Most people head to the beach to laze around, take an easy dip and work on their suntan. But you’re not like most people. You’re an athlete, and you know that the beach offers the ideal venue for a kick-ass workout. For one thing, training on the sand is a lot easier on your joints than working out on the gym floor.
It also burns more calories because you need to work harder to take a step forward when the surface beneath your feet constantly shifts. Throw in the added elements of the sun’s rays and the awesome scenery, and it’s no wonder that summer beach workouts are a trending fitness innovation.
This article lays out a challenging beach workout to get you jacked for summer.
Beach Workout Benefits
There has been some interesting research on the benefits of working out on the beach. More precisely, those benefits come from the surface beneath your feet when you exercise in front of the waves — sand.
A 2014 study by Binnie et al. found that, when compared with grass, exercising on sand offered a higher energy cost (meaning greater calorie burn). The low-impact forces experienced on sand also limited muscle damage and muscle soreness. This study was mainly focused on team sports and strongly recommended that teams introduce sand training to the workout protocols. 
A 2020 study found that sand workouts added the benefit of being more functional than those done on a hard surface. In this study, 120 elderly subjects were divided into three groups of 40 to perform Thai dance workouts for fifty minutes per day, three times per week for six. The difference was the training surface. One group trained on a hard surface, another on a soft surface, and the third worked out on sand.
All three groups showed functional outcome improvements. However, the sand group’s functional movement improvements were significantly greater than the other two groups. 
Another 2020 study looked at the effects of walking on sand in terms of body mass index, waist circumference, and overall quality of life in people who are obese. Over a study period of 16 weeks, a sand walking group was compared to a control group that walked on a hard surface. The researchers found that sand walking was reported to be more enjoyable and more challenging than working on a hard surface. The reduction in BMI and waist circumference reduction was also more significant in the sand walking group. Perhaps most significantly of all, the joint reaction force was much less in the sand walking group. 
Other research has focused on the general benefits of working out outdoors. A 2022 study by Wicks, et al. found that ‘physical activity undertaken outdoors in natural environments is more beneficial for a range of psychological outcomes than urban environments’. 
Beach Workout Structure
As a personal trainer, I’ve used the beach as a workout venue for decades. I just live 10 minutes away from one of the world’s most stunning beaches — Mount Maunganui in the middle of New Zealand’s North Island, so it would almost be a crime not to use it. I especially love putting my advanced and elite athletes through a sand workout. The workout I’m about to lay out here is pretty intense, so be warned. However, it can also be modified for less experienced trainers.
The workout follows a high-intensity interval structure combined with circuit training. That means you’ll be doing plenty of intense bouts of work, followed by short rest periods. Rather than the traditional multi-set method of doing an exercise, you will also follow a sequence of exercises where you do a single set of each move to complete a round. You then get two minutes of recovery before repeating the round.
Best Beach Exercises
This HIIT Circuit beach workout consists of 11 exercises done back to back. They’ve been selected to provide an ideal balance of full-body muscle activation, functional fitness, and cardiovascular challenge. Here’s an overview of the exercise you’ll do:
- Shoulder Tap Push-Up
- Squat Jump + Pulse
- Sumo Squat to High Knees
- Crab Walk
- Plank Jacks
- Tuck Jumps
- Bear Crawls
1. Shoulder Tap Push-Up
The shoulder tap push-up is an advanced version of the regular push-up that targets your delts and pecs. Doing the exercise on the shifting sand surface adds an extra element of intensity.
- Get down in the top push-up position with your hands directly under your shoulders. Your feet should be together, and your body should form a straight line from the head to the ankle. Do not lift your butt.
- Bend your elbows until your chest touches the sand.
- Explode back to the start position.
- Bring your right hand up to tap your left shoulder.
- On the next rep, tap your left hand on your right shoulder.
2. Squat Jump + Pulse
This squat variation adds a pulsing movement in the bottom squat to put the focus on the adductors. The jump that ends each rep also makes this a cardio exercise.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Clasp your hands together in front of your chin.
- From this starting position, descend into a parallel squat position.
- In this position, pulse your thighs apart twice and then jump directly into the air. That is one rep.
The V-Up is an effective ab-isolator that works the upper abdominals to produce an extremely satisfying mid-section burn.
- Lie on an exercise mat on your back with your legs extended and arms by your side.
- Hinge at your hips to bring your straightened legs up until they are perpendicular to your torso.
