Is there an exercise that could get your heart rate up to around 90% of max in 1-2 minutes? Or if not, or if that's not safe... what's the fastest most efficient safe way to get your heart pumping near the top of its range?

For example, just running in place won't do it. Jumping jacks won't do it. Both those will only get the heart rate up some, but not up high quickly.

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    Too many to list. Try a deadlift widowmaker, or very heavy triples. Commented May 25, 2012 at 11:45
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    Burpees, heavy-rope jump rope, wind sprints, etc. work for me. What's your reason for the goal, though? Commented May 28, 2012 at 21:18
  • The only reasons I can think of that this wouldn't be safe are: 1) Pre-existing medical conditions (prior heart attacks, congestive heart failure, etc.) 2) You are more likely to have strains and pulls without a warm-up.
    – BryceH
    Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 15:33
  • ANY high intensity work on ANY movement will get your heart pumping fast. Whether it be a treadmill, bike, swimming, running, lifting, squatting quickly at your desk chair, throws elbows in the bedroom or punching your Project Manager in the face repeatedly will reap a fast pumping heart. Hope you get my drift here... Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 0:17
  • I'd like to know why you are wanting to do this. Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 4:56

6 Answers 6


Kettlebell swings are good for getting your heart rate up quickly, however, you really need to study the form and perform them correctly or you could hurt your back. If you are interested, look for certified Russian Kettlebell trainers in your area.

Jumping rope is excellent cardio - and as long as you warm up with some jumping jacks, they are very safe.

Another excellent cardio exercise that is very efficient and works the entire body are burpees: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_Dq_NCzj8M

I really like burpees - they are safe and really effective for cardio, and build strength in your thighs and upper body (if you do them with the pushups).

As always, if you are not currently exercising you should take it easy at first - maybe even get a checkup to make sure what you plan to do is safe for you.

  • +1 for kettlebell swings, especially with one of the heavier ones (53lb or 72lb). Commented May 29, 2012 at 17:24

Sprinting. Even better: sprinting uphill.

You can do this on a treadmill or outside.

On my treadmill, I'll set it to the highest grade (15%) and the highest speed (10 mph). At these settings, I can barely do more than a couple 30 sec intervals. You will definitely reach 90% of your max in under 1 min. In fact, I don't even know anyone who can go for a full minute at these settings.

Of course, it takes a few times to learn how to appropriately mount and dismount the already moving treadmill, so practice/learn at slower speeds.

  • And this includes the mention of stairs since that is sprinting uphill. And maybe I could take it up a notch and carry some weights in my hands. I wish I could accept multiple answer as burpees are a great answer, too. Especially burpees with a medicine ball.
    – mentics
    Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 0:25

I find that the clean and jerk performed at a moderate weight for numerous repetitions is unmatched for this purpose. My favorite way to train at high intensity with this movement is called "death by clean and jerk". On a running timer, one clean and jerk is performed the first minute, two performed the second minute, three the third minute, and so on, until failure.

You can see Mikko Salo perform this ladder in a very impressive way here.


I find one of the best ways to get my heart rate up quickly is running up and down the stairs as fast as possible. It's a cardio work out that doesn't require a gym or expensive equipment - stairs are everywhere!

  • I just realized that I happen to vote down this answer by mistake, now I can't correct that mistake unless the answer gets edited.
    – posdef
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 6:36

The bigger the muscles you are using - and the more of them you are using - the quicker you can get your heart rate up. That generally means using your leg muscles, and using them to move your body weight up and down.

For me, something like deep squat jumps or running stairs are the ticket.

  • Afaics, this is the only answer that goes into how and why the exercises mentioned work. I like that. Also, Burpees :D
    – user8119
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 7:23

Do maximum you can handle leg weight training. Massively heavy leg presses, single leg squats etc - basically a high intensity leg workout with the heaviest weights you can handle until fail (have a friend help)

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    Wouldn't doing any exercise at your maximal capacity do this? I don't think this is a very sustainable exercise, because you can only do so much work at your maximum, whereas doing something very rapidly means you'll probably be able to repeat it after some rest.
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 7:28
  • This just sounds like a recipe for injury... :(
    – posdef
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 5:46
  • @IvoFlipse if you spent any time in the gym you would know that leg presses get your heart pumping far harder, faster than other exercises. Perhaps you should try it at a gym? I have been training for over 10 years and believe me, opinion based on practical experience far out weight's pages of text and scientific evidence.
    – TheLearner
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 10:02
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    Downvoted for outrageous condescension. Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 19:39

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