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Is a Gym Membership Necessary for Fitness?

It’s unfortunate that the sometimes limited knowledge of health and fitness leads people to believe that to exercise regularly, or to get fit and toned, they must join a gym. The aspect of this is sometimes daunting and there is nothing worse than the feeling of walking into a gym and being greeted by an array of big scary machines, with a whole heap of big scary men using them making ridiculous groaning and growling sounds. Statistically speaking, it is well known fact that those who join a gym, will go maybe once or twice and come to the decision that it’s either too hard, or too intimidating of an environment. These people will not return. Unfortunately however, they signed a contract whereby over a six or twelve month period, weekly or fortnightly x amounts of money would be direct debited from their bank account in order to pay out the membership. Gotcha! So now these people are unfit and a little more out of pocket each week or fortnight, paying off a gym membership that never gets used.

A Hectic Lifestyle & Fitness

Sometimes different situations can arise however, whereby an individual may not be able to make it to the gym due to work commitments, or their work takes them all around the globe and they are away from home six out of twelve months of the year, or they simply just don’t want to join a gym for the reasons mentioned above. However, with the right knowledge, attitude, and motivation, there are no excuses for not keeping up a regular exercise routine.

The Gym Free Workout

The exercise routine featured in this article combines both strength and cardio together to create a fat burning, muscle defining workout that can be done just about anywhere. I would recommend utilising a local park as there is a lot of free roaming space, as well as the advantage of park benches, bars and stairs, as well as a soft training surface. The exercises featured are all body weighted, compound movements. A compound movement or exercise is anatomically defined by its ability to utilise several or more muscle groups during the one movement, commonly referred to as a “multi-jointed exercise.” Compound exercises are amazing for both building muscle mass, and burning a lot of calories in a very short period of time. The reason they are so good at building a lean, toned physique is because they place a lot of stress on the bodies CNS or ‘Central Nervous System.’ In short, because of the stress placed on the CNS, our body senses it as danger and it sends our natural defences and hormones into overdrive. Instantly stabilizer muscles fire, the body will release such things as synovial fluid to lubricate our joints and keep them safe, estrogen, testosterone and human growth hormone, as well as lactic acid which is defined by the burning sensation sometimes felt after strenuous sets of exercises. More commonly “The Pump”.

The Park Workout

Always warm-up sufficiently before participating in any exercise program with three to five minutes of light cardio, whether it be a steady walk or a light jog. Exercise selection:

  • Jump Squats. Stand with feet roughly shoulders width apart, perform a normal squat going as deep as possible without putting excess strain on the lower back. From this lowered position, power straight up in one smooth motion jumping up into the air. Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.
  • Travelling Lunges. To perform the travelling lunge, set up in a static lunge position. From here, step forward into a deep lunge, stand up and repeat, this time, the opposite leg will move forward and so on and so forth. Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.
  • Pushups. Lay flat on the floor and bring palms slightly wider than shoulder width to each side of the chest. Set feet at shoulders width apart and push body off the floor. Drop shoulders back and down, and brace the core. This will be the starting position, from here, lower body until elbows are at 90 degrees, push straight back up without locking elbows. Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.
  • Jump chin-ups (If possible). Some parks contain a chin-up bar, this will be needed in order to perform this exercise. Alternatively, some park shelters have framing that can also be used. To execute this exercise, grasp bar with a shoulders width, under hand grip. Position feet shoulders width apart. Jump up so that chin is above the bar, pause momentarily and lower back down over 2 to 3 seconds focusing on the eccentric contraction. Perform 2 to 3 sets of 6-10 repetitions.
  • Bench dips. Start by sitting on a park bench, arms directly at the sides and hands facing forwards on the edge of the bench. Move forward so that the back is positioned roughly an inch away from the bench edge and knees shoulders width apart at 90 degree angles. Drop shoulders back and down and straighten the back. Lower body so that the elbows roughly form 90 degree angles, careful not to roll the shoulders forward. Push back up without locking out elbows. Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.
  • Abdominal crunch. Laying flat on the floor, position knees at roughly 45 degrees and feet shoulders width apart. Cross arms across the chest and taking a deep breath in, exhale as you use your abdominal muscle to pull your upper back and neck towards your knees. Be very careful to keep the neck neutralized at all times as injury can occur if proper alignment is not followed. Slowly lower torso back down and repeat. Perform 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
  • Cool down. Always finish off a workout by stretching all the major muscle groups used. This will prevent muscles becoming tight, and increase flexibility.

Working Out at the Park Tips

  • Leave 30 seconds to 1 minute rest between each set of an exercise and roughly 1 to 2 minutes between exercises.
  • Gradually increase sets and repetitions to keep the body continually adapting.
  • This workout can be performed as a circuit for the more advanced trainer, or to change things up once the body has adapted.
  • Remember to always stay hydrated.
  • Practice proper form for all exercises.
  • Exercise with a buddy for motivation.
  • Perform this workout every 2 to 3 days depending on rate of recovery.
  • Most of all have fun! Exercise should not be a task, rather a part of a healthy daily routine!
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