Workout Routines

The Bodyweight Beach Workout

Get your vacation body by training like you’re on vacation—outdoors, by the sand and surf, and using only your body weight.

Photographs by Per Bernal


It’s kind of a funny paradox: We think that to build a body that looks good on the beach, we have to do it inside a dark, musty gym. Slugging it out with barbells and dumbbells is fine for the other nine months of the year, but in the summertime, we at M&F want out— outdoors, that is. The iron certainly offers unique benefits, but so does simple body-weight training, and if you undertake it now, you can have a physique that looks like you lift heavy weights without actually having to lift them all summer.

SEE ALSO: Summer Full-Body Workout Routine


The one problem with body-weight training is that it’s not as intuitive as using free weights or exercise machines. You know that pushups work your chest and pullups work your back, but you don’t know how to target every area like you do when you’re in the gym. But the beauty of doing body-weight exercises is that you don’t have to know—it’s more or less covered.

Every lift you do that uses your own body weight for resistance is “closed-chain.” That means that either your hands or feet are in contact with a surface you’re exerting force on, be it a pullup bar, tree limb, rock, or the ground beneath you. Because the force is being applied to a fixed point (i.e., the ground isn’t moving), you’ll need more muscles to stabilize you than you do on an open-chain exercise, where your hands or feet move freely. This is one reason why a squat is more effective than a leg extension, and why a pushup is not only a good chest-builder, but also trains the shoulders, back, arms, and core, too. With more muscle mass activation comes a greater metabolic boost, making body-weight exercises a great tool for fat loss.

No, body-weight training doesn’t quite put the same demand on the muscles that heavy lifting does, but it has many other features that are superior. It’s obviously safer, for one thing, and easier to set up. You can move from one exercise to the next without having to pause to load weights or change the angle of a bench, so, if you choose, a body-weight regimen can build conditioning right into your workout, making it double as cardio—another fat-loss bonus.

If you’re skeptical that leaving your beloved weights behind will cause you to shrink, consider a 2012 study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that compared subjects who performed traditional resistance training to those doing plyometrics—explosive exercises such as jumps, performed with body weight. After six weeks, both groups were tested on the back squat, Romanian deadlift, and calf raise, and gains in strength were equal. There were no significant differences in the amount of muscle gained between the groups.

In short, lifting your body weight rather than a barbell for a few weeks won’t cost you any progress in the gym, but it will afford you something even more important: the chance to enjoy your summer. Take the routine on these pages with you to the beach or a park—it requires almost no equipment, and can be done with various implements found in nature.


Perform each workout (Day I, II, and III) once per week, resting a day between each session. Each workout is done as a circuit— complete one set of each exercise in order, resting as directed between exercises. (Where “0 sec.” rest is called for, simply rest only long enough to set up for the next exercise.) Repeat for the prescribed number of circuits.

In Day I, you’ll see reps of “10–1.” This means you’ll perform 10 reps the first circuit, 9 the second, 8 the third and so on down to 1 rep.