The Playground Workout: 5 Exercises You Can Do While Your Kids Play

Ever considered a playground workout circuit? Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, if you’re a dad, mom, or just someone who’s constantly surrounded by your friend’s little ones, you’ll be thrilled to discover new ways to incorporate exercise into your nonconventional venues. You don’t have to trade the gym for the park every day, but for those weekend afternoons during which you find yourself romping around in the sunshine at your kids’ favorite outdoor spot, we’ve got some tips for you. We spoke with John Rowley, certified personal trainer, best-selling author and International Sports Science Association director of wellness, who has created a playground workout circuit that won’t seem like a workout at all. According to Rowley, here are five exercises that can be done right in your neighborhood park.

1. Monkey bar holds

a dad and his son laughing

Grab the monkey bars for this exercise. | iStock.com

It seemed all too easy to bust out a series of pull-ups on the monkey bars as a kid. So why not take advantage of their benefits as an adult? Use the monkey bars to target your core, back, and biceps.

How to:

Reach up with your palms facing you and hold on to the monkey bars. Pull your body up so that your chin is up over the bar and your feet are off the ground. Try and hold this position for 20 seconds and repeat three times.

2. Slide lunges

close-up of a man's legs as he lunges

Use the slide to your advantage. | iStock.com

Take advantage of the slide to target your butt and thighs.

How to:

Stand facing away from the slide, rest one foot on the bottom of the slide and place your hands on your hips. Bend your knee until parallel to the ground and return to starting position, making sure to not let your knee move farther forward than your toes. Do 15 reps and repeat with the other leg.

3. Jungle gym standing push-ups

playground equipment in a park

The entire playground has plenty of opportunities for a workout. | iStock.com

There are several spots on a playground where you can easily get in some workout moves. Take advantage of the jungle gym set to target your chest, shoulders, and triceps.

How to:

Pick a spot on the jungle gym (preferably a ladder if possible) and stand an arm-length away. Place your hands on a bar that is not higher than your chest. Keep your body straight and bend your elbows until they are at a 90 degree angle. Do 12 to 15 reps and repeat.

4. Swing knee lifts

woman doing abs exercises while hanging from a bar

Get the abs you’ve always wanted without setting foot in the gym. | iStock.com/chrisgraphics

Almost any playground or park is guaranteed to have a swing set, so use a swing to target your abs, back, and legs.

How to:

Stand on a swing while holding on to the chains and balancing on your left foot. Keep in mind that if you’re using a flexible swing, this will be more challenging. Stand tall as you slowly raise your right knee to hip height, pulling your abs in as you lift. Hold for a second. Slowly lower your leg and repeat, keeping the swing and the rest of your body as still as possible. Do 10-15 reps, then repeat with the opposite leg.

5. Monkey bar knee tucks

muscular man working out at the gym using monkey bars

Practice tucks on the monkey bars. | iStock.com

Take advantage of the monkey bars (again), this time to target your abs.

How to:

Grab a monkey bar with an underhand grip. Hang from it and tuck your knees up into your body, hold for two seconds and then slowly lower the legs, ensuring you move with intentional control so you don’t swing. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

[Editor’s Note: This story was originally published May 2016]