Take advantage of the exercises that burn the most calories with these strategic, 30-minute cardio workouts.

By Jessica Smith
Updated August 13, 2019
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Wondering which exercises burn the most calories? You've found 'em! With these five cardio workouts, you'll torch up to 500 calories in just 30 minutes. NASM-certified personal trainer Taylor Ryan created each 500-calorie workout to help you get fast results without spending hours in the gym each week.

In fact, you don't need the gym at all (same for these awesome YouTube workouts!). Whether you want to train at home, outside, in a hotel, or do your cardio workout at the gym, we've got a 500-calorie workout plan for you. (Related: 30 Ways to Burn 100+ Calories Without Trying)

500-Calorie Workout 1: Interval Running Workout

If you're wondering what exercise burns the most calories, running almost always lands near the top of the list—and for good reason. Jogging at a 7 MPH pace torches about 700 calories in an hour.

Ryan designed this high-intensity interval running plan so that it's suitable for all fitness levels, but even the "beginner" plan is a challenging 500-calorie workout. (And if you love it, you should definitely try these other interval running workouts.)

If you're not fond of the treadmill, feel free to take this 500-calorie workout routine outside. In the absence of a digital speed control, Taylor recommends a "comfortable run" for the three-minute intervals and "uncomfortably fast/on the verge of a full out sprint" for the shorter sprints. (Also try this 30-day treadmill challenge that's actually fun.)

Not a runner? Follow the same guidelines for a power walk and/or jogging intervals instead—just note that the 500-calorie workout total may change since running burns more calories than walking.

Get the Workout: Interval Running Workout

500-Calorie Workout 2: Stair-Climber Challenge

Can't get stoked about climbing a stairway to… nowhere? You're not alone. Shake things up and get faster results with this stair-stepping 500-calorie workout with dumbbells. By adding weight to functional movements (you'll mimic everyday activities like carrying grocery bags up the stairs), you'll work more muscles at once and increase your calorie burn.

Taylor recommends using a set of 3- to 8-pound dumbbells for this 500-calorie workout, depending on fitness level. If you ever feel like you might lose your balance, stay safe by setting the weights down on the console until you find your footing. Unless otherwise noted below, carry the dumbbells in a "grocery bag position," which means one in each hand as if holding onto two grocery bags, arms down by sides. (Related: 5 Ways to Get a Crazy Good Stair-Climber Workout)

Get the Workout: Stair-Climber Challenge

500-Calorie Workout 3: Interval Cycling Ride

Stop spinning your wheels on that stationary bike and kick things up a notch with this cycling interval ride! Put the pedal to the metal and ride your way to complete the 500-calorie workout that you can do at the gym or at home if you have your own stationary bike.

Get the Workout: Interval Cycling Ride

500-Calorie Workout 4: Plyometric Rep Challenge

Plyometric exercises are a sure-fire way to burn calories and build muscle. This routine combines some of the best jumping moves you can do for a killer cardio workout at the gym, at home, or outside. How it works: You do each move for the indicated number of reps. Do the full 500-calorie workout circuit as quickly as possible (you may even finish in less than 30 minutes!) resting as needed.

Get the Workout: Plyometric Rep Challenge

Here's how to ace all of the moves in this 500-calorie workout:


  • High Knees: Run in place, bringing your knees up to your chest as high as you can, pumping your arms as quickly as you can.

  • Bodyweight Squats: Stand with feet hip-width apart, hands behind head (or straight out from your shoulders if you prefer). Push hips back and bend knees to lower into a squat. Thighs should be parallel to the ground. Press back up to standing. That's one rep. (Keep these squatting mistakes in mind during this 500-calorie workout.)

  • Push-Ups: Start in straight-arm plank position with hands slightly wider than and in line with shoulders. Brace core and squeeze glutes as you lower body until chest nearly touches the floor. Pause at the bottom, and then push back to the starting position as quickly as possible. That's one rep.

  • Alternating Lunges: Stand tall with feet hip-width apart. Step forward with right foot, bending both knees so right knee is over ankle, left heel lifted. Step back to starting position and repeat with left leg to complete 1 rep.

  • Butt Kicks: Stand tall with feet hip-width apart. Kick heels up towards your glutes, pumping arms back and forth as quickly as you can. Continue at a quick pace until you've completed 75 reps.

  • Mountain Climbers: From a full plank position, alternate "running" knees into chest as quickly as you can. Keep core engaged the entire time, and push speed as much as possible without compromising form.

  • Leg Raises: Get down on all fours with palms flat on the ground and shoulder-width apart. Without allowing back to rise or round, keep core engaged as you bend right knee and lift leg up until right thigh is parallel to the floor. Slowly lower back down to the starting position. That's one rep. Do 25 reps on right side and then repeat on the left.

500-Calorie Workout 5: Quarter Pounder

This calorie-crushing circuit incorporates quarter-mile sprints (hence the name “quarter pounder”) in between bodyweight exercises to help your burn 500+ calories and tone your entire body at the same time. Plus, it’s guaranteed to beat boredom—you won’t have time to let your mind wander for a second! Prefer not to run? Hop on an indoor bike and pedal your sprints instead.

Get the Workout: Quarter-Mile Dash

Here's how to ace all of the moves in this 500-calorie workout:


  • Cross chops: Hold a weighted ball or dumbbell with both hands in front of chest, arms extended, and stand with feet wide. Bend both knees and pivot feet to the left, lowering ball toward left shin. Immediately straighten legs, raise ball overhead, and pivot to the right. Do 8 reps, then switch sides (rotate in opposite direction).

  • Falling pushups: From a kneeling position, let yourself fall forward onto your hands. Slowly lower your body into a pushup and then return to kneeling up.

  • Figure-4 bridges on a chair or ball: Lie faceup with arms pressed into the floor, knees bent, heels on top of the ball. Cross right ankle on top of your left thigh, right knee out to the side. Press left heel down into the ball and raise hips as high as you can. Hold for 1 count and then slowly lower.

  • Floor jacks: Lie facedown on the floor or mat. Extend arms and legs into an 'X' shape and then do 'jumping jacks' in this position (no actual jumping involved).

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