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You don’t need a gym membership to get your exercise. All you need is a knowledge of bodyweight-based training and some creativity when it comes to using everyday objects. When you develop these two traits, you’ll be able to get in a high quality workout, anywhere in the world, regardless of your access to equipment and regardless of your current fitness level.
When you take a minimalist approach to your training, the world becomes a gym. For example, did you know a basic park bench can be turned into a great piece of fitness equipment at a moment’s notice? You can find park benches everywhere. I bet most of you can picture of the closest one to your home right now.
Today, I’ll be showing you a few ways you can use a park bench to your advantage using nothing but your own body weight and some ingenuity. After today, you’ll never be without a gym as long as you can find a park bench.
How to Do the Park Bench Workout Exercises
Watch the video and then read below for more details instructions on each workout. After you practice doing each exercise, you can move on to the full workouts outlined at the end of this article.
If you’re struggling with performing a full squat, park benches can help. It doesn’t matter if you have a mobility issue, a fear of falling, or a strength issue — the assistance of a park bench will allow you to add squats into your training routine.
Two of my favorite methods for assisted squats are bench or box squats and Amosov squats (click for a video demonstration). They’re both great options for those who are afraid of falling backward. The bench or box squat is best for those having trouble sitting their hips/butt back into their squats. The Amosov squat is great for improving knee and ankle mobility. If you’re struggling with the squat, I suggest alternating between both versions until you become more comfortable with the squatting motion.
Step-ups and Side Step-ups
For those of you who have mastered the squat and are looking for a more challenging way to train your glutes, hips, and lower body in general, step-ups and side step-ups are a fantastic exercise.
Both of these exercises train the glutes, hips, and lower body in a functional way, while also improving mobility in the ankle and knee joints. It’s best to alternate between step-ups and side step-ups as they challenge the body from different angles.
When starting out, choose a lower bench in order to make the movement less challenging. If the bench is too tall, you won’t be able to control the movement. Over time, you can build up to performing step-ups and side step-ups on taller and taller benches.
Hip Thrusters and Single-Leg Hip Thrusters
Hip thrusters and single-leg hip thrusters are two of my favorite exercises. I program them, or some variation, for every single client I train. They’re wonderful for improving glute function, developing hip drive, and strengthening the glutes and hamstrings. Not to mention, hip thrusters help your butt look fantastic.
The great thing about the hip thruster is that it can be easily scaled to suit your needs. If you’re just starting out with the exercise, you’ll want to perform the classic hip thruster with both heels on the ground. As that becomes easier, you can move on to performing single-leg hip thrusters, which greatly increase the load placed on each individual glute, as well as increase the need for core stability.
Bulgarian Split Squats
Much of what you do in your daily life is performed from a unilateral stance (on one leg) or with most of your weight placed on one leg. For example, walking puts about 80% of your weight on one leg and running around 100%. So it’s not hard to see why we must train on one leg, not just from a two-legged stance.
The Bulgarian split squat helps develop glute strength, hip drive, and knee mobility and stability. It also opens the hip flexors, and all this while training the body from a unilateral stance. Because you’re training on one leg, the percent of bodyweight you must move with each leg becomes greater than it would be with just a regular squat. It’s for these reasons the Bulgarian split squat has such great transferability to your everyday life and recreational athletics.
Assisted Push-ups and Decline Push-ups
Can’t perform a push-up yet? The park bench can help you work toward that goal. Push-ups becoming too easy for you? A park bench can help make the push-up much more challenging
If you’re struggling to perform push-ups from your knees, then performing assisted push-ups using the park bench would be a fantastic option for you. By using the back of the bench to prop up your body and performing the push-ups on an incline, you’ll be reducing the percent of bodyweight you have to move, making the exercise easier. As you get stronger, you can move back to the ground, on your knees, and work toward your first toe push-up.
When push-ups have become too easy, and you’re looking to make them a little more challenging, decline push-ups are a great way to go. By placing your feet up on the bench, you’ll be increasing the percent of bodyweight you’re moving, making the exercise more difficult. Whether you’re just starting out or are a little more advanced, the park bench can help improve your push-ups.
The Park Bench Workout
I’m not going to leave you without discussing a simple way to use all of these exercises in a park bench-only workout. Let’s take a look at one way to put it together:
- Perform the exercises in the order listed below, according to your experience level
- Each exercise is performed with control (2 seconds up, 2 seconds down)
- Do each exercise non-stop for 40 seconds (40 seconds each leg for single-leg exercises)
- Rest 20 seconds before moving onto the next exercise
- Once you’ve completed all the exercises, that’s 1 circuit
- Run through the circuit 2-3 times if you’re a beginner or 3-5 times if you’re more experienced
- Assisted Squats
- Assisted Push-ups
- Hip Thrusters
- Dead Man’s Crawl
- Step-ups, Side Step-ups, or Bulgarian Split Squats (your choice)
- Decline Push-ups
- Single-Leg Hip Thrusters
- Dead Man’s Crawl
You don’t need a gym to get a great workout. All you need is to open your eyes and mind so you can use what you already have at hand. Park benches are not just for sitting — they’re for training. Make use of them in your next workout and I bet you’ll never think of them the same way again.