In the Information Age, serious trainees and weekend warriors everywhere are waiting on technology to deliver the next great innovation to the doorstep of the fitness arena. With all of the bells and whistles being promoted as necessary to get ripped, shredded, and downright crazy lean, many have fallen into the “I need a gym membership and personal trainer and nutritionist and GPS watch and Heart rate Monitor and Body Composition scale to get fit” trap. If this sounds like you, let me fill you in on a little secret: you are not a machine, and you don’t really need synthetic stimuli to get stronger. Long before there were Nautiluses and Ab Lounges, there were brutally strong and aesthetically pleasing men and women everywhere. So if you want to look like the athletes of the Bronze Age, immortalized in sculpture since antiquity, try some of the same natural moves that got them there.
Move #1: The “Anything” Deadlift
What it Works: Glutes, Hamstrings, Quads, Traps, Grip Strength
How to Do It: Go outside and find a heavy object… ANY heavy object. Get your balance over it, and your hands underneath it. Firmly grasp it by the sides, keep your back straight and weight forward, and pick it up. Too easy? Find a heavier object.
Move #2: Stone Chest Pass
What it Works: Pectorals, Triceps, Deltoids
How to Do It: Find a large rock, raise it to Your Chest, and perform a bench press-like throw to propel the rock as far as possible forward.
Move #3: Stone Push Press
What it Works: Quadriceps, Deltoids, Lats
How to Do It: From the same starting position as used in the Stone Chest Pass, lower yourself into a quarter squat, and explosively extend your knees and arms simultaneously to press the rock overhead.
Move #4: Kips
What it Works: Abdominal muscles, Hip Flexors, Lats and Deltoids (if using arms to assist)
How to Do It: Lying on your back, bring your knees up towards your chest, and then explosively extend your entire body with your legs leading. Use the momentum to jump off the ground, landing upright on your feet. At first, you may find it necessary to use your hands, placed as you would when doing a bridge, to help with the explosive extension phase of the movement.
Move #5: Planche Push-Up
What it Works: Pectorals, Triceps, Abdominals & Back (for isometric stabilization)
How to Do It: From crow stand or push up position, raise your legs and balance your weight on your hands. From this position, proceed to perform pushups with while maintain elevation of your legs off of the ground.
Move #6: Park Bench Dips
What it Works: Pectorals, Triceps
How to Do It: Position yourself between two park tables, benches, or chairs that you can reach to either side. Position your hands on top of the objects, and use your upper body to alternately raise and lower yourself off of the ground. Wider hand widths will target your pectorals more, while narrower hand spacing will shifter the focus more towards the triceps.
Move #7: Nordic Curl
What it Works: Hamstrings
How to Do It: Looking forward, place your heels under a fallen tree or strong exposed roots. Placing your hands behand your head, alternately raise and lower your body, keeping your back and hips rigid to activate your hamstrings instead of your back and glutes. The force should come from movement about the knee, NOT by extending your back, torso, or hips.
Move #8: Tree Limb Muscle-Up
What it Works: Deltoids, Lats, Traps, Hip Flexors
How to Do It: Find a tree limb, and begin from a normal starting pullup position. Perform a pull-up and, when reaching the top, rapidly pull your knees up towards your chest to generate additional vertical momentum. As your elbows rise above the limb’s height, lean slightly forward at the hips, and extend your arms to push your body above the limb.
Move #9: Handstand Push Up
What it Works: Deltoids, Lats, Traps, Abdomen
How to Do It: From a crow stand or using a wall to walk your feet upwards, assume a handstand position. From here, maintain the vertical position as you raise and lower your body in a push-up motion.
Move #10: Pistol Squat
What it Works: Gluteals, Quadriceps
How to Do It: Balancing on one leg, extend your other leg out in front of your body. Keeping your front leg elevated off of the ground, squat down until you feel your hamstrings touch your heels, and fully extend your body upwards maintaining the same position.
If you tell me that you are so advanced that these “simple movements” can’t help you continue to make progress, I simply ask you to quit kidding yourself. These ten moves require stability, coordination, and strength for proper execution. Even if you don’t want them to become the staples of your training regimen, they can be an excellent alternative for those times you decide you would rather build muscle in the grass by a stream instead of wading through the lines crowding the Abduction Machines and Concentration Curl pads at Planet Ridiculous.
With these park workouts, I’m throwing down the natural fitness gauntlet: pick it up, and raise your fitness to the next level amidst the birds and the bees. Stay Well and Get Strong!