At this time of year, a lot of people are starting to turn their attention towards next year and setting some fitness goals. A common one is to join a gym to improve overall health and wellness, as well as possibly targeting a specific aim, like running a half marathon, doing an obstacle race or taking on a triathlon. But while there’s something to be said for jumping in with the New Year’s resolution crowd at your local gym or outfitting your garage with your own gear, it’s also possible to get a functional, full-body workout outside. Monthly dues? Zero. Room for creativity? Infinite. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote part one of my outdoor workout regime and here are three more exercises you can do outside to build strength and power, get some Vitamin D and, heaven forbid, have some fun with your next workout! If the weather turns nasty, you can easily recreate all these exercises in the gym, using a short bar or weight plate for the overhead lunge and medicine or slam ball for the woodchopper and front slam. But get the fresh air if you can. I included a quick, 19-second video showing all exercises, above.
OK, I know you could just chop wood with an ax here, which is a great way to work on rotation while getting some more kindling ready for winter (and rocking that new flannel shirt you bought on Black Friday last month). But if you’re not the backwoods type or don’t have a log fire to feed, then go with the rock woodchopper instead. It will strengthen your shoulders, arms and upper back, while making you feel like someone has been kicking you in the sides tomorrow morning (in a good way, of course). To do it:
—Pick up a rock and hold it over your head with your elbows extended
—Twist your torso to move the rock down to just behind your left hip
— Return to the start position and repeat on your right side
— Go slowly until you master the movement. Then you can add speed. Start with 10 reps on each side, adding more if you want to increase your endurance and decreasing the reps while adding more weight to boost power.
—Resist your body’s urge to pivot off one foot as you twist to the side. Also, while there will naturally be some contraction on the side you’re turning towards, try to keep a relatively open torso as you twist.
—If you want to emphasize the rotation part of this workout, pair it with the twisting rock throw from part one of this workout (you can vary the order to change things up)
Rock Front Slam
You might’ve done this at the gym with a medicine or slam ball but let’s be honest – it’s WAY more enjoyable with a rock. Plus, the oddly shaped load forces your stabilizer muscles into overdrive. The rock slam not only works the hinge pattern that we explored with the tire flip in part 1 from the opposite direction (closing the hips instead of opening them) but also gives you the chance develop explosive core strength. It can also improve grip strength because you have to keep hold of each side of the rock as you move it quickly. To do this move:
— If you have access to a Concept 2 Ski Erg, that’s a great tool to use as a warmup for this exercise and to prep your body for the specific movement pattern involved.
—Replicate the starting position from the woodchopper (exercise 2 above)
— Hinge at the hips to move your torso towards the ground
— Slam the rock into the ground in front of you (BE CAREFUL NOT TO HIT YOUR FEET!)
— Pick the rock up and repeat for 9 more reps. To build explosive power, grab a bigger rock and reduce the reps to 5 or less
Overhead Walking Lunge
Pretty often I’ll extol the virtues of the squat and deadlift. And with good reasons – both are fundamental exercises for anyone’s strength training. But we shouldn’t overlook the lunge. This is one of the basic shapes or archetypes involved in human motion, with different ankle, knee and hip extension and flexion requirements than the deadlift or squat. Another important component is maintaining an upright torso to keep the spine stable. While there are a lot of possible lunge variations, one of the best for our purposes is the overhead walking lunge (above shows the technique, but replace with a rock). This can be done in a gym with a weight plate, kettlebells, dumbbells or a short barbell. Outside, just use a log or a rock. Going overhead raises your center of gravity, making the exercise more challenging. If you’re lunging on uneven ground, you’re also increasing the balance requirement. To do it.
—Grab a rock or log and push it overhead. The load should be lined up just behind your ears to keep the shoulder in a stable position.
— Brace your abs and make sure you’re looking straight ahead.
—Take a large step forward with your left foot and lower yourself towards the ground, until your left knee touches it.
—Push yourself back up, and then repeat on the other side by taking a big step with your right foot.
—Make sure your shoulder blades remain pulled back and down and you maintain an upright torso throughout the movement. Make sure you’re lowering yourself under control, rather than letting the weight of the rock or log drive you down, and also that you’re taking a big enough step each time so your knee is coming ahead of your toes on the forward foot.