Think your neighborhood playground is just for kids? Think again! Monkey bars, swings, and a park bench can easily become all you need for an effective total-body workout.
Balance is key for this routine, says Greatist Expert and trainer Jonathan Angelilli, who appears in the photos below. He suggests monitoring how hard you’re working on a scale of one to 10 (one being the easiest, 10 the hardest). At the end of each set, beginners should feel between a seven to eight. Those at an intermediate-level should feel around an eight or nine.
With that in mind, grab a pair of sneakers, plenty of water, and head to your nearest playground.
- Unless otherwise noted, complete 10 to 12 reps of each exercises in order. Repeat the full circuit a total of 2 to 3 times.
- Add a cardio element to this workout by running to and from the park, or doing alternate sprint intervals—sprinting for 30 seconds, then walking or slowly jogging for 30 seconds between bursts.
1. Swing Row
Equipment: A swingStand facing a swing and hold the chains (or side of a tire swing, as pictured) so that your arms are straight out from chest. Lean back until your body forms a 45-degree angle to the ground. Keeping shoulders down and back, pull your body to meet your hands, bending elbows straight back. Slowly and with control, lower back to the starting position. Want more of a challenge? Lean back even more to start.
2. Tandem Grip Pull-Up
Equipment: Any type of monkey bar or overhead barWith the overhead bar perpendicular to your body, grip the bar with your left hand in front of your right, so that your left forefinger is nearly touching your right pinky finger. Pull up, shifting your body to the right to get around the bar. Slowly lower back to hanging and then repeat the pull-up, this time shifting to the left to get around the bar. That’s one rep. Complete 5 to 6 reps, then switch your grip (right hand in front, left closer to your body) and repeat. (If you’re more advanced, you can perform classic pull-ups instead.)
3. Park Bench Push-Up
Equipment: Park bench with backHold the back of the bench with hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Walk feet back a few steps so your body forms a diagonal line. (The farther away you walk, the harder the move will be). With elbows tucked at your side, lower torso to the bench, performing a push-up. Keeping your core engaged and hips lifted, push up to return to the starting position. (Use the seat of the bench (as pictured) to make this move harder.)
4. Triceps Dip
Equipment: A benchSit on the edge of a bench and place hands by your hips, fingers forward so that you can hold the edge. Lift your butt off the seat and walk feet a few steps away from the bench. Bending at elbows, lower your body until your upper arms are parallel to the seat of the bench. Push back up to complete one rep.
5. Bench Jump
Equipment: A benchStand facing the bench with knees slightly bent and weight in your heels, prepared to jump. Jump up onto the bench, landing softly with knees bent. Step back down one foot at a time to complete one rep.
6. Lateral Step-Up With Hip Abduction
Equipment: A benchStanding with the bench on your left side, place left foot on the seat. Push up through your left foot (you should feel it in your left glute)until left leg is straight. Balancing on your left leg, extend right leg out to the side, foot flexed, using your hip to lift the leg. Slowly lower your right leg, and bend left knee to lower back down to the ground. That’s one rep. Complete 10 to 12 reps on one leg, then repeat on the other side.Pro tip: It’s easy to cheat this move by pushing off with the foot that’s on the ground, instead of using the one on the bench. Resist the urge to use your grounded foot, and focus on engaging the glute and hamstrings of the leg standing on the bench. You can also make this move easier by skipping the leg lift portion.
7. Elevated Back Lunge
Equipment: A benchStand facing away from the bench (about one foot away) and rest the top of your left foot on the seat. Place hands on hips. Bend your right (standing) knee until thigh is parallel to the ground. Pause, then press through your right heel to rise back up. That’s one rep. Complete 10 to 12 reps, then switch legs.
8. Bench Toe Tap
Equipment: A benchFacing a bench, stand one to two feet away and place your right foot on the seat of the bench. You should be comfortably close so your leg bends at the knee. Jump and switch feet, so your left foot is on the bench, right foot on the ground. Continue to switch as quickly as possible, tapping only your toes and maintaining good posture throughout. Complete 10 to 12 reps on each leg.
9. Swing Knee Tuck
Equipment: A swingStart in a kneeling position one to two feet in front of the swing. Using your hands for balance, place one foot at a time on the seat of the swing. Raise knees off the ground and extend your arms directly below your shoulders. You should be in a high plank supported by your feet in the swing and your hands on the ground.Engage your core to pull knees in toward chest, keeping hands in line with shoulders. Think about lifting your butt to the sky (don’t sag!) in order to fully engage your core. Slowly and with control, return to start. That’s one rep. Make this move easier by simply holding a plank for 30 seconds.
10. Swing Criss-Cross
Equipment: A swingSit in a swing and hold the chains on each side. Keeping your back straight and engaging your core, lean back slightly. Next, lift both legs up until your body forms a “V.” Open legs wide, then bring them together and cross left over right. Spread wide again, then cross right over left. That’s one rep. Alternatively, try this move sitting on the edge of a park bench. You can make the move extra challenging by lifting your arms overhead as you lift your legs into a “V” shape.
11. Alternating Leg Swing Plank
Equipment: A swingCome into an elevated plank position with both hands on the swing seat and feet on the ground. Your hands should be directly below your shoulders. Lift left leg a few inches off the ground, foot flexed. Don’t bend or flex your back in an effort to get your foot higher off the ground. Place left foot back down, and now lift right foot. That’s one rep. Continue alternating as quickly as possible with good form.
Originally published June 2013. Updated September 2015.