Your Outdoor Workout Guide

Your Outdoor Workout Guide

Now that summer is finally here, it’s time to get out of the gym and get outside. No matter where you live, you can use your surroundings to get a full body workout, reap the natural benefits of the outdoors and all for free.

When it comes to outdoor workouts, the world is your oyster. All you need is your own body.

Bodyweight exercises are extremely effective for building strength and flexibility. Most bodyweight exercises engage multiple muscle groups and are great for improving your core.  

Why Exercise Outdoors?

Just being outside has a host of benefits. When you’re surrounded by nature, it has a way of lowering your blood pressure, heart rate and overall stress levels. Throw in some Vitamin D from the sun and you’re ready to workout!

Sunlight does wonders for your energy levels and studies have even shown that exposure to trees and plants can increase your NK white blood cells, a huge component of your immune system. Elevated levels of these cells can fight off viral infections and even reject cancerous tumor growth. Just being in nature can have a big improvement on your overall health.  

When you exercise, your muscles are working harder - and so are your lungs and heart. You lungs breathe  more oxygen, and your heart pumps it to your muscles - which means you have more energy and you can perform longer.    

How To Use Outside Like A Gym

Any Space Works

You don’t need a large park to be able to do bodyweight exercises, you just need a patch a land at least as big as you. This could be on the grass in a parkette, a small clearing in a nearby forest, or your own backyard. Get creative, and do a plank off that park bench across the street!

Of course, nothing beats wide open spaces to get you in The Zone - so when you can, get to a large grassy park or field.

Use Your Surroundings

Look for areas with different elevations, ledges, stairs, short walls, fallen logs, tree stumps and branches to use as equipment for your workouts.

Playground Equipment

Playgrounds are designed to build strength, coordination and flexibility in children - and they still work just the same for adults. Monkey bars, jungle gyms, and chin up bars are staples in most playgrounds and are all great equipment for your outdoor exercises. Check out the local parks and playgrounds to find a playground with the most variety.

Outdoor Workout Plan

  • Cycle the Upper Body and Lower body exercise days, and include Core in each workout
  • Always rest at least 1 day in between bodyweight workouts
  • For each set, do as many reps as you can without complete muscle failure. You want to come close, then rest, then do it again.
  • If you can’t reach your set goals, reduce the number of reps. Do as many as you can without muscle failure and increase your reps in future workouts.
  • Rest for about 1 minute between sets. You want to reduce your heart rate - but just enough to catch your breath.
  • Switch up the exercises and equipment you use to perform the actions each time you workout.
  • Walking to your workout spot is the perfect way to warm up

Core Exercises

Woman performing side plank crunch on beach
Plank Warm Up

Sets: 1 Plank as long as possible

Works: Total Core including Abs, Obliques, Hips, Back

Once you get to your workout spot, start with a plank to get your heart rate up. Set a timer and plank for as long as you can. Each following workout, try to increase your time by at least 10-15 seconds.

Starting in a push up position, bend your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms. Keep elbows beneath your shoulders, and your body in a straight line. Engage your core, keep your back straight and hold the position until nearing the failure point.

Side Plank Crunch

(Pictured)

Sets: 2 - 1 per side

Works: Total Core especially Obliques, then Upper Back, Shoulders

This exercise combines a side plank and a side crunch. Find a flat or elevated surface like a bench, stairs or low wall. Starting on the left side, perform a side plank by gripping the edge of your surface with your left hand, and extending your legs outwards, keeping your body perfectly straight.

Place your right hand at the back of your head and pull your right knee upward toward your right elbow.

Switch sides and facing the other way perform the side plank, bringing your left leg up towards your left elbow.

Seated Crunch

Sets: 3

Works: Abs and Lower Back

Find a low wall, bench or other surface you can sit comfortably. Sit down and grip the edge of the bench with your hands for stability.

Extend your legs forward with feet together and slightly bend your knees. Lean back with your upper body for  counter-balance and engage your core. Lift your legs, pulling your knees in towards your chest and keep your back straight. Lower your legs to their original position and repeat.

