Forget fancy gymnasiums - it turns out that 2020 is the year of the park workout. As the pandemic took hold, we all had to find new ways of working out - with local green spaces acting as a substitute for the gym floor for many.
If you find yourself in the middle of your local park ready to workout but not quite sure what to do, we’re on hand to help with an eight-move routine, devised by personal trainer Sarah Overall. There’s no equipment required, so you don’t even have to lug your best adjustable dumbbells along with you - all you need to find is a good, solid bench. And don’t forget your hand sanitiser!
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If you can’t find a convenient bench, a ledge, step or picnic table will work – just make sure it provides a stable base. Alternatively, you could even do this park workout routine with a chair at home, if you have the space.
The whole circuit can be repeated two to three times depending on the time you have available and energy levels.
Lunch times are ideal to get outdoors and break a sweat, especially if you are working from home - you will find you are much more productive in the afternoon. If you do workout after dark, try to buddy up with a friend or family members, wear reflective clothing, stick to well-lit areas and avoid listening to music so you are aware of your surroundings.
Ready to get going? Let’s do it!
Park workout warm up
Power walk or gently jog for 5 minutes or longer on your way to your workout spot.
Park workout exercise #1: step-ups
Stand directly in front of the bench seat with your hands on your hips and plant your right foot firmly on the bench. Pull in your abdominals then bring your left foot up to join the right and then step down. Do 30 seconds with the right leg leading, then change and do 30 seconds leading with the left leg.
- Level 1: 15-second break between the leg change
- Level 2: No break between legs
- Level 3: Speed up those steps and count how many you can perform in a minute
Park workout exercise #2: step-ups with knee raise
Again, stand in front of the bench with hands-on-hips. Plant your right foot on the bench and then drive your left knee up towards your chest. Lower your left foot to the floor then repeat by placing your left foot on the bench and driving your right knee up. Keep alternating your lead leg.
- Level 1: 30 seconds 15-second break between the leg change
- Level 2: 1 minute straight through
- Level 3: Add a jump. When your right knee is a high as you can raise it, jump from your left foot then alternate.
Park workout exercise #3: bench press-ups
Place your hands on the bench just under your shoulders and fully extend your arms. Step your legs behind you until you are balanced on your toes. Bend your elbows and lower your chest to the bench, then extend the arms to your original position. Do 2 to 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
- Level 1: Use the high back of the bench
- Level 2: Use the seat of the bench
- Level 3: Place your feet on the seat of the bench and hands on the ground – it is advisable to be wearing gloves.
Park workout exercise #4: stand to squat
Stand in front of the edge of the bench with your feet slightly wider than your hips and your back to the seat. With your weight in your heels and keeping your chest high, bend your knees and sit backwards, aiming for your bottom to get as close to the bench as possible without actually sitting down. Drive through the heels back to standing position. Perform for 30 seconds or more, then hold the squat hovering over the bench for at least 10 seconds.
- Level 1: 30 secs moving squats 10 secs hold
- Level 2: 40 secs moving squats 20 secs hold
- Level 3: 60 secs moving squats 30 secs hold
Park workout exercise #5: single leg lunge
Stand in front of the bench with your back to the seat and feet shoulder-width apart. Reach one foot behind you placing the top of the foot on the seat. Keeping your torso upright and your hands on hips for balance, bend both knees, lowering your back knee almost to the ground and aiming to bend your front knee to a 90-degree angle. Reverse the movement and repeat on the other side.
- Level 1: 5 lunges on each leg
- Level 2: 10 lunges on each leg
- Level 3: 15 lunges on each leg
Park workout exercise #6: tricep dips
Sit on the edge of the bench with your hands gripping the edge, either side of your hips with fingers facing forwards. Place your feet on the ground with knees at a 90-degree angle. Slide your bottom in front of the bench and bend your elbows backwards, lowering your bottom towards the floor. When your elbows are at a 90 degree angle reverse the movement, coming back up - and repeat. Do 2 to 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
- Level 1: Knees bent
- Level 2: Extend your legs keeping a bend in your knees and balance on your heels
- Level 3: Straighten your legs in front of you
Park workout exercise #7: bench burpees
Place your hands on the seat of the bench underneath your shoulders. Bend your knees and place your feet on the ground, hip-width apart and as close to the bench as possible. Jump backwards, extending the legs to form a straight line with the body, then jump the feet back into the bench. Come to standing position then step up, bringing both feet to the seat then down to the floor (as in the first exercise). Perform for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Level 1: Remove the step-up - simply jump backwards and return to standing position
- Level 2: Burpee with the step up
- Level 3: Replace the step up with a box jump onto the seat (i.e. both feet land at the same time). Try a few jumps onto the seat before adding the burpee to check you are confident to safely jump the height.
Park workout exercise #8: filthy finisher
This will top-off your workout with a burst of intense effort. Depending on what you have available:
- Level 1 (flat path): Sprint all-out for 30 seconds or the length of the path, jog slowly or walk back, repeat 3 to 5 times
- Level 2 (steps): Run up a set of steps (with at least 10 steps) and walk back down. Repeat 3 to 5 times.
- Level 3 (steep hill): Run up with as much speed as you can muster, jog or walk down repeat 3 to 5 times.