Backyard Boot Camp:
Fast Fixes to Increase Strength Without Leaving Home
By Robyn Benincasa
On those days where you only have 20 minutes for adult recess, you are taking a day off from running, and/or you want to work on overall core strength, here are a few fun exercises to do in your backyard or local park! For the best workout, move through each exercise quickly, and switch back and forth from upper body to lower body to abdominals in a circuit fashion, so as to minimize burnout on one muscle group and keep the cardio momentum up!
Push Ups - Shoot for 2 sets of 15 of each to start, and work up to 3 sets of 30!
- Straight Pushups--All the way down, baby! Correct pushups should only leave one fist of space between you and the ground. Have a buddy check you on depth by placing a fist, with thumb up, under the middle of your chest. If you don't touch it, it doesn't count.
- Narrow/diamond Pushups--place hands in front of you in a position in which your index fingers and thumbs are touching one another, forming a diamond. For additional burn and triceps involvement, keep your elbows pinned to your sides throughout the pushup.
- Wide Pushups--Great for chest muscles! Place your hands about 6 inches outside of your shoulder width on each side.
- Four Count Pushups--Start with your arms straight in pushup position. Count "1" is halfway down to the bottom, count "2" is all the way down, count "3" is back to halfway up, and count "4" is the return to straight arms. For extra fun, hold for 3 seconds at each level.
- One legged Pushups--Same as the two-legged kind, but holding one leg several inches off the floor tripod style. Switch legs halfway through the set!
Pull Ups - If you haves a swing set, sturdy gate, underside of a slide or monkey bars around, you have a pull up station! Start with 3 sets of 1-5 if you can, and work up to 3 sets of 15-20. If you have a friend/teammate with you, it's a great idea to spot each other by placing some positive upward lift underneath your bent knees.
- Normal Grip--Hands shoulder width apart with forward grip (palms facing away from you)
- Reverse Grip--Hands slightly less than shoulder width apart and palms facing you. Great for biceps
- Wide Grip--Hands about 4 inches wider than shoulder width apart, forward grip. Great for your lats!
Planks - Planks are perfect for your core and back strength. The "plank" position is similar to a pushup position, but you are on your elbows instead of your hands. In other words, facing down, elbows on the ground and forearms and palms flat on the ground and parallel to one another. Start with 30 seconds and work up to 2 minutes of each variation!
- On elbows--Don’t let your back sag and keep your abs tight!
- On one side--Roll over onto one side, now balanced on only one elbow and stacked onto one foot. Put the other hand on your waist. Switch sides after 30 seconds or one minute, superstar status if you can hold for 2 minutes on each side.
- On straight-arm--Same as above, but this time instead of resting on one elbow, you're resting on one straight arm and stacked onto one foot, sideways to the ground. Other arm extends to the sky.
Bench Bonus Fun - If you have access to bench, or set of stairs, you can supersize your upper body workout!
- Incline Pushups--Hands on the bench and feet on the ground, generally a 45-degree angle.
- Decline Pushups--Hands on the ground and feet on the bench! This is great for shoulders.
- Shoulder Slides--Hands on the ground and feet on the bench. Keep your arms straight and just glide forward over your shoulders as far as you can and then back toward the bench. Slowly. Highly effective shoulder definition and strength builder.
Lunges - For each drill, start with 2 sets of 15 on each side and work up to 3 sets of 30
• Forward--Step one foot forward about 2 feet and then bend your front leg to a 90-degree angle, so your thigh is horizontal to the ground and your knee is just over your toes. Then press off that bent leg and bring the leg that was behind you forward into a standing position once again. Now lunge out with the opposite leg. If you can find a space of about 25 yards, you can lunge and move forward all the way down a stretch of park. or you can do lunges in place.
• Sideways--Now face 90 degrees to the direction of travel and lunge sideways, with your toes slightly outward facing, and your knees bending at a 90-degree angle over your feet. Again move forward with each consecutive lunge or lunge from side to side in place.
• Lunge Switches --Power Move!--Step out into your lunge position and then explode upward and switch legs in the air, landing in a lunge position on the other side. Explode upward again each time you land and switch legs.
Over/Back jumps and hops - Power Move! Find a small 3-8 inch tall obstacle or find an obvious crack/line in the ground. Stand sideways to the obstacle and jump over and back over the obstacle quickly, side to side, explosively jumping to the other side the moment you land. Once you have this move down, you can try it forwards and backwards and/or increase the height of the obstacle. Superstar status: Try it on one leg, hopping.
Wall Squats - This is a static move, for strength. Put your back up against a wall, slide your feet out and slide your back down the wall until you are in a position that appears as though you're sitting in a chair with your thighs horizontal to the ground, and your knees over your toes. Hold that position for 1 minute at first, and work up to 5 minutes.
Bench Bonus Fun - Supersize your lower body workout with a bench or anything you can step up onto! Try 2 sets of 10 to start and work up to 5 sets of 15 of each
• Bench Jumps--Power Move. Face the bench and jump with explosive power up onto it with both feet. Jump back down and repeat. You've achieved superstar status when you can go from the ground to the bench back and forth without stopping for 15 reps.
• Step Ups--Just as it sounds. Step up onto the bench, push and extend your leg using your gluteus muscle and step down, switch legs and repeat!
• Step up with Leg Raise or Hop. Same step up as above, but upon extending the lower leg (the leg that's stepping on the bench), also raise your trailing leg as high as you can behind you simultaneously. Great gluteus workout on both sides with each step. As you get more advanced, you can add a power move and hop as you explosively push through the bottom leg.
Bicycles - Just like in grade school! Lay on your back with your hands beneath the small of our back, filling in the space and head a few inches off the floor. Bicycle motion with your leg for 3 sets of 30!
Scissors - Start in the same position as the bicycle, above, but keep your legs straight and scissor them up and down, alternating. Do 3 sets of 30!
Hello Dollys - Same start position as bicycle above, and start with legs together and elevated 6 inches off the ground. Straddle your legs wide and bring them back together repeatedly until tired! Do 3 sets of 30!
Tuck ups - Lay on your back. Quickly and simultaneously raise your chest and your bent knees and grab your knees into a tuck position, balancing on your buns momentarily. Reset and repeat. Do 3 sets of 15 to start.
V Ups - Same start position as tucks ups, but the advanced version, the "V Up" involved keeping your legs straight when you raise them to meet your upper body so you're balancing on your buns in the "V or Pike" position vs the tuck position.
Who knew that a backyard, ... Continue