I like to train outside. I love the feeling of being out in the fresh air with the sun beating down on me while I exercise and I often head over to a local park for some bar work and calisthenics.
But as I was doing my normal run the other day, I decided to stop at the large gathering of rocks that sits on the back side of the baseball field near my house.
I have always just run past them without thinking too much about it, but this day I got the idea to actually use them as part of my workout.
A Killer Rock Workout
As you might imagine, trying to find information about workouts with rocks usually ends up with your search results looking something like this. And after yelling “I didn’t say THE Rock” at my computer a few times, I gave up and decided to write this post.
So the workout I did was pretty intense and what I liked about it was that I was able to do a fully functional total body workout in less than 25 minutes. And I was smoked!
I know a lot of you reading this are limited in your access to weights and fancy equipment and many of you like training outdoors, so I am always looking for ways to get a great workout without needing a gym membership or a shitload of stuff.
Here is the workout I did. I didn’t label the exercises in the video, so here they are in order:
- Squat to overhead press
- Crossover pushups
- Deep pushups
- Heavy rock uphill carry
- Overhead uphill carry
- Soccer throws uphill
Why It Works
Here is what I like about this workout:
- It uses most, if not all, muscles in the body.
- It challenges you in a completely different environment. No cables, ropes, or pulleys from the gym. It forces you to use a ton of extra muscle fibers in order to lift, throw, and carry these things.
- It uses all three planes of motion, which is critical for functional strength.
- In forces your core to work extra hard to stabilize your body. More core work=better!
- It puts you in an unstable training environment. The uneven ground and forces your hip complex to adapt. You won’t get this on a regular old gym floor.
- It’s fun and gets you out of your current routine, which often times can be boring and repetitive.
- The possibilities are near endless for exercise selection. Almost anything that can be done in a gym, can be done with rocks.
- It’s free!
- You can find the right size/weight rock to fit your abilities and you don’t need to look like The Mountain to do it!
So my challenge to you is to find some rocks and create a similar workout. Let me know in the comments when you do and if you have any unique exercises to add!
Loved this post and especially the video. Appreciate your efforts in sharing these tips !
Thanks Naveen, glad you like it. It’s a great workout, have you tried it yet?
I am yet to try these ones , seems really fun and effective as well 🙂
What are you waiting for, Naveen?!?
I thought I’d read something a while back about working out by lifting and throwing rocks and logs. I found the article, from Outside Magazine, here, about MovNat:
This article has a great image of a guy lifting a rock:
I know I’ve read somewhere that one of the benefits of lifting and carrying rocks and logs is that they’re unevenly shaped and difficult to balance, so lifting and carrying them requires the use of more muscles in a variety of ways to compensate for the imbalance. I couldn’t find the source I was thinking of, but this article covers the same ideas, and provides a strong rationale for working out with rocks:
Finally, this “Woodsman’s Workout” from The Art of Manliness website is a little bit tongue-in-cheek, but the exercises are legitimate.
Finally… holy cow! Just watching your video left my feeble muscles aching! Some (all) of those activities could be dangerous for somebody without at least a basic level of strength and fitness. C’mon, even you must have been a little bit sore the next day. Have you been back to the rockpile since for additional workouts?
I wanna be able to bust out the endless pushups like that. Those crossover pushups look cool!
Thanks for the links, I read the AOM post a while back. Yea, those rock workouts are no joke. I have done it a few times since and yes, I am a tad sore the following day 🙂
There is no reason you can’t get to the point where you can do a bunch of pushups, you just need to start small. Knee pushups, incline pushups, negative pushups. Just get started..
This summer we did two back to back trips, to New Hampshire and to the beach. I had been working out at home regularly again and didn’t want to lose that over the weeks of vacation…plus the last week was the beach so why lose the aesthetic benefits of working out right before going there. We go to Sandbridge, just south of Virginia Beach, and I knew there was a playground for chins/dips and stuff. Obviously the ocean is also there and since I don’t swim properly very well (terrible at breathing between strokes) I’ll go running in shin high water or walking through waist surf water for a good leg/cardio workout.
New Hampshire is a different story. We stay at a house in the woods near Little Sunnappee so there is walking and jogging and body weight exercise but what else?
Just driving up I noticed that New Hampshire is a rocky state and ideas started forming. When we got to the house I could see there were plenty of different sized stones around and I started lifting them. I also began throwing them as I got tired with lifting them like regular weights. Throwing is one of the best aspects of working out with rocks outside. The overhead soccer throw in is good, but doing the granny style basketball style throw is good too because it is almost a squat-throw combination. Flinging them off to the side about waist height does a great job on the abs. One handed throws underhand and overhand, like an oversized football or baseball work out the shoulders and lats.
At the beach the next week I ran (not jogged) to the playground about a half/quarter mile from our rental and kept my eyes open for drainage ditches with stones. I passed two spots with stone (turns out the beach is loaded with rocks to slow erosion) and then at the playground itself there was rip rap where the showers at the public beach are, about 10 feet from the playground. I did 20 minutes of lifting and throwing then ran back to the house every morning at 7AM (I don’t drink at the beach much any more so I am awake then anyway). Worked great, loved the outdoor aspect to it and had two people stand and watch for a minute or two and comment what a great idea it was. Lots of people running and biking at the beach, so they are trying to stay healthy while there. I’m interested to see whether this summer I see anyone else doing the rocks.
The best thing about a rock workout is the aggression/stress release you get from throwing them. It’s a great beginning to a workout if you aren’t really in the mood. You start off slow enough and it’s actually fun so after 2 minutes of that as a warm up you are ready to go deeper. The only thing to be aware of is that they can roll and depending on how heavy you go or how soft the ground is you can leave divits in grass. I recommend trying it.
Steve, I enjoyed this workout vid very much. I on occasion do a similar workout that I divised but do a hybrid circuit workout when out biking or hiking. Goes something like this: ten minute warm up on bike(i.e) or hike to first stopping point on hike. Then 3 sets of squats holding rock, five minutes riding or hiking, then 3 sets of single arm presses with rock. Ride/ hike 5 minutes, then 3 sets rows with rock, 5 more mins ride/ hike, then 3 sets behind head triceps ext. with rock, then 3 sets bicep curls with rock. Then ride or hike back home or to the trail head. It is much more fun than the gym !
Sounds fun, Michael! Whatever works for you as long as you’re getting a good workout! It’s definitely fun to get creative when you have little or no equipment..
I was in the army and we would run and workout with sandbags and water cans even telephone polls as a squad lets just say i was in the shape of my life. Now I’m pushing 40 and im a over the road truck driver I sit all day so when i stop for the night il go for a 30 min walk and i will grab a big stone and carry it around and lift it in different ways. The thing is that rocks are free and they are all around so no excuse to work on yourself a little
Yep, there really is no reason not to be exercising! Get it where and when you can!
great ideas now that the gyms are closed! I live in the desert and its gorgeous in AZ and rocks dont cough! Thanks!
Steve – I just had this same idea to head down to the canyon where I live (Southern CA) and did a couple of these on a whim. A killer workout using a hill.
Came home and researched, found this article and video of yours. I will definitely try the other exercises you mention here. Thanks for putting this together ! And great site you have here.. from the perspective of another single dad (IMO the only way to live haha).
Thanks Kevin, enjoy!!!