Who says parents can’t get a workout in while their little one is playing outside? Here are the top exercises I recommend that parents can do on the playground – no extra equipment needed. From abdominal exercises for prevention of low back pain, to postural stretches and exercises, to knee strengthening maneuvers, I cover them all – check out the video below.
(For reps and sets, typically I like to do 3 sets of 10, but use higher reps for more endurance and lower reps for harder exercises.)
1. Tricep Dips
Sit on a ledge and push yourself off while hanging on to the edge with your hands. Be sure to keep your shoulder blades squeezed together, and elbows pointing directly behind you. Dip by bending your elbow but DO NOT SHRUG your shoulders as you dip! Bend your knees for easy resistance, straighten your knees for more difficulty.
My favorite for arm strength and posture. Hold on a handle and slide your weight underneath it. The more you are beneath the handles, the harder this will be. Squeeze your shoulder blades together until you form a wrinkle between them. Keep your shoulders from shrugging. Pull yourself up and then lower and repeat.
3. Calf Raises
Find a step on the play structure and hang your heels off. Keeping your knees straight, let your heels dip below the step, and raise up onto the balls of your foot. Hold on lightly to a bar or the side for some stability.
4. Step Up and Kicks
Find a shin-level step or ledge and step up onto it using one leg. The other leg will kick up, knees bent. Squeeze your glutes of the leg that is standing.
On the same ledge, put your hands out wide at chest level and do a pushup by bending your elbows. Make sure your back is stiff straight and not sagging by tensing your abdominals.
6. Climbing Balance
Climbing poles are not just for the kids – they’re great for you to work your balance and agility on as well. Join in on the fun!
7. Wall Slides
Another big favorite of mine that I give to my patients with neck and shoulder pain is the wall slide. Stand against a wall (find an unused portion of wall where kids play wall ball) with your back fully pressed against it. Squeeze your shoulder blades such that your elbows touch the wall. If the backs of your hands don’t touch, don’t worry – keep doing this exercise and you might be able to in the future. Slide your elbows up and down on the wall. If the wall is too rough to slide, let them float next to the wall, but maintain the same parallel plane to keep this exercise effective.
8. Isometric Hip Abduction
One great way to work your gluteus medius (weak on a lot of people and clutch in helping knee pain) is to press the side of your knee against the wall while standing on one leg. Keep the knee bent and slightly behind your hip. Squeeze against the wall for 3 seconds. Keep your hips level.
9. Calf Stretching
For those parents who are tired of standing, or for those of you who have calf tightness and achilles or plantar fascia problems, stretch your calf by pushing against the wall. You can even pedal while stretching to make this dynamic and less static.
10. Plank Roll Out on the Swing
My version of the ab roll out. Put your arms out on a swing in a plank position. Keep your abs tight, and don’t let your spine sag or hump up. Slowly let your arms slide away from you, and when you feel like you could be losing your form, bring your arms back. This is a tough exercise because of the perturbation from the swing (great for challenging and rehabbing shoulders though!), so if you want to make it easier you can put your elbows on the swing seat instead of your hands.
11. Pec Stretch
Stretch your pectorals against a wall or pole on the playground. Keep elbow at or slightly below shoulder level, keep your shoulder back and away from angling forward. Then step away and rotate away from the pole. You should feel a stretch in pectoral muscles. This is great for those who hunch over at work all day at a computer.
12. Wall Sits
Back to the wall, slide down until your knees are bent at 90 degrees. Hold isometrically for 30 seconds. For more resistance, you can hold on to a backpack, your kid or anything heavier if you can handle it!