Health

The Only Equipment for This Full-Body Workout? The Beach.

Published On 06/14/2016 Published On 06/14/2016
running woman on beach
Petrenko Andriy/Shutterstock

You show me someone who loves long walks on the beach and I'll show you a cliche romantic with really nice calves. 

For real. Because sand isn't just good for finding its way into every body crevice during dirty beach make-out sessions -- it's also kind of amazing for maximizing the benefits of exercise while reducing the likelihood of injury and soreness. 

You don't have to take my word for it. Multiple studies indicate that training on a constantly shifting and unstable surface like sand (particularly dry sand) can lead to greater increases in aerobic capacity, improved jumping and sprinting performance with less post-workout soreness, and greater calorie burn with less impact to the joints when compared to training on harder, more stable surfaces like grass. This all adds up to a pretty badass exercise experience, according to science.

If you've got a beach vacation in your future, schedule in some time to get busy in the sand... with exercise. Here are your go-to workouts. 

Sprint HIIT

This high-intensity interval-training program is set up on a 1:2 ratio of work to rest, which means you get double the rest for every work period you perform. The key here is to perform active rest, which means you’ll continue walking slowly along the sand as you rest. 

After warming up with a 10-minute jog along the wet sand at the water’s edge, move further from the water onto dry sand. Perform each exercise for 20 seconds, pushing yourself as hard as you can. Then rest for 40 seconds, walking slowly along the sand as you prepare for the next exercise. Perform each movement once to complete a single round, performing a total of five rounds. 

  • Exercise 1, Sprint: Run as fast as you can along the sand for the full 20 seconds.
  • Exercise 2, Plyo burpee: Start with your feet hip-distance apart, knees slightly bent. Squat down, planting your hands on the ground before hopping your feet behind you in a full plank. Immediately hop your feet back to their starting position and explode up into the air as you extend your arms over your head. Land on the balls of your feet with your knees and hips slightly bent before continuing the exercise as fast as you can with good form. 
  • Exercise 3, Skaters: Moving like a speed skater, start with your feet hip-distance apart, your knees slightly bent. Lunge your right leg behind and to the outside of your left leg, reaching your right arm across your body to your left foot. Immediately hop your right leg to the right, this time lunging your left leg behind and to the outside of your right leg, reaching your left arm across your body to your right foot. Continue as fast as you can, “skating” from side to side. 
  • Exercise 4, Moguls: Stand with your feet together, knees and hips slightly bent. Hop up into the air, keeping your torso forward-facing as you twist your hips and legs as far as you can to the right, landing on the balls of your feet, knees and hips still slightly bent. Immediately hop your feet back into the air, twisting your hips and legs as far as you can to the left, again landing on the balls of your feet. Continue this twisting hop as fast as you can. 
Di Studio/Shutterstock

Strength, power, and core

Warm up by jogging along the compacted wet sand at the shoreline for 10 minutes. Once you’re warm, move to the dry sand away from the water. Perform each of the following circuits twice, resting for 60 seconds between circuits. The total workout time, including the warm-up, is roughly 38 minutes. 

Circuit 1

  • Squats, 60 seconds: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, knees slightly bent. Press your hips back and bend your knees, lowering your glutes toward the sand. Stop when your knees are bent just past 90 degrees. Press through your heels and return to standing.
  • Plank, 30 seconds: Set up with your hands on the sand beneath your shoulders, your feet stretched out behind you so your body forms a straight line from heels to head. Contract your abs, low back, and hips, drawing your navel toward your spine. Hold the position. 
  • Squat jump, 30 seconds: Perform a squat, just as you did previously, but this time after lowering your glutes toward the sand, forcefully press through your feet as you jump up into the air, reaching your hands toward the sky. Land softly, your knees and hips slightly bent, before you perform the next squat jump. 
  • Oblique twist, 30 seconds: Sit in the sand, knees bent, heels on the ground. Lean your torso back until your abs engage and your body forms a “V” with your torso and quads. Keeping your hips steady, rotate your torso to the right, tapping the sand behind your hips, then rotate all the way to the left. Continue twisting back and forth. 

Circuit 2

  • Push-ups, 60 seconds: Start in a high-plank position, hands in the sand under your shoulders, legs extended behind you, core engaged. Keeping your neck aligned with your spine, bend your elbows back at 45 degrees, lowering your chest toward the sand. When you’re about 3in from touching down, press through your palms and return to the starting position. Feel free to perform the exercise in a modified position balanced on your palms and your knees. 
  • Plank, 30 seconds: Perform as you did in circuit 1.
  • Clapping push-up, 30 seconds: Perform a push-up, just as you did previously, but this time, after lowering your chest toward the sand, forcefully press through your palms as you propel your torso away from the sand, clapping your hands together quickly before replacing them on the ground, your elbows slightly bent. Immediately lower yourself into the next push-up and continue. You can perform this exercise in a modified push-up position. 
  • Oblique twist, 30 seconds: Perform as you did in circuit 1.

Circuit 3

  • Walking lunges, 60 seconds: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, hands on your hips. Take a step forward with your right leg, planting your foot firmly, your weight in your front heel. Bend both knees, lowering your back knee toward the sand. Just before it touches down, press through your front foot, lifting your back foot from the ground as you swing it forward, stepping your left foot in front of your right to perform another lunge. Keep your torso upright throughout the exercise and keep your knees aligned with and behind your toes with every lunge.
  • Plank, 30 seconds: Perform as you did in circuit 1.
  • Walking lunges, 30 seconds: Perform as you did previously, but note the shorter time frame.
  • Oblique twist, 30 seconds: Perform as you did in circuit 1.

Circuit 4

  • Sprint, 30 seconds: Run as fast as you can along the sand.
  • Plank, 60 seconds: Perform as you did in circuit 1, but note the longer time frame.
  • Sprint, 30 seconds: Run as fast as you can along the sand.
  • Oblique twist, 30 seconds: Perform as you did in circuit 1.


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Laura Williams is a fitness writer and exercise physiologist who's always down for a dirty sand workout. Find her on Twitter: @girlsgonesporty.

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