Playground Strength & Conditioning

I originally wrote this post as a guest post for DailyBurn, but I’ve since had to change my topic.  If the tone sounds a little more sprightly than my usual, that’s the reason.

It’s almost summer, the weather is perfect, and you’re stuck training in the pale fluorescent glow of your gym’s overhead lighting.  Right?  Wrong!  Instead of spending the summer washing out your meager tan indoors for every workout, take a step outside for a playground workout every bit (well almost) as effective as your indoor lifting and cardio program.

monkey bars playground

After a quick warmup with some light dynamic stretching, perform this bodyweight resistance circuit for 3 sets:

  1. Chin-ups (10 reps)
    Grab the first monkey bar in an overhead or underhand grip and hang with arms and shoulders completely extended.  Pull your scapulae (shoulder blades) together and down as you pull yourself up towards the bar.  Touch your chest to the bar and lower to the starting position.  Can’t do 10 chin-ups?  Get a friend to help, or find a bar low enough that you can jump to the top position each time and lower yourself slowly.  Or, for a different twist, hang from a low bar with your feet on the ground in front of your.  Pull your chest to the bar to perform a reverse push-up.
  2. Pushups (20 reps)
    Drop from the chin-up bar and assume a standard push-up position with hands slightly outside of shoulder width.  For added abdominal benefits, make sure you don’t sag in the lower back by bracing your abdominals hard throughout the set.  Lower your chest to the ground (it should touch on every rep!) and press back to the starting position.  If you can’t do 20 pushups, set your hands up on a low bar or bench so your body is at a shallow angle to the ground.  As the exercise gets easier, you can progress to doing them on the ground.
  3. Reverse Lunges (15 per leg)
    Stand straight and tall, with your hands behind your head and your core braced.  Instead of stepping forward into a normal lunge, which can cause some undue shear stress on the knee, take a wide but comfortable step backward with one foot and sink into a lunge position until your back knee almost touches the ground.  Make sure to keep your chest up and your abs tight!  Both your front and back knee joints should be at approximately a 90 degree angle in the bottom position.  Press off both legs, driving through your front glute, to return to the starting position and repeat, alternating legs each rep.
  4. Hanging Knee Raises (10 reps)
    Hop back up on those monkey bars for the final exercise of the circuit.  From a full hanging position, brace your abdominals tightly, and slowly draw your knees to your chest.  Pause for a moment before returning to the starting position.  The key to making these an effective ab exercise is to avoid swinging or using any momentum in the hanging position, so stay slow and controlled at all times and pause for a moment at the top and bottom of each rep.  Too easy?  Try it with straight legs!

Perform between 3 and 5 rounds of the circuit with 30-90 seconds of rest between rounds.  More rest will help you get the required reps easier, but less rest will bring more of a conditioning effect.  Regardless, you’ll be building a great body, and a great tan to go with it!