These park exercises will help you build quality muscle when you can’t get into the gym.
Long before the coronavirus forced many people out of the gym to train outside, parks were a popular setting for workouts. Though parks do not have weights, there’s plenty of equipment in the form of benches, tables, monkey bars, and playground equipment.
Training outside provides a welcome change of pace from the gym and, it’s always effective to break out of a routine and try something new. Not only that, you benefit from training in the sunshine, and, unlike the gym, there’s no cost or wait to use the equipment. Studies have even drawn a connection between training outside and improved mental health.
Here are eight exercises that can be done in any park.
What it does: This is a simple move that stretches the hamstring and glute of your front leg as well as the hip flexor or your back leg. It’s an effective stretch to begin a workout.
How to do it: Lift your right knee to your chest and grab below the knee with your hands. Pull your right knee to your chest while squeezing your left glute. Return to the starting position and repeat on the left side. Continue alternating sides.
How many? 2 sets of 10 reps (per side) with 30 seconds rest between sets.
Park Bench Routine
What it does: This compound movement combines pushups and dips in one superset.
How to do it: Place hands on the bench seat of a park bench and perform 10 pushups. For the dips, face away from the bench and grasp the bench seat with your hands. Lower your body toward the ground and push up with your triceps. Then do ten pushups and ten dips, followed by eight, six, four, and two of each.
How many? 1 set of 10-8-6-4-2.
What it does: The quads are important for jumping and this also works the hips, knees, and ankles. The so-called triple flexion response creates power in your jump.
How to do it: Stand with feet just outside the shoulders and hangs behind your head. Squat, keeping your knees behind your toes. After holding this position for two seconds, jump vertically. Pull the toes to your shins in midair to prepare for landing. Land in the starting squat position, hold 3 seconds, and repeat.
How many? 2 sets of 10 reps with 30 seconds rest between sets.
What it does: Challenges shoulder stability and overall core strength in a manner you probably haven’t experienced since grade school.
How to do it: Start with two hands on one end of the monkey bars. Proceed by placing one hand at a time on each successive rung. Or alternate hands by putting your right hand on the next rung, your left hand on the following one, etc.
How many? 1 set, 30 seconds rest, and then return to the starting point.
What it does: It improves lateral quickness and, if you’re an NFL hopeful, could get you drafted higher should you test well at the combine
How to do it: Position three cones or other objects in a line, each 5 yards apart. Start at the middle cone. Run five yards to your right and touch the ground by the cone. Then run ten yards to your left, touching the ground, then sprint back to the starting point. This helps build How many? 3 sets, resting 30 seconds between sets.
What it does: A pullup, done properly, generates full extension through the lats, back, shoulders, and wrist. That extension is key to producing power in almost every sport.
How to do it: If you can’t find a pullup bar in the park, return to the monkey bars. Hanging from a bar with either an overhand or reverse (underhand) grip, pull the shoulder blades back and down to lift the body. Finish by pulling with your arms. The key is to return to the fully extended position after each rep. Otherwise, you’re not reaching full extension, the movement you want in sports.
How many? 2 sets of 10 reps on each side with 30 seconds rest between sets.
What it does: It’s a full-body, push-up-like exercise that also challenges your cardiovascular system.
How to do it: From a standing position, squat, place your hands on the ground, and “jump” your feet out into a push-up position. Perform a pushup and then jump your feet to your hands. Then jump as high as you can, throwing your hands over your head.
How many? 2 sets of 20 with a minute rest between sets.
What it does It improve quickness, coordination, and your body’s ability to perform cutting movements.
How to do it: Assuming you didn’t bring three low hurdles to the park, take three similar objects – cups, rocks, even your phone, keys, and wallet – and lay each 2 to 3 feet apart from the other. Begin by straddling the first obstacle. Run laterally over the obstacles, never crossing feet. Rapidly reverse direction. Only your outside foot should go beyond the outside obstacle. Go for 30 seconds.
How many? 2 sets with 30 seconds rest between sets.
Pete Williams is a NASM-CPT and the author or co-author of several fitness books, including Core Performance and Every Day is Game Day. His work has appeared in publications such as Men’s Health, Men’s Journal, and USA Today.