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Buh-Bye Boring Beach Workouts! Build Serious Strength on the Sand

Guzman

Want access to the best cardio and strength equipment anywhere? Take your workout to the sand, stairs, and hills to boost your burn and tone in less time.

There’s a radically simple way to burn more calories per step without inching up your incline or pushing your pace: Walk or run on the sand. Studies show that you’ll activate extra muscle just by treading on the loose stuff rather than solid ground. Because sand grains constantly shift, “your nervous system has to recruit additional muscle fibers in your legs, hips, and trunk in response,” says Rocco Bergin, a trainer for the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers in New York City who often leads workouts in the club’s sandpit. (Hit the Sand! 5 Essential Tips for Running on a Beach.)

Also, the soft surface absorbs more energy, so instead of experiencing a helpful rebound effect as you would on pavement, you sink deeper and your muscles have to engage longer to push off. “You’re forced to work harder to move,” says Martyn Binnie, Ph.D., a sport scientist at the Western Australian Institute of Sport. The payoff: Do a workout on the sand and you burn up to 50 percent more calories per minute than if you do the same routine on pavement or grass, according to Binnie’s studies.

Plus, because sand soaks up some of the pounding, “it also reduces stress on your joints,” Binnie explains. His research found that the impact is about four times lower on sand than on firmer surfaces, which can mean much less post workout inflammation and soreness. This remains true even as you increase your exercise intensity, he says. The bonus is that you’ll bounce back faster after a tough session—and be ready to hit the beach for your next round of fresh-air fun.

How it Works:
1. If you’re new to sand workouts, Binnie recommends starting on wet sand. It’s firmer and provides a more stable base of support.
2. Exercise on level sand. Running and jumping on an angle, as you would along a shoreline, puts you in an awkward position, which could cause injury, Binnie says.
3. Wear sneakers when you’re on coarse, cold, or hot sand. Otherwise, you can go barefoot. You’ll burn the same number of calories either way, Binnie says, so base your choice on comfort.

Your Sand Workout
0 to 3 minutes
Warm up with a brisk walk or an easy jog.

3 to 7 minutes
Do each move below for 30 seconds:
Run at a fast pace.
Side shuffle with right foot leading.
Side shuffle with left foot leading.
Run backward.
Repeat the circuit once.

7 to 10 minutes
Run at a moderate pace.

10 to 12 minutes
Do 15 reps each of the jumping moves below. Repeat the circuit as many times as you can.

Tuck
Jump as high as you can, pulling knees toward chest. Extend legs downward as you land with knees soft. That’s 1 rep. Repeat as quickly as you can. (Like this move? Then check out our Plyometric Power Plan.)

Skater
Pushing off with right foot, jump left, landing on left foot (knees soft) and sweeping right leg behind and across; reach right fingertips to left toes. Quickly repeat on the other side. That’s 1 rep. Continue alternating sides.

Broad Jump

Jump as far forward as you can. Land softly in a squat. That’s 1 rep. Do 15 reps.

12 to 15 minutes
Run at a fast pace.

15 to 17 minutes
Do 15 reps each of the moves below. Repeat the circuit as many times as you can.

Upright Crunch

Sit with knees bent, feet flat, hands on sand beside hips. Lean back slightly, lift bent legs, and extend arms forward with palms facing up to start. Extend legs forward while leaning torso back until midback touches ground and shoulders and legs hover above it. Return to start. That’s 1 rep. Do 15 reps. (If you're obsessed with this move, then you must try these 9 Core Exercises That Get You Closer to Six-Pack Abs.)

Walking Plank
Start in plank on your palms. Lower right forearm to ground, then left. Press up onto right palm, then left. That’s 1 rep. Switch sides; repeat. Continue, alternating sides.

Bicycle
Sit with legs long and lift them a few inches off ground, lean torso back 45 degrees, and place fingertips behind ears with elbows bent out to sides. Pull right knee toward chest as you rotate torso to touch left elbow to right knee. Switch sides; repeat. That’s 1 rep. Continue, alternating sides. (Learn how to Lose the Pooch! The Best Exercises for Lower Abs.)

17 to 23 minutes
Run at a fast pace.

23 to 27 minutes
Repeat minutes 3 to 7.

27 to 29 minutes
Do each move below for 30 seconds. Repeat the circuit once.

Sprint

Bear Crawl

Stand with feet hip-width apart. Fold forward and plant hands about 3 feet in front of feet. Keeping hips back, bend elbows and knees slightly (almost as if you’re in a downward dog). Maintain this shape as you walk hands and feet forward for 30 seconds.

29 to 31 minutes
Cool down by jogging or walking.

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