How amazing would it be if you could take your strength workouts outside?
Think about it.
Your kids are
happily playing in the park.
But instead of
spending an hour mindlessly scrolling through social media, you’re
spending an hour working on yourself.
Working towards your
I know what you’re
going to say, you need dumbbells and barbells, heavy weights, lots of
equipment to do a strength workout.
But that’s not
Here are 6 ways you
could have a great strength workout in a park. Or, any outdoor
Have you visited
your local park lately?
What am I saying, of
course you have mama.
But, what I mean is,
have you visited your local park outside of the playground. You might
want to have a look. Around the field, if there is one.
I say this because
the edge of the field might be littered with outdoor gym equipment.
Outdoor gyms are
becoming a really popular way of overcoming the effects of a
sedentary lifestyle and promote a healthy lifestyle.
resistance machines, possibly an obstacle course. Here in the UK, at
least, most public parks have some kind of equipment. To get a
strength workout, concentrate on the resistance machines, using a rep
range and weight that would encourage strength gain.
By that I mean
around 5 sets of 5 reps. Resting for a couple of minutes in between
Work your way around
the course. And you’ll have a great strength workout outdoors.
But what if your
local area doesn’t have any outdoor fitness parks?
Don’t despair, you
can still have a workout at the park. You can use the playground.
Yeah, the playground your kids are playing on.
I’m not suggesting
you should kick the kids off so mama can have her workout. But, there
should be enough room for everybody.
I don’t know if
you saw a few years ago there was a slew of videos of playground
workouts. Men and women alike were trying to do burpees over swings.
Most of the time it
didn’t end well.
Funny, if you’re
watching on social media. But not so funny if you’re the one
falling flat on you’re face.
Anyway, I wouldn’t
suggest you do that.
But, there are ways
you can use playground equipment, safely, to get in a great
Firstly, you don’t
have to jump over swings, you could use them as an unstable surface
to do planks, push ups, knee tucks.
So either your hands
or feet are on the swing, and the other is on the floor.
Monkey bars can be
used for, well, monkey bars. Or pull up bars.
Or, how about piling
all of the kids onto the roundabout and pushing it with one leg. Just
make sure you turn around and do the opposite leg. We don’t want
you to be lopsided now do we.
about doing squats while pushing your kids on the swings.
Yeah, there are lots of options for using the playground.
If you haven’t got
any strength based workout equipment and your park doesn’t have any
outdoor exercise equipment, then don’t use any.
Because your own
body weight is enough to give you a pretty solid, very challenging
strength based workout.
exercises are enough, just by themselves. And what’s more you will
have a full-body workout. How do you do a strength workout without
are all about the rep range.
You need to be
sufficiently challenged by the movement so you can only really manage
5 reps. 5 at the most.
I’m not saying the
fifth should be a grind. It shouldn’t. It should still be doable,
but the sixth would be a grind.
You might find
bodyweight exercises sufficiently challenging.
I certainly do with
But, if you don’t,
if you find any exercise easy. There are lots of ways to make them
My favourite way is
to slow the movement down.
Do each phase for a
count of five or six.
So, if you’re
doing squats, sink down to the bottom for a count of six, hold the
squat at the bottom for a count of six and then return to the
standing position for a count of six.
Do five of them.
And then rest. You
will need the rest.
Other ways of making bodyweight exercises harder and more strength focused include:
Add a ½ rep – taking squats as an example again, in a normal squat as you push back up to standing only go half way. Then back down to the bottom and all the way up.
Add a dead stop – this is very similar to slowing the movement down, but instead of making every part of the movement slower, you just hang out in the bottom of the movement for a few seconds. This take all of the momentum out of the exercise and really challenges you in the final phase.
Change your position – if you find the standard version of an exercise quite easy, think about changing your position. Maybe you could elevate your arms or your legs. If we go back to squats as an example, raise one foot off the floor for a split squat, or even a pistol squat.
Use an unstable base – I’ve covered this slightly with using a swing for a plank or a push up. Having an unstable base to do your exercise ups the challenge factor considerably. It also makes your stabiliser muscles in your core work overtime. A great way to build full-body strength.
Use similar muscles for your sets – typically a strength session would be super set. This means you work one set of muscles and then you work another set of muscles before having a rest, think bicep curl and triceps extension. But, if you change that slightly to use the same muscles, well, you’ll certainly be putting your muscles under pressure. Think squat and then lunge.
Not all strength
training equipment is bulky and heavy.
There are pieces of
equipment that can be used very effectively but would easily fit in a
back pack, nappy bag or bottom of a pram.
have to be my favourite.
They are essentially
large elastic bands that come in different tension strengths.
They’re not that
big, or heavy. You can easily transport them to the park, however you
is another great way of taking your strength training into an outdoor
space. Just hook your suspension trainer over a tree branch and away
You might think
suspension trainers are for upper body exercises, but actually they
work really well for lower body and your core. They really do give a
whole body workout.
When it comes to
choosing a suspension trainer you will notice that TRX are the most
well known, but also the most expensive.
Are they worth it?
To be honest I can’t
comment on that personally as I don’t have a suspension trainer,
TRX or otherwise.
But, quite a few colleagues and clients of mine who have opted for a cheaper version have ended up upgrading later. That being said, if you’re not sure if it’s for you, opting for a cheaper version in the first instance might be the way to go.
There’s that word
So, by functional
fitness equipment I mean pieces of equipment that will work more a
few muscle groups at a time and that can be used for lots of
different exercises and styles of training.
Kettlebells are the
ones that immediately spring to mind. Dumbbells are another, maybe a
slam ball, or even some battle ropes.
The can all be used
to work every muscle in your body, but can also be used for cardio,
strength, mobility work.
If you were choosing
between kettlebells and dumbbells, personally I would opt for the
I just find them
more versatile and easier to use.
deadlifts are easier as you don’t have to bend down as far to pick
it up. That just means you can keep better form. But also, swings,
snatches, elephant walks. They are all much easier with a kettlebell.
Either way, you want
to go for an adjustable one. Whether that’s kettlebell or dumbbell.
That way you only
have to carry one wherever it is you’re going.
On the note of having to carry you’re weights...why not use it as a warm up. Whether you’re walking to the park, or you’ve driven and your equipment is in the car. Grabbing your equipment is a great way to get both your muscles and your heart rate working.
A yoga mat is by no
means an essential piece of kit when you’re working out. Whether
that’s indoors or outdoors.
I was certainly
never given such luxuries when I trained outdoors.
But, there are
benefits to it.
If it’s muddy or
if you’re working out on concrete, a decent yoga mat will make it
more comfortable and easier for you do do certain exercises.
By the way, I have
nothing against getting muddy. I think it’s important for adults
and kids alike. But, when you’ve got loads of washing to do
already, or maybe you know you won’t be able to have a shower
straight after your workout, you might want to skip the mud.
And god sometimes
it’s just too much isn’t it?
If you are going to take a yoga mat with you, have a look for a waterproof one. I’m not sure you can get mud proof or even self cleaning, but a waterproof one will make all of the difference.
Whatever piece, or pieces of equipment you decide to go for, please make sure they are made with quality materials and are suitable for outdoor use.
You’re going to be
outside, so the likelihood is you’ll be putting it under more
The quality of
material will determine whether you’ll be using it for years to
come, or it’s a one and done job.
But, whatever you
choose, have a great time being in the great outdoors.
There is something
about outdoor training. Yes it’s great for your physical health.
It’s great for your mental health. But all that fresh air and
sunshine, hopefully, just puts you in a better mood.
So go, have fun.
Find an outdoor area and have a workout.
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