Hanging Crunch

Sets: 3

Works: Total Core especially Abs

Using a chin up bar, jungle gym or tree limb, perform the same steps as the Seated Crunch. Hang from the bar or tree branch, pulling your knees to your chest, and returning them to a slightly bent position

To work the obliques, squeeze your legs together and twist your torso by turning your hips, as you pull them upwards. Alternate sides.

Upper Body Exercises

Man performing chin up on tree branches
Incline Push Ups

Sets: 2

Works: Chest, Back, then Triceps, Shoulders

Incline push ups are a great intro if you can’t perform a full standard push up yet. Being higher off the ground alleviates the full force of gravity you feel in the standard position.

Find a bench or an elevated surface and place your hands on top, extending your arms straight with your shoulders. Walk your feet backwards away from the chair, until your body is in a straight line and at a 45° angle with the bench. Bending your arms, lower your body as close to the bench as possible before returning to the original position.

Tree Limb Pull Ups

Sets: 2

Works: Shoulders, Pecs, Triceps, Biceps

An aptly sized tree limb can make accomplishing a pull up a lot more attainable. A branch is larger and thicker than a usual chin up bar, which means you need to grip it with an open fist - this is when your thumb is on the same side as the rest of your fingers. The relaxed grip means more reps.

Grab an overhead tree branch that fits your hand well. Hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, on the same side of the branch as you (overhand). With an open grip, pull yourself upwards until your chin is as high as the tree branch. Slowly lower yourself and repeat.

Tree Limb Chin Ups

(Pictured)

Works: Biceps, then Shoulders, Pecs

Sets: 2

Perform the same steps as the Tree Limb Pull Up - only invert your hands when you grab the branch - so your palms face you, and you grip the branch on the opposite side as your body (underhand).

Bench Dips

Sets: 2

Works: Triceps, then Deltoids, Pecs, Rhomboids, Lats

Sit on a bench or low wall and place your hands beside you, gripping the edge of the wall. Slide your butt down and off of the bench with your legs extended out in front of you. Straighten arms behind you with a slight bend in your elbow, and engage your triceps.

Slowly lower your body toward the floor, bending your elbows to a 90° angle. Keep your back straight and shoulders down. Press into the bench and return to the starting position.

Lower Body Exercises

Two women performing squat jumps on stairs
Bodyweight Squat

Sets: 2

Works: Glutes, Quads, then Hips, Hamstrings, Calves, Back, Core

A bodyweight squat is the basic form of a squat and is a very effective way to strengthen from your core, down. Form is key for squats, so make sure your back is straight, engage your core and face forward.

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and feet turned slightly outwards at 15° - 30°. Keep your knees turned outwards - when they bend inwards it adds unnecessary pressure and can lead to injury. Lower your body until your thighs are parallel with the ground. Keep feet flat on the floor as you push upwards through your heels.

Jump Squat

Sets: 2

Works: Glutes, Quads, then Hips, Hamstrings, Calves, Back, Core

Start with a bodyweight squat and when you’ve reached the lowest point, engage your core and launch yourself upwards, jumping as high as you can. As you land, soften your knees and sink down to lower your body back into the squat position.

Stair Running

Sets: 2 - 1 per side

Works: Glutes, Hamstrings, Quads, Calves, Core

Stand at the bottom of a staircase with the right side of your body facing the stairs. Run up and down the stairs sideways for as long as you can without needing a break.

Repeat for the left side.

Advanced: Jump Squat Stairs

(Pictured)

Sets: 2

Works: Glutes, Quads, then Hips, Hamstrings, Calves, Back, Core

This move takes balance and coordination so make sure you have mastered Jump Squats before moving here.

Starting in front of the bottom step, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and rest your arms on your hips. Then complete the jump squat the same way, but landing on the first step as you jump. Repeat as far up the stairs as you can.

Get Outside

When you step into the gym, everything is designed to work a certain way. These are often great for targeting specific muscles - but the variations you’ll encounter by working out in nature will help you to exercise in a more athletic way, targeting smaller muscles and engaging parts of your body that may get overlooked.

There are many more bodyweight exercises you can use to narrow in on your own specific workout goals - these are also great to do at home or while on the road. Taking your workout outside is great for extra motivation - and the feeling of connecting with nature in this way can not only help you push further, but has incredible stress relieving and calming benefits.

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