How to get stronger outside: The Swing Set Workout

Keeping an eye on 3 kids shouldn’t mean that Meredith and I need to skip workouts. Of course the kettlebells travel nicely from the basement to the backyard, but few of you actually have kettlebells. So here is a G-R-E-A-T bodyweight swingset workout that you can do anywhere.

Get out of the sweaty musty gym, head to the nearest park (or if you have a big ol’ swing set in your backyard, head there) and get ready to have some strength-building, muscle-working fun in the sun.

We’re going to cycle between 3-5 rounds of the following exercises:

·      Decline Pushups

·      Pull-ups / Australian Pull-ups

·      Hanging leg raises

Decline Pushups. Decline pushups are a little tougher than flat pushups, so if you have trouble with regular pushups, just stick with those. But the decline pushup is great for working the chest, shoulders and core.

Place your hands about shoulder width apart (who remembers the Zone of the Dog shoulder articles?) and your feet on a swing. Make sure you don’t let your body sag – use your core to keep it tight.

Decline pushup 1

Decline pushup 2

Anyway, strive for sets of 20 pushups, moving down slowly and back up a little bit faster. Once you get to 3 sets of 20, instead of adding more reps, try doing your reps at a slower and slower pace.


Next, we move on to pull-ups. We’re going to shoot for 10. If you can’t do sets of 10 pull-ups, do smaller sets to get to 10. For example, 5 sets of 2. Or 2 sets of 3 reps followed by a set of 2 reps and then 2 sets of 1 rep. As long as you get to 10. I prefer the monkey bars with my palms facing each other, but any hand position you prefer is fine.

pull-up small 1

pull-up pic 2

Pull-ups can be hard on the elbows, so generally, the wider you can position your hands, the less the elbow strain. If you can’t do pull-ups, bring a buddy who can help you!

Hanging leg raises

After the pull-ups, shake out your arms and get ready to hang. I still think that hanging leg raises are among the best ab exercises out there.

While hanging, brace your abdominals as of you’re about to take a punch. Then curl your knees up to waist level. Hold for a second or two, and SLOWLY lower back down. Shoot for 10 reps with good form. If you can do only 3 or 4, that’s ok. Don’t combine smaller sets to get to 10. Over time, you’ll get stronger and the rep count will get higher.


So there you have it. A great upper body / core workout with just 3 exercises and a swing set. If you want to up the ante and have a couple of kettlebells lying around, the kettlebell complexes that I show on the last post are great!