It’s no surprise that the traditional indoor gym workout has fallen down the list for fitness trends in recent years.
With the public searching for better, more effective, and interesting ways to get in shape, the big box gym just doesn’t cut it anymore.
While any and all forms of fitness are positive moves toward a healthier quality of life, now more than ever we have our pick of not only what we want to do but also where we want to do it.
Bodyweight training has skyrocketed in popularity recently for good reason. Developing strength and control of your very own body can get you in wicked shape and you’ll look pretty freakin’ good to boot.
Combine bodyweight training with outdoor elements and you have one awesome duo of motivation and effectiveness. This is where playground workouts come in.
You get the best of both worlds: training outside with little equipment necessary.
Advantages of playground workouts
What’s so great about playground workouts? First and foremost is the financial aspect, no gym dues.
You can find a playground anywhere in most areas. Furthermore, many cities are installing bodyweight training-specific stations in public places. These stations include different level pullup bars, dip stations, leg fixtures, among many other options.
Secondly, it’s outside. Being outside instantly releases feel good hormones in your brain and makes you feel more connected with nature and society.
If you’re one who has a desk job indoors, sitting behind a desk all day is mentally and physically draining. Your body becomes sluggish. Why would you go straight to an indoor gym if what you really need is a change of scenery and to be outside? You will instantly improve your mood.
Lastly, you will be more open-minded regarding working out. Being outside in an incredibly open space, you won’t feel the same restrictions a traditional gym places on you. No waiting on machines, no close quarters, no feeling watched, no pressure.
Plus, the world is literally your playground. You will feel unrestricted and open to try new things. As you advance, you will be easily able to progress to more challenging exercises without even moving a weight stack pin or loading another plate on the bar.
Components of playground workouts
One of the biggest misconceptions about playground workouts is that they provide little in the way of strength and muscle gains. Most will pass it off as something to do just to “get in shape” with little else to benefit from. Contrary to that notion, it’s actually not what you are doing, but how you do it that determines the benefits.
Below are a few ways to progress and reap various rewards from this type of training:
You will learn to be strong: Don’t take bodyweight training lightly (pun intended). Pullups, modified pushups and single leg exercises aren’t anything to scoff at. Some moves will seem like cake and exploit your strengths, but you will also quickly learn where you need more work.
You will build muscle: With all this new muscle stimulation and challenges on your strength you’ll also build some appreciable muscle. With some tough progressions added in you won’t be able to help but build some meat onto your frame.
You will develop endurance: Sure, cardiovascular training is a no-brainer when it comes to training outside (say goodbye to that boring treadmill), but you’ll also develop some serious muscle endurance. You can increase your ability to perform and recover from repeated bouts of exercise.
You will create power: Through explosive-style training you’ll develop power throughout your entire body. Plyometric training involves cultivating and releasing energy in the muscle. Be sure to include box jumps and squat jumps.
You will burn fat: With all the benefits listed above, it’s hard to deny that you’ll burn body fat. Additionally, you’ll burn plenty of fat after training due to EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). You’ll be an adipose burning machine.
Of course it’s easy for me to just say that all you need is a playground, but let’s cover what you need to look for when it comes to getting the best out of your workouts.
Related: 4 Outdoor Muscle Building Activities
You’ll need some sort of overhead bar whether it’s monkey bars, parallel bars, or just an overhead bar of any kind. Just be sure you will be able to perform pull-ups.
Parallel bars for dips are a great option as well. If you aren’t in luck, dips between monkey bars or elevated wooden braces will do as well.
An elevated surface for jumps and stationary leg work will be needed. This doesn’t have to be specific just enough height off the ground between knees and hip level.
Finally, you’ll need a flat open space for all other work.
The playground workout program
The following is an example of a comprehensive bodyweight playground program. You have many options to choose from regarding frequency, duration, and intensity.
For example, you can do the program twice or even three times per week, split it into upper and lower body workouts and train on alternating days throughout the week and you can increase or decrease the number of sets depending on your experience level. The choice is all yours.
Prior to each training session be sure to perform a dynamic stretch/warm-up session to prime your body for the work ahead. Do something like 2 to 3 rounds of push-ups, bodyweight squats and burpees for 10 reps each or warm-up with a mile jog or fast walk.
*Progress in the workout only once you’ve mastered the preceding exercises.
Perform 3 to 5 sets of each exercise for 10 to 15 reps either done as a circuit, antagonistic supersets (opposing pairs of muscle such as chest and back), or straight sets with minimal rest between sets.
Upper Body Focus
|Parallel Bar Dip||3-5||10-15|
|Reverse-grip Inverted Row||3-5||10-15|
Lower Body Focus
|Box or Squat Jump||3-5||10-15|
|Bulgarian Split Squat||3-5||10-15|
|Hanging or Lying Leg Raise||3-5||10-15|
|Plank or 3-way Plank||3-5||10-15|
|Sprint Interval||3-5||Predetermined Distance|
|Distance Run||3-5||Predetermined Distance|