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Outdoor Workout: 8-8-8 Circuit
By Courtenay Schurman, MS, CSCS
Looking for a boot-camp inspired program that does not require a gym membership? When daylight extends to 10 p.m. on long summer days, get outside for a great workout that is fun and challenging at the same time. Your kids may even want to join in too!
This 8-8-8 circuit-type workout includes cardiovascular intervals and drills mixed with bodyweight strength training and can be done on your local playground or beach, with your children or without, or even in the privacy of your own backyard.
Below are 8 specific warmup activities to get every joint prepared for more vigorous work, 8 cardiovascular drills, and 8 strength exercises that target the larger muscle groups. Allow 20-30 minutes and repeat, as you have energy, desire, and time, for a longer workout.
Warmup Drills: Travel the length of your yard, park or beach (roughly 25-35 yards) walking, jogging or running as indicated, one or two laps for each of the 8 suggestions below. With 8 suggestions you can make your warmup 4 laps, 8 laps, or 16 depending on the length of your travel area.
- Speed forward: concentrate on staying upright and tall, feeling the feet, knees and hips, and breathing deeply
- Backwards: focus on walking toe-ball-heel to fully engage the quadriceps muscles in particular
- High knees: hold hands palms down and in front of your hips as a target for the knees with each step
- Butt kickers: hold hands behind you and contract the hamstrings as you kick heels up toward buttocks and hands
- Carioca: side step, one foot in front of the other, then reverse crossing leg on the return trip
- Tip Toes / Heel walk: Travel forward half the length on your tiptoes, half on your heels.
- Arm swings: after 1-5, swing arms forward and back 10 times, then in ever-increasing forward and backward circles, windmill fashion
- Hip swings: hold onto something sturdy (side of the house, fence post, tree) and gently swing one leg forward and back, keeping torso vertical, gradually increasing range of motion until you feel a good stretch in hip flexors and hamstrings; repeat each leg. Then turn to face the object and swing legs sideways to warm up abductors and adductors.
Cardiovascular segments: These 8 drills also involve traveling a certain distance, but with deeper range of motion or greater intensity. Don’t be surprised if your heart rate starts to really elevate while doing these. Shoot for 30 seconds of continuous movement the first time you try the workout and build to 1 minute each.
One option in creating your own workout is to do a cardio segment followed immediately by a strength segment, alternating back and forth until you complete all 7 drills and all 7 strength segments. The other is to complete all the cardio segments together, then all the strength together, taking only as much time as you need to in between to catch your breath before moving to the next one.
- Forward walking lunge: With hands on hips, take a large step forward with right foot and dip down until the left knee almost touches the ground. Keep right angles to both forward and back knees and keep your torso upright. Push off the left leg and in a smooth motion bring the left foot forward into a lunge position. Continue alternating legs until you feel a good warmth or burning sensation in the quadriceps.
- Bear walk: face the ground on hands and feet and “bear walk” the length of your yard without the knees ever touching the ground. Great for triceps, pectorals, calves and core.
- Tiptoe lunges: Same as (1), but do on the tips of your toes with arms up over head (a dowel or ski pole is good here) to help keep your torso upright. Excellent balance challenge
- Skip-hop: propel yourself upward as high as you can go, reaching up to the sky with the opposite hand with each stride. Develops power in the legs.
- Crab crawl: sit on your bottom, face upward, and place your hands just outside shoulders; lift your hips off the ground so you are on hands and feet and walk forward (feet leading or hands leading is up to you) without the hips touching the ground. Great for deltoids, triceps, glutes and core.
- Speed skate: crouch down low with upper torso parallel to the ground and arms behind your lower back, as though you are in a speed skating stance. Keep your torso low and push off your left leg and “catch” yourself on the right leg, pause as the legs come together under you, then push off the right leg and catch yourself on the left. Great for abductors and hips.
- Line Drills: Set up two cones, bands, sticks or other place holders for your “lines” about 15 yards apart and move as quickly between the two “lines” (forward running, backward, side shuffling) as possible, reach down to touch the “line”, then back to the other and touch. Continue for as many “lines” as you can do in 3 minutes and make note of your results.
- Forward jumps: Great one for the kids; do 2-footed forward jumps, jumping as high (squat jumps) or as far (frog jumps) as you wish. For variety you can add slight diagonals which recruit hip muscles of abductors and adductors as well.
Strength Segments: These 8 strength segments will hit all the major muscle groups in your body for a complete full-body workout.
- Squat jumps: With feet shoulder distance apart, squat down to touch the ground then drive yourself upward until you jump off the ground, hands reaching up to the sky. If this movement is too intense, take the jump out. Be sure chest remains forward and weight back in the heels to take pressure off the knees, and land softly and quietly on both feet. Continue for 30-60 seconds. Great for all the muscles in the lower body, from calves to quads and hamstrings, to hips and core.
- Pull-ups: If you have access to an adjustable pullup bar that you can put in a door jamb, use it; otherwise, look for a playground with a jungle gym or monkey bars, or a sturdy railing with clearance below it to do horizontal pull-ups. See Floor Pull-up for information on how to do floor-assisted pull-ups and horizontal pull-ups for how to do horizontal pull-ups.
- Forward Drop Lunge: Stand facing an 8-12” deck stair or curb about 18 inches away, hands on hip. Take a long stride forward and drop into a lunge as above in Split squats, then press back with that leg and repeat to the other side. Alternate for 30-60 seconds. Great for quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
- Plank walks: On same deck or stair steps, face forward and extend feet out so that you’re in a pushup position. Hold the body still for 1-2 seconds, then shift your weight to one hand as you rotate your body, stacking feet on top of each other and raising top hand to the sky. Hold 1-2 seconds, then back to plank and to the other side. Great for core stabilization, shoulders, triceps and pectorals. Continue for 30-60 seconds.
- Plyo Split Squats: Find a level patch of ground and start in a deep lunge position as you had for the walking lunge in the warmup, right leg forward, left leg back, torso upright. In one smooth motion, drive yourself up with both legs, switching foot positions in mid air so that left comes forward and right back. Arms can stay at hips, lift in the air, or “chug” near your sides to help propel upward. Great for quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Complete for 30-60 seconds.
- Pushups: on grass, on hands and feet, or with hands slightly elevated on a deck stair or park bench if you prefer, complete repetitions for 30-60 seconds holding abdominals tight so that the hips won’t sag.
- Side Drop Lunge: Stand sideways to an 8-12” deck stair or curb about 2-2.5 feet away, hands on hip. Lunge sideways onto stair, keeping knee aligned with foot but behind shoelaces (foot slightly turned out to keep oblique pressure off the patella), then press back with that leg (think of pushing through heel and outer edge of foot) and come to upright starting position. Complete for 30-60 seconds before doing the other leg. Great for abductors, adductors, hamstrings, and glutes.
- Triceps dips: on a deck or several stair steps, place your hands hip distance apart, facing out, and lower your butt down close to the step so that you approach a right angle to the elbows. Press back up. Continue for 30-60 seconds. Great for triceps.
Cool Down: As with any intense workout that includes plyometric or strength activity, you will want to finish off with 5-10 minutes of gentle continuous movement; a good walk around the block or gentle arm and hip swings (see warmup) followed by stretching (see hiking flexibility exercises for a great list of ideas) should help your heart rate return to normal and the sweat evaporate. Enjoy the summer!