- Straighten your arms up toward your legs.
- Begin pulsing up toward your toes by contracting your abdominals. Bring your head up on each pulse.
4. Sumo Squat to High Knees
This squat variation works the outer thighs and hamstrings and even hits the obliques as you drive your knee to the opposite elbow.
- Stand with feet about a foot wider than shoulder-width apart, and toes pointed slightly outward. Clasp your hands in front of your chin.
- Hinge at the hips to descend into a full squat.
- As you come out of the squat, lift your right knee to touch the corresponding elbow.
- On the next rep, lift the left knee.
The Superman does a great job of targeting your erector spinae muscles.
- Lie face down on an exercise mat with your body in an arched position so that your arms and feet are extended off the ground.
- Arch up to full extension to raise your arms and feet as high as possible.
- Lower and repeat.
6. Crab Walk
The crab walk is a functional compound movement that engages the triceps, deltoids, glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and abdominals. This is also an effective move to increase hip mobility.
- Get down on the floor on your butt and assume a tabletop position with your hands at your slides and fingers pointing away from your body. Your hands should be stacked below your shoulders and your feet below your knees.
- Keep your core up, and walk your right hand and left foot forward. Repeat with the opposite sides to continue the movement.
The burpee is another functional compound movement that works nearly every muscle in your body. At the same time, it provides an effective cardio workout to churn through the calories.
- Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Lower yourself into a squat and place your hands on the ground before you.
- Quickly jump your feet back into a plank position, keeping your core engaged and your back straight.
- Lower your chest down to the ground for a push-up.
- Push yourself back up to the plank position.
- Jump your feet back towards your hands, landing in the squat position.
- Quickly jump up as high as you can, extending your arms overhead.
- Land softly in the starting position and repeat steps 2-7 continuously.
8. Plank Jacks
The plank jack is a core-centric exercise that will strengthen your abdominal wall. By incorporating the ‘jack’ component of the exercise, it also becomes a cardio movement.
- Get down on all fours in a basic plank position. The points of contact should be your forearms and your toes, and your feet should be together.
- Kick your feet apart as wide as possible.
- Kick your feet back in together.
- Repeat this action in a smooth, continuous manner.
Sprinting on sand is much more challenging than on a hard surface like grass. That’s because sand represents an unstable surface, meaning you can’t get the firmness and grip you take for granted on a hard surface. There’s also more friction between your feet and the ground, so you must generate more force and energy to advance. Your glutes, calves, and hamstrings all have to work harder when you are running at the beach.
- Set a marker 10 yards away.
- Begin in the traditional runner’s stance, with your lead foot slightly in front of the other, weight evenly distributed, and knees slightly bent.
- Drive off the front leg by pushing into the sand.
- Propel yourself forward with explosive, long strides, driving your arms to provide extra momentum.
- Sprint to the marker, pivot, and return to your start position.
10. Tuck Jumps
The tuck jump is a demanding cardio exercise. This is a classic plyometric move that will get your pulse racing. Doing it on sand significantly reduces the joint impact of this exercise.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hands spread at chest level with palms down.
- Hinge at the hips to lower into a quarter squat, then explode off the floor.
- Bring your knees up to touch your palms in mid-flight.
- When you land, go directly into the next tuck jump.
11. Bear Crawls
The bear crawl is a functional move that increases agility, proprioception, and strength, especially in the deltoids and core.
- Get down on all fours. With your hands stacked under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
- Simultaneously bring your right arm and left leg forward, planting them on the ground.
- Repeat with the left arm and right leg. This is one rep.
Putting It All Together
The key to the effectiveness of this beach workout isn’t just the exercises but how they are woven together to produce a challenging butt-kicker of a workout. As with every workout, you need to begin with a proper warm-up.
Your beach workout warm-up should consist of both an aerobic and an anaerobic component. For the anaerobic part, your goal is to warm up your muscles for work. You can do this with these five dynamic stretches:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hands clasped together in front of your chest.
- Looking directly ahead, hinge at the hips to drop to a parallel squat position. Be sure to keep your lower back naturally arched.
- Now push through your heels to return to the start position.
- Stand with your arms by your sides and rotate them together in windmill fashion to make large circles.
- Do not bend your arms, with the motion occurring at the shoulder joint.
Chest In & Out
- Stand with your arms outstretched at your sides, elbows slightly bent.
- Bring your arms in to ‘hug’ your chest. Feel for a contraction of the chest.
