There’s been an explosion of bodyweight workouts as the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down gyms across the globe. People are sheltering in place and spending a lot of time indoors catching up on Netflix and throwing in the occasional workout.
Dedicated gym goers are finding new weird and wonderful ways to train. Barbells, dumbbells and weight machines are being replaced by milk jugs, weighted backpacks, paper plates and towels.
This is the time to bring out our creativity; and I’m no stranger to taking my workout outside. Here’s what i’ve learned about spicing up outdoor workouts during lockdown.
Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
3 Benefits Of Training Outdoors
- Training outdoors provides an opportunity to exercise in a constantly changing environment. A challenging and shifting environment (rocks, dirt, uneven ground), makes the body work harder to remain balanced.
- The wind will help dry your sweaty outfit and, if it’s reeeeal gusty, burn a few more calories. For example, a headwind while running or cyclin will force you to work harder to overcome the wind resistance.
- Above all, there’s research suggesting outdoor exercise provides greater benefits than sweating indoors. Researchers found exercising outdoors heightened feelings of revitalization, increased energy and positive engagement with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. And that’s a win-win now.(1)
So if you can, and maybe you can’t if you’re in a cramped Manhattan apartment and parks are closed, but if you can work out outside in your yard or your neighborhood, here are some commonplace outdoor items to add resistance and variety to your workouts.
Here are the results of my experiments.
1. Trash Can
Turn trash into a conditioning challenge with the 3 exercises in the video above. The weight and the ability to push it, of course, are the main benefits here, but the shifting around of trash inside the trash can might add some extra challenge to your stability. Bonus points for running into a headwind.
This training example is best done before trash day when the trash can is heaviest.
- Bin push: 20 yards
- Bin pull: 20 yards
- Alternating reverse lunge: 3 reps each leg
Perform as a every minute on the minute set for 5-10 rounds. Please ignore the weird stares of your neighbors.
[Related: I’m stuck inside; how often should I do bodyweight workouts?]
You’ve seen people use soup cans and milk jugs for resistance but what about bricks? The brick gives you an extra grip challenge for fingers, depending on the size of your hands.
Because the bricks are light, isolation exercises like front, lateral and bent over raises work best. Try this shoulder/chest tri-set when the weather is fine.
1A. Front/lateral raise combo (both equal 1 rep)-10 reps
1B. Bent over lateral raise 12-15 reps
1B. Push up variation AMRAP
Farmer’s carries are the bee’s knees and no other exercise (in my opinion) has a greater transfer from gym to everyday life than carry variations. But if you don’t have access to weights, a bucket filled with water is a great substitute.
Mark out 20 yards and do this tri set to increase your grip strength and conditioning.
1A. Suit bucket carry left hand 20 yards
1B. Suit buck carry right hand 20 yards
1C. Bear bucket carry 40 yards
Set the timer for 10 minutes and do as many rounds as possible.
4. Cinder block
The average cinder block weighs 35 pounds (16kg), and that’s nothing to be sneezed at if you have no access to dumbbells. When the gym isn’t an option, it’s a good substitute for squats and shoulder presses (and maybe rows if you have strong fingers).
Make sure the bricks sit in the palm of your hands and grip it as best you can with fingers and thumbs for safety purposes,
For a training option, combine your cinder block and bricks into this tri set.
1A. Bent over lateral raise 12- 15 reps
1B. Cinder block squats 8-12 reps
1C. Cinder block squat to press 8-12 reps
Rest little between exercises and tri sets and shoot for 3-5 rounds.
Thinking outside of the gym and being creative will help keep you fit and sane for when the gym isn’t an option. Because the body doesn’t care whether it’s a dumbbell or a brick, resistance is resistance anyway you can get it.
- Environ Sci Technol. 2011 Mar 1;45(5):1761-72.Epub 2011 Feb 3. Does participating in physical activity in outdoor natural environments have a greater effect on physical and mental wellbeing than physical activity indoors? A systematic review. Thompson Coon J1, Boddy K, Stein K, Whear R, Barton J, Depledge MH.