Due to the pervasive nature of fitness infomercials, I’d be willing to bet that nearly everyone has heard that classic tagline “You gotta door? You gotta gym!”
Whilst the product behind that tagline is questionable, I always liked the ‘minimal training’ concept behind it. With that tagline in mind, this article is going to provide you with a more realistic and effective spin on that concept.
Thanks to a bit of imagination and utilising the great Australian outdoors, I’ve discovered that if you’ve got the outdoors, then you’ve gotta gym! Read on for a guide on setting up your own outdoor gym along with a take-away workout.
Where Is The Best Place For An Outdoor Gym?
Practically anywhere! Although it depends on what you want to do and your access to the outdoors. I am currently based in Australia’s capital city, Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). One of the best and most unique things about Canberra is its abundance of open outdoor space and closeness to bush land. For example, my training partner, ACT Fire Brigade Officer Dave Bremers and I discovered Mount Ainslie is a mere ten minutes jogging distance from us and it has an abundance of natural objects and trails we can utilise.
What Objects Work Well In An Outdoor Gym?
Any natural objects that you can lift, carry, climb and pull yourself up from. Try for a variety of different size and weighted rocks or logs, low tree branches for pulling exercises or climbing, as well as trails, paths, and hills for weighted carries.
Programming For Outdoor Gym Sessions
Whilst you are only limited by your imagination and what objects you have access to, I recommend keeping it simple and focusing on full-body style workouts. I have found the following template works quite well:
- Lower Body Movement (Quad Dominant) e.g. Log/rock squat variations
- Upper Body Pulling Movement e.g. Tree Chin-up/Pull-Ups or Tree Inverted Rows
- Lower Body Movement (Hip Dominant) e.g. Log/rock deadlift variations
- Upper Body Pushing Movement e.g. Push-Ups, Log/rock bench style presses
- Whole Body Explosive and/or Whole Body Grind e.g. Rock/log carries and/or rock/log throws
- Core Work e.g. Plank or back extension variations
If you’re outdoor setting doesn’t have rocks, logs or other objects for loaded exercises, simply focus on body weight movements with increased difficulty and/or more repetitions. Be prepared to be flexible and adapt your workout to best suit your surrounds and to ensure you have fun!
What Are The Benefits Of An Outdoor Gym?
Training outdoors is an enjoyable and fun change-up to being in the often sterile artificial environment of a gym setting. Lifting and playing with random size and weighted outdoor objects is a fantastic challenge to grip strength and endurance, whilst their offset loads and holds help improve coordination and strengthen often neglected stabiliser muscles.
I hate to use that word ‘functional’, but getting better at picking up and moving large awkward objects like logs and rocks is pretty much ‘functional’ training for everyday life! Getting to train in the outdoors, particularly in Australia, also means getting a good dose of sunshine and the associated benefits of Vitamin D. There is also something pretty cool about having kangaroos and other Australian wildlife in your gym watching your form!
Take Away Workout: ‘Bremers’
Here is my current go-to outdoor gym workout that you can get started with. It’s 45-60 minutes of full body training that works great as a solo session or with a partner.
- Rock Squat Thruster | Ascending Ladder, Up Only – Max 10 reps
- Tree Chin-Up (Alternating Grip) Ascending Ladder, Up and Down
- Rock Sumo Style Deadlift | Ascending Ladder, Up Only – Max 10 reps
- Push-Ups | Ascending Ladder, Up Only – Max 10 reps
- Rock Carry | 2 x 3 mins, maximum efforts for distance
- RKC Plank | 3 x maximum efforts for time
Notes on exercises
‘Ascending Ladder, Up Only’: Do 1 rep, rest 15 seconds, do 2 reps, rest, do 3 reps etc and continue in this fashion until you fail a set and/or until you completed the 10 rep set.
‘Ascending Ladder, Up and Down’: Do 1 rep, rest 15 seconds, do 2 reps, rest, do 3 reps etc and continue in this fashion until you struggle to complete a set and then return back to 1 rep.
You then continue going up until you are 1 rep short of where you stopped previously, then you return to 1 rep. e.g. First effort you get 1, 2, 3, 4 reps done and only just get 5 reps. Next round you start back at 1 rep and then work up to 4 reps. After 4 reps, you start back at 1 rep and work up to 3 reps. Continue up the ladder, going one rung less each time until you are too fatigued to even complete 1 rep.
Give it a try and let me know how you go!
Remember, got the outdoors, you gotta gym!