of the competition. Customers have also said it is easy to assemble, quiet, and sturdy. One customer has had it for over two years and it is still running like a champ!

So while these may still not be cardio without legs, they both still have very light leg force and can be done totally with the use of the arms.

All Upper Body: Ropeflex Rack Mount & Vertical Rope Machine


So here we finally have an all upper body cardio without legs exercise. Ropeflex makes both of these machines, the first being a rack mount you can attach to an existing power rack, or anything else you can attach it to really. It comes with a type of progressive resistance, where the harder you pull the harder the resistance becomes. There are currently no reviews for this product on Amazon but I have worked with one before and it is a rather strenuous cardio workout. The burn you feel in your shoulders after a few minutes can become pretty intense.

They also make a seated rope machine, which is basically the same thing but is it’s own stand alone machine, so no need for mounting it to a power rack. It also comes with a nice cushioned seat for you if you don’t wanna stand, which is completely understandable if you are doing this after leg day. Like the former there are also no reviews for this product currently on Amazon, and also like the former I have used one of these at my gym. The seat is nice for if you workout your legs that day and want to sit down and do cardio without legs.

Both of these products are great for doing cardio without the use of legs. If you are interested in them I would suggest checkout one out at a local gym first to see if it is right for you.

Various High Rep Exercises: Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbells & Kettlebells


You can incorporate cardio without having to buy an expensive machine by doing high rep arm exercises with a light weight. Dumbbell snatches, cleans, presses, curls, you name it can be incorporated into an intense cardio workout by doing high reps mixed with little rest time between sets. This pair of Yes4All dumbbells has over 700 reviews on Amazon and has an average rating of 4.5/5 stars. Many people are happy with the quality of the weights, and how even over repeated use it still holds together well. They also like the clips, saying the don’t budge an inch even over time.

Kettlebells, an increasingly popular form of workout equipment can also be used. Most kettlebell workouts are done by swinging the kettlebell in some way a repetitive amount of times. This smooth motion is easy on the joints, which may be just what you need if you are suffering from knee pain. This set of kettlebells by Yes4All has an average rating on Amazon of 4.6/5 stars after over 300 reviews. The only complaint is some customers thought the finish on the handles were not great, but the vast majority of reviews praise the quality of them, saying how great of a deal they are.

Both of these free weights are great options to use to do cardio without legs.


So there you have it, that was six different methods to do with either the minimal use of your legs or do cardio without legs at all. If you suffer from knee pain I hope one of these can provide a way to help you get in shape without causing any aches. Knee pain can be a real burdensome problem, but it shouldn’t stop you from being fit!

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