- Now extend the arms back out to stretch the pectorals and the latissimus dorsi.
- Get down on all fours, with hands and knees on the floor. Keep your lower back in a naturally arched position.
- Look directly ahead as you sink your belly toward the floor and arch your torso downward.
- Reverse the motion to come back up, rounding your back as you do so. As you do so, tuck in your tailbone and suck in your stomach.
The Summer Beach Workout
Follow this workout for a jacked physique:
|1||Shoulder Tap Push-Up||15 reps|
|2||Sprints||To marker and back|
|6||Crab Walk||5 steps forward and back|
|7||Squat Jump + Pulse||15 reps|
|8||Sprints||To marker and back|
|9||Tuck Jump||15 reps|
|10||Plank Jacks||60-second hold|
|11||Bear Crawl||5 steps forward and back|
Performing static stretching after your workout will help you cool down and recover from your session. Research indicates that static stretching will increase blood flow to the muscles, allowing for a greater supply of nutrients and oxygen to speed recovery and regrowth. Static stretching also helps the central nervous system calm down after the workout.
Here are six effective static stretches to conclude your beach workout:
Lunging Hip Flexor Stretch
- Kneel on your right knee with your hands on your hips. Your left knee should be bent with that foot flat on the ground.
- Lean forward to stretch the right hip flexor.
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Keeping your chest lifted and your stomach taut, take a step forward with your left leg, keeping the knee straight.
- Bend your right knee and lean forward from the hips, lowering your chest towards your right thigh.
- When you feel the pull behind your thigh and knee of the straight leg, hold for 15 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.
Repeat this stretch five times on each leg. Read more on hamstring stretches.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, your back straight, and your head in line with your spine.
- Lift your arms above your head as far as possible with your palms touching.
- Hold for five seconds.
- To extend this stretch further, ease your arms back slightly.
Repeat this stretch five times on each leg.
Standing Calf Stretch
- Stand facing a wall and place your palms on it in line with your chest.
- Step your right leg back so that it is fully extended with your left knee slightly bent.
- Lean forward, keeping your back foot completely on the floor. You should feel the stretch through your calf muscle. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds, then repeat on the other leg.
Repeat this stretch five times on each leg.
- Stand with your arms at your sides, your stomach pulled in, your chest expanded, and your spine in a neutral position (not rounded).
- Clasp your hands behind your back and slowly lift your arms up, keeping your elbows straight. Hold for five seconds.
Repeat this stretch five times.
- Stand in a neutral position with your arms at your sides.
- Place your left hand behind your back so that your palm sits between your shoulder blades and your elbow points upward.
- Bring your right hand up behind your back and try to join hands.
- Hold for a count of five, then repeat with the other arm.
Repeat this stretch five times. Read more triceps stretches.
This summer beach workout is going to challenge every fiber of your being. It is not for beginners, but it can be modified to make it easier. If you’ve been training for less than 18 months, cut the reps to eight on each exercise and bring the sprint marker back to 5 yards.
Advanced athletes should aim to complete three rounds of this workout. Limit yourself to two minutes of recovery between rounds but be sure to drink plenty of water so you don’t dehydrate. Finally, I recommend keeping this beach workout as your weekend challenge, sticking to your regular gym workouts throughout the week.
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- Kaewjoho C, Thaweewannakij T, Mato L, Nakmaroeng S, Phadungkit S, Amatachaya S. Effects of Exercises on a Hard, Soft, and Sand Surface on Functional Outcomes of Community-Dwelling Older Individuals: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Aging Phys Act. 2020 Jun 2:1-8. doi: 10.1123/japa.2019-0246. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 32485663.
- Seyam M, Kashoo F, Alqahtani M, Alzhrani M, Aldhafiri F, Ahmad M. Effect of Walking on Sand with Dietary Intervention in OverweightType 2 DiabetesMellitusPatients: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Healthcare (Basel). 2020 Sep 29;8(4):370. doi: 10.3390/healthcare8040370. PMID: 33003313; PMCID: PMC7712869.
- Wicks C, Barton J, Orbell S, Andrews L. Psychological benefits of outdoor physical activity in natural versus urban environments: A systematic review and meta-analysis of experimental studies. Appl Psychol Health Well Being. 2022 Aug;14(3):1037-1061. doi: 10.1111/aphw.12353. Epub 2022 Mar 8. PMID: 35259287; PMCID: PMC9544808.
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