This Bodyweight Beach Workout Will Leave Your Heart Racing and Muscles Shaking

Take these cardio and strength exercises to the shore for a sandy beach workout that targets every muscle in your body.

Woman Doing Plank Pose At The Beach
Photo: Getty Images

Want access to the best cardio and strength equipment without spending a dime? One word: sand.

Walking or running on the sand is a radically simple way to up the intensity of your cardio workout without inching up your incline or pushing your pace. By treading on loose sand as opposed to solid ground, you'll be working harder (and therefore reaping more benefits). 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.

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," adds Martyn Binnie, Ph.D., a performance scientist of rowing at the Western Australian Institute of Sport. The payoff: Do a beach 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," explains Binnie. 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 sand for your next round of beach workout fun.

Bodyweight Beach Workout to Test Your Cardio and Strength

Ready to take your fitness routine to the next level without leaving your joints achy? Try this beach workout below, which combines running with bodyweight strength and agility moves.

If you're new to beach workouts, there are a few key tips you'll want to keep in mind. First, start on wet sand, as it's firmer and provides a more stable base of support, recommends Binnie. And be sure to do the exercises in this beach workout on level sand. Running and jumping on an angle, as you would along a shoreline, puts your body in an awkward position, which could increase your risk of injury, says Binnie. As for shoes, wear sneakers when you're on coarse, cold, or hot sand. Otherwise, you can go barefoot. You're getting the same benefits from the workout either way, so base your choice on comfort.

How it works: Complete each phase of the beach workout as directed, taking rest breaks as needed.

What you'll need: A large, sandy area

1. Warm-Up

Warm up for the beach workout with a brisk walk or an easy jog for 3 minutes.

Then do each move below for 30 seconds. Repeat the circuit twice for a total of 4 minutes.

  • Run at a moderately fast pace.
  • Side shuffle with right foot leading.
  • Side shuffle with left foot leading.
  • Jog backward.

Then, run at a moderate pace for 3 minutes.

2. Plyo AMRAP Circuit

woman doing a broad jump exercise as a part of a beach workout on the sand

Do 15 reps each of the plyometric exercises below. Repeat the circuit as many times as you can in 2 minutes. (Not familiar with the AMRAP-style workout? Here's your guide to AMRAP workouts.)

Tuck Jump

A. Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes turned slightly outward and hands clasped in front of chest.

B. On an inhale, sit back into hips and bend knees to lower until thighs are parallel or almost parallel with floor, keeping chest up and preventing back from rounding.

C. On an exhale, explosively press through feet and jump as high as possible, swinging arms and tucking knees toward chest.

D. Land softly and quickly lower into a squat for the next rep.

Skaters

A. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent and elbows bent, and hands in front of chest.

B. Jump laterally to right and balance on right leg as left leg crosses behind right, making sure to keep left toes off the floor.

C. Quickly jump laterally to the left and balance on left leg as right leg crosses behind left, making sure to keep right toes off the floor. Repeat, alternating sides.

Broad Jump

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and arms at sides. Engage core.

B. Quickly swing arms backward while bending knees even more, then explosively jump forward while swinging arms forward.

C. Land softly with bent knees and arms extended in front of chest. Lower arms back to sides and quickly backpedal to the starting position.

3. Run

Run at a fast pace for 3 minutes. (Make sure to keep these tips for proper running form in mind.)

4. Core AMRAP Circuit

woman doing an upright crunch as a part of a beach workout on the sand

Do 15 reps each of the beach workout moves below. Repeat the circuit as many times as you can in 2 minutes.

V-Sit Crunch

A. Sit on the ground with knees bent, feet flat, hands on sand beside hips. Lean back slightly, lift bent legs, and extend arms forward, palms facing up. This is the starting position.

B. Extend legs forward while leaning torso back until mid-back touches ground and shoulders and legs hover above it.

C. Engage core to lift mid-back off the ground, tuck legs, and return to the starting position.

Plank Up-Down

A. Start in a table-top position on the floor with hands stacked directly under shoulders, knees bent and stacked directly under hips, and feet hip-width apart.

B. Lift both knees off the floor and straighten legs to come into a high plank position on palms, squeezing glutes together and engaging core. Actively push away from the floor and maintain a straight line from head to heels.

C. Keeping hips square, lower right elbow to the floor, then left elbow, to come into a forearm plank. Place right hand under right shoulder, then left hand under left shoulder to return to a high plank. That's one rep. Continue, alternating sides.

Bicycles

A. Lie flat on the floor with lower back pressed to the ground, legs fully extended, and arms at sides. Interlace fingers and put hands behind head. Keeping core engaged, bring both knees in toward chest, lifting shoulder blades off the ground.

B. Straighten left leg out to about a 45-degree angle from the ground while turning upper body to the right, bringing left elbow toward right knee. Make sure ribcage is moving, not just elbows.

C. Bring left knee back up to chest and return torso to the starting position, then switch sides and repeat. Continue alternating, creating a "pedaling" action.

5. Run

Run at a fast pace for five minutes.

6. Run Drills

Do each beach workout move below for 30 seconds. Repeat the circuit twice.

  • Run at a fast pace.
  • Side shuffle with right foot leading.
  • Side shuffle with left foot leading.
  • Run backward.

7. Burnout Circuit

woman doing a bear crawl exercise as part of a beach workout on the sand

Do each beach workout move below for 30 seconds. Repeat the circuit once more.

Sprint

A. Run as fast as possible.

Bear Crawl

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart and arms at sides. Fold forward and plant hands about 3 feet in front of feet. Bend elbows and knees slightly and keep hips back, almost as if in a downward dog.

B. Keeping core engaged and hips back, take one step forward with right arm and left leg in a controlled manner. Then, step forward with left arm and right leg. Continue, alternating sides.

8. Cool Down

Walk or jog for 3 minutes. Then, finish the beach workout with these five post-workout stretches.

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