If you’re looking to break the funk and take advantage of the summer weather, it’s in good order to take your workouts outside.
Supplementing your strength or size program with a couple of outdoor workouts per week can be the change of pace your body needs to continue seeing results, become more athletic, or just plain break the monotony during slow summer months.
If you’re after strength and size, know that there’s never going to be a substitute to the big stuff – training the primal movement patterns will always take first place in your quest for big, strong muscles and a healthy body. But there are things you can do that are more athletic in nature that can help enhance your gains, improve your conditioning, shed some body fat, and take advantage of the great outdoors in the process.
I’m slightly biased being an ex-collegiate level sprinter. The truth is, the science of sprinting speaks for itself.
Sprinting is an explosive exercise that taxes the anaerobic system and trains the fast twitch muscle fibers controlled by high threshold motor units; the same ones that are highly involved in heavy lifts and low rep sets of short duration.
All of that means, it’s good for people who want to be strong. The additional benefit of sprinting is the fact that it puts the body in EPOC (excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption), which raises the metabolic rate and burns fat even after the workout is done.
Sprinting is a technical beast, however, and it’s important you follow some ground rules before taking it on and going all out on the next straightaway you can find. Start here:
- Try to find grass, turf, dirt, sand, or a rubber track as your running surface.
- Avoid sprinting on pavement, as the impact will be harder on the joints and potentiate shin splints.
- Rest as long as needed between sprinting sets.
- Many conditioning workouts will limit you to 30 or 60 seconds of rest in the name of interval training, but giving your body and nervous system the time it needs to rest is of premier importance.
- Be sure to use good form.
- Keep the spine erect.
- Avoid any side-to-side motion of the arms and legs
- Run with high knees.
- Use a full arm swing.
- Keep the toes up.
- Don’t allow the toes to drop down to “chip” into the track.
- You should feel like a wheel rolling along smoothly.
2. Loaded Carries
Farmer’s walks, atlas carries, fireman carries, and overhead carries are great exercises that can be performed outdoors. You only need a pair of heavy dumbbells or plates and empty field to get the job done.
Along with having similar benefits to sprinting listed above, they’re a great way to help develop the traps, shoulders, and forearms and improve grip strength.
The key difference between loaded carries and sprinting comes in the amount of time your muscles are spending under tension. Walking 50 metres while holding heavy dumbbells seems simple, but your grip will be working overtime.
From a hypertrophy standpoint, many muscles of the body respond well to high TUT training (more endurance based) for growth due to the nature of their role in the body.
Essentially, you’ll have a hard time finding a pro speed skater with small quadriceps, or a very strong squatter with small traps.
The SAID principle (specific adaptation to imposed demands) will the muscle groups utilized will develop to meet the requirements of the activity. Use loaded carries as their own workout, or after a gym session to reap a host of benefits.
3. Prowler Pushing
The good thing about prowler pushing is that you’ve got a 2 for 1 advantage when you do them. You’re now doing a form of weighted sprinting, and that weighted sprint is helping to correct your lower body form and technique.
It’s all a game of physics.
In order to create the highest output of force and velocity, you’ll need proper segmental alignment to ensure your joints are stacked for mechanical efficiency.
Sprinting against resistance creates no “excuse” but to use better form than what comes naturally as it’s the only way to get from point A to B.
Be sure to load a heavy sled, and get ready for your legs to burn. Once more, this is effective after a weight training workout, or effective on its own with greater volume.
Performing your reps on turf or grass is fine, but if you want an added challenge, try working out on concrete or rubber so you have to fight against friction too.
Dumbbell or Barbell loaded walking lunges are an exercise that are surprisingly overlooked in size training.
As I mentioned in the loaded carries section, many muscles of the body respond well from a hypertrophic perspective when trained with high time under tension - the quads are one of those muscle groups.
A set of 10 squats can hit them hard, but lunging a 30-40 meter stretch with heavy weight provides a kick in the pants when you need to spark some growth.
Plenty of this game is psychological – any high endurance workout you perform will kill your cardio as a by-product.
Don’t let it stop you from finishing your set; burning muscles shouldn’t stop you from maintaining decent technique, especially since you’re lunging with far less than you squat.
Feel free to play around with your lunge style as well. Many lifters use short steps to emphasize the quads more, or long strides to emphasize the glutes also.
If you’re a real champ, try double dip lunges for added measure, seen in the video below:
Sun, Sand, or Soil: Pick Your Preference
The truth is, you can do most of these movements in your gym, provided it has the space to accommodate them.
But if you want to avoid stagnation, change up the pace every now and then. If the weather is nice, take your session outside to get out of your gym and enjoy some fresh air, you’ll be glad you did.