The best workouts do not necessarily happen in the gym. Recently, many people have taken their workouts outdoors and seen extraordinary success. Parks, beaches, and even just a backyard can be the perfect training locations. Plus, park benches, swing sets, and railings can become part of any exercise routine.
If you happen to live near a hill, you're perfectly situated for a workout. Hill sprints are short exercises that take a few seconds per rep, depending on the size of the hill. Essentially, you run as quickly as possible up the hill. The steepness, along with your maximum effort, helps increase leg strength and stability while engaging many different muscles. Experts warn to start with shorter distances and fewer reps — you'll be surprised how quickly this move can tire you out and you don't want to injure yourself.
For many people, wall sits or squats are exercises they have not thought of since their high school P.E. class. However, wall sits are a great addition to any workout. They work the entire lower body and the core, allowing for large improvements in both stability and endurance. Plus, using a beautiful tree or a wall with a striking view can help fend off boredom or distract you from the surprising difficulty of this exercise.
It is time to put the “gym” back in “jungle gym.” These children’s play areas double as stand-in exercise equipment. For example, the monkey bars are a great place to try different pull-up variations. Close-grip pull-ups strengthen the latissimus dorsi muscles, wide-grip pull-ups exercise the biceps, and gorilla crunches work the biceps and the abdominals.
Even an unassuming park bench can become a key part of a workout. Rest your upper body against a bench seat, extending your arms in a T along the seat. Place both feet flat on the ground, shoulder-width apart. Your seat should be hovering above the ground. Gently exhale while contracting the glutes and abdominal muscles. Lift your body until it is flat from the upper body to the knees. Hold this position, then reset and repeat.
Benches can also help with a beginner-friendly variation of the mountain climber exercise. Get into an angled push-up position with both hands on a bench seat. Keep both arms fully extended, but don't lock the elbows. Contract the core muscles and bring one knee upward, toward the belly button or chest. Repeat the exercise with the other leg. This works many muscles but is particularly effective for strengthening the abdominals, thighs, and hips. Going slower challenges strength and stability, while quicker movements will get the heart rate up.
If your local park has a swing set or a bench, you are ready to perform one of the most effective gluteal and hip exercises: the Bulgarian split squat. Using a swing takes more strength to stabilize against the moving base, so a bench is better for beginners. Stand a few feet in front of the swing or bench, facing away from it, feet hip-width apart. Place one foot on the bench or swing. Keeping the back straight, bend the other knee to lower your body to the ground. Push against the swing or bench with the raised foot to slowly return to the starting position. Swap legs and repeat.
Grab a handful of rocks and create a zigzag that is 10 to 30 feet in length, placing one rock every two to four feet. Stand on the outside of the first rock, keeping both feet together or hip-width apart. Brace the abdominal muscles, squat, then explosively jump over the first rock toward the second one. Because this exercise can be rough on the knees, try doing it on sand or grass for a bit of relief, and be sure to land on the balls of the feet, not the heels.
Traditional push-ups are great for strengthening the back, arm, and abdominal muscles. Unfortunately, they are also extremely difficult for many people. Stair railings or similar bars — or even the stairs themselves — allow for incline push-ups that work the body without being too severe. Place both hands on the railings and keep both feet together or hip-width apart. While maintaining a straight body, slowly lower your chest toward the railing, keeping the crown of your head in line with your spine.
Gym and workout equipment like kettlebells can be pretty expensive, so grab a bucket or two and hit the beach. Fill the buckets with sand to transform them into dumbbells. Hold the buckets at your sides with your feet shoulder-width apart. Brace the abdominal muscles and exhale while slowly flexing both elbows to lift the buckets upward. The wrists and shoulders should not move from a neutral position. Inhale and slowly lower the buckets back to the starting position. This is a great option for advancing, as you can simply add or remove sand as your ability changes.
Plyometric jumps are explosive, high force jumps that strengthen the leg muscles. However, these exercises can be risky because of stress on the joints and the risk of falling. Swapping to sand or grass can help relieve some of this pressure for people just beginning their plyometric training. Additionally, jumping off of sand requires greater power, which can increase strength more quickly.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.