Think strength training only has a place indoors? Outdoor gym, Farm Fitness, is proving that you can soak up the sun while getting strong and fit with your friends. Discover the benefits and get started with this outdoor strength training workout…
By Sarah Sellens (Exercise photography by Callum Tracey)
Everyone knows that resistance training is a crucial component of a rounded fitness plan. It increases metabolic rate, lowers body fat and helps combat age-related muscle loss. But hauling weights around an air-conditioned gym when the sun is shining might not hold that much appeal. The good news is, you can get strong and seriously fit in the great outdoors.
Go outdoors for functional fitness
Don’t believe us? Head to Farm Fitness in Essex, an outdoor gym that is fast becoming one of the UK’s best-loved workout concepts. The brainchild of Essex farmer’s son, Tom Kemp, Farm Fitness is based on functional training, exercises that mimic everyday movements such as squats, hinges, lunges, pushes, pulls or rotations.
‘Functional fitness is all about creating a body that’s built for the real world, not just one that looks good,’ says Kemp. ‘You get the same mental health benefits as other types of exercise but the difference is you can apply the [physical] results to the rest of your life, never having to worry “Am I fit enough for this?”’
Using old bits of farm machinery, chains and tyres, Farm Fitness began as an outdoor bootcamp that has now grown into an award-winning workout concept. ‘All of our classes vary but tend to involve compound lifts (squats, deadlifts, overhead presses), functional carries (single-arm carries, farmer’s walks) and conditioning elements such as intervals on the SKiErg or rower,’ explains Kemp.
Inclusivity of outdoor strength training
Community is at the heart of Farm Fitness. ‘Teamwork fosters a sense of accountability, helping you push beyond what you thought your limits were, supported by the knowledge that your teammates are right behind you,’ adds Kemp.
‘People are realising that functional fitness is incredibly inclusive. It’s not unusual to see a mum and a semi-professional rugby player on the same team at Farm Fitness!’
Outdoor strength training workout to try at home!
If it sounds tough, that’s because it is, but Kemp tells us there’s only a small learning curve for movements, which makes them easy to pick up. Want to give this style of training ago? We tapped Farm Fitness personal trainer, Clare Shepherd, for a workout to help you build full-body strength.
Perform each exercise for the set number of repetitions or distance travelled, then repeat the circuit three times.
- Stand behind a log with feet just wider than hip-width apart. Perform a deadlift movement to lift the log from the floor, pulling the log up towards your hips by leading with your elbows.
- To rack the log on your shoulders, thrust your hips forward, roll the log up your body and whip your elbows underneath it.
- Take a deep breath, bend your knees slightly and explosively drive the log overhead. Reverse the movement to lower the log back to the floor, then repeat three times. If you don’t have access to a log, try using a barbell or dumbbells.
- Stand between some farmer’s walk handles, or use a set of weights such as kettlebells. With your arms at your sides, bend your knees to perform a deadlift to lift the weights off the ground.
- To begin the movement, engage your core muscles, pull your shoulders down and back, then take a step forward. Walk as fast as you can for 20m, keeping your spine tall and shoulders back.
- Squat down to lower the weights, then turn to face the opposite direction and walk back 20m.
- Grab two kettlebells and hold them by your sides. Stand tall, feet shoulder-width apart.
- Step forward and lower into a lunge. Don’t let your front knee move beyond your front toes.
- Touch your back knee to the ground, then push up to the start position. Repeat on the opposite leg and continue alternating 12 times.
DUMBBELL PUSH PRESS
- Stand with legs shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell held in each hand at your shoulders, palms facing inwards.
- Engage your core, push your hips back and bend your knees into a partial squat. Then, drive your legs up and push the weights overhead.
- Lower back to the starting position and repeat 10 times
- Put some weights on a prowler sled (you’ll know if you’ve used too much as you won’t be able to push it) and hold the handles in a low position with straight arms.
- Engage your core and drive through your feet to move the sled forward.
- Push the sled as fast as you can for 20m, then turn around and push it back 20m in the other direction.
SANDBAG OVER-THE-SHOULDER THROW
- Start with the bag on the floor. Drop into a low squat position to grab the bag. Keeping your core tight, lift the bag close to your body.
- Extend your legs to explosively lift the bag up and throw it over one shoulder as you stand up.
- Repeat by returning back to the squat position and performing the same movement to throw the bag over the other shoulder. Do this three times.
- Grab a friend and a heavy barbell, then stand side-by-side with feet shoulder-width apart (if you don’t have a buddy, you can do this move alone with a moderate-weight barbell).
- Hold the barbell with your hands just outside your legs and in an alternate grip (one palm faces towards you; the other faces away from you).
- Hinge at the hips, keeping your spine long and looking down and slightly forward. Then, squeeze your glutes to stand up and drive your hips forward.
- Lower the barbell under control, then repeat the series of moves to lift the barbell again. Perform six repetitions.