The park-bench workout: five simple exercises
1: Chest stretch
[Above] “These will tone your chest, triceps and shoulders, as well as working the core-stability muscles,” says Tom Marien, founder of the outdoor fitness specialists One Element.
Stand a couple of steps away from the bench, feet hip-width apart. Lean forward and place your hands on the seat of the bench, shoulder-width apart, arms straight. Slowly lower yourself towards the bench so your face is almost touching it, then slowly return to the start position. Keep your core muscles engaged. Tom suggests doing the same move with your hands on the seat of the bench to make it harderTo increase core-strengthening, lower into the press-up, then lift one hand off the bench. Rotate your body away from the supporting arm as you straighten it and point your hand into the sky. Then repeat on the other side. Aim for 15-20 press-ups.
2: Tricep dip
“A bench is the ideal place to tone up your triceps,” says fitness expert Joanna Hall. “This exercise also works the thighs and gluteals (AKA bottom muscles).”
Sit on the edge of the bench, hands beside you with your fingers facing forward, and feet flat on the floor. Supporting your weight on your hands, shift forward to perform a regular tricep dip, bending the elbows as they point backwards and keeping your back close to the bench.
As you push up, press your hips up as you straighten your legs. Lift your right hand off the bench and extend diagonally to the left above your head. Hold for four seconds and return to the start position. Repeat on the other side. “Engage your abs throughout,” says Joanna, “and aim for 10-15.”
3: Thigh toner
“This is a great move for toning thighs and stretching the tight hip-flexor muscles at the front of the hip,” says Joanna.
Stand a few steps away from the bench with your back to it, hands on hips. Lift one leg backwards and place the tops of your toes on the bench, so that the sole of the foot is facing up. Lower the front leg down into a right angle (or as close as you can get), ensuring that your trunk stays as upright as possible and your knee does not go beyond your toes.
Push back up and repeat 10-15 times. Put the back foot down and repeat with the other leg.
4: Leg pulses
“This exercise targets the gluteals, making it a very effective bottom toner,” says Tom. It will also increase hip and lower back stability.
Stand a few steps away from the back of the bench, facing it, feet hip-width apart. Slowly bend at the hip and place your hands on the bench, and look towards the ground. Raise one leg up behind you and bend the knee into a right angle, then rotate the foot about 45° outwards. Pulse your leg up and down by a few centimetres in small, fast movements.
Aim for 15-20 repetitions. You should feel the burn in your buttock muscle. Lower the leg and repeat the exercise on the other side.
5: Ab strengthener
“Traditional sit-ups only target a small number of superficial abdominal muscles,” says Tom. “This move targets a wider range of muscles, leading to a more toned stomach.”
Sit with your bottom near the edge of the bench. Lean back slightly and slowly raise your legs horizontally. If you can’t manage to hold them out straight, bend at the knee. Raise your arms out in front of you as though you’re holding a small ball and then rotate to touch both hands down next to your right hip. Then rotate the arms to your left hip. Aim for 15-20.
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