Time on the beach is as synonymous with summer as watermelon and barbecues. If you’re lucky enough to vacation (or even live) near a beach, the sand is a perfect spot for a fun, functional and, if you are up for it, intense beach workout.
The benefits of beach workouts are plentiful, but the real magic lies in the sand. The constant shifting of grains creates an unstable environment, so your nervous system recruits more muscles in your legs, ankles, hips and core to keep you stable. The sand also provides a soft landing surface, which reduces wear and tear on your joints during higher-impact activities. Lastly, the forgiving grainy surface absorbs more energy, so sand workouts can burn up to 50% more calories than their hard-surface counterparts.
The best part? Once the workout is finished, you can run right into the water to splash around and cool off.
The beach workout below takes just 30 minutes, requires zero equipment, and works your entire body.
30-MINUTE BEACH WORKOUT WARMUP
Begin with these warmup exercises to get your body ready to move and accustomed to the instability of the sand.
Instructions: Perform 30 seconds of each move, with a minimum of 30 seconds of rest between movements.
Move like a Navy Seal right off the bat with this core-engaging functional move.
The Move: Begin on your hands and knees. Elevate your knees about 2 inches off the sand. Move your right hand and left foot forward in a crawling motion, keeping your hips lower than your shoulders. Then, move your left hand and right foot forward, and repeat this sequence in a slow and controlled manner.
SINGLE-LEG HIP HINGE
Plant one foot in the sand and feel your stabilizing muscles fire up as you balance and move at the hip.
The Move: Stand on your right foot and raise your left foot slightly off the ground behind you. Maintain a neutral spine and a slight bend in your right leg as you hinge forward, keeping your hips square with the ground. Try to touch the ground with your left hand (or go as low as you can), then reverse the movement back to the starting position. After 30 seconds, switch legs and repeat on the other side.
It’s time to feel how quickly the sand can elevate your heart rate!
The Move: While maintaining upright posture, lift one knee toward your chest, followed by the other. The quicker you switch legs, the more difficult the move is. If going fast has too much impact or stability is a problem, slow the move into a high-knee march.
RUNNER’S STRETCH WITH ROTATION
This is an all-inclusive stretch that also engages your core.
The Move: Begin in a strong high plank, and step your right foot to the outside of your right hand. Raise your right arm straight up to the ceiling as you rotate your upper body and shoulders to the right. Your head and neck should follow the rotation of your spine. Hold this pose for a few moments. Step back to the plank, and repeat on the other side.
Take advantage of the sand for some ankle-joint stability and calf-muscle strengthening with this exercise.
Learn how to do toe walks in this video.
The Move: Stand on your toes as you elevate your heels off the ground. While keeping your legs straight, walk forward for 30 seconds.
BACKWARD HEEL WALKS
Walking backward on your heels is great for strengthening the anterior tibialis muscle. This helps improve ankle stability and has the added bonus of helping to prevent shin splints.
Learn how to do backward heel walks in this video.
The Move: With a tall, upright posture, lift the front of both feet off the ground and walk backward with control for 30 seconds.
The main workout is an AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible) format. This challenges your endurance and willpower!
Instructions: Perform 10 reps of each exercise (or a modified version of the exercise, if needed), then move to the next exercise. When you get to the last exercise (skater leaps), come back to the top of the list (squat jumps) and continue. Complete as many rounds as possible for 10 minutes. Take a 5-minute break to walk around, stretch, hydrate and recover. Repeat one more 10-minute AMRAP, aiming to surpass the number of rounds achieved in the first set.
Adjust your swimsuit, plant your feet in the sand, move those hips as low as they can go and let the sand absorb your landings.
The Move: Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Drive your arms back and sink your hips down and back. Simultaneously press your feet through the ground, drive your arms up and jump off the ground. Immediately absorb the landing by bending at the knees, hips and ankles upon impact, ending back in the squat position. Repeat for 10 reps.
Performing pushups in the sand, especially with added rotation, aids in shoulder and core strength and stability. Be careful not to let sand fall off your hands into your eyes.
The Move: Begin in a high-plank position, bend your elbows and begin to lower your chest until it’s 3–5 inches off the sand. Push back up to a high-plank position, and rotate your right hand toward the sky to hold a brief side plank. Return the right hand to the ground in a strong plank. Repeat the move, but raise the left hand during the next rep.
Every step lands softly, but balance is the bigger challenge with this popular lunging move.
The Move: Stand with your hands on your hips or hanging loosely to your sides. While maintaining an upright chest, step one foot forward, landing in a 90/90 lunge position. Lower your back knee to about 2 inches off the sand, then push through your rear foot, returning to the starting position. Repeat this movement with the other foot, and switch feet as you walk. Avoid “walking on a balance beam,” and lower your body straight up and down like an elevator when lunging.
This move gets your heart rate up quickly! For an added challenge, try dragging your toes through the sand as you pull your knees in.
The Move: Start in a high-plank position, keeping your head, hips, knees and heels in straight alignment. While maintaining this plank, bring one knee into your chest and return it to the starting position. Then, quickly bring the other knee into your chest. The quicker you do this move, the more difficult it is.
You’ll feel this move in your glutes and hips as you press off the sand from side to side.
The Move: While standing on your left leg, leap laterally to the right, immediately bending at the knee and hip to absorb the landing. Simultaneously reach your left leg slightly behind you and tap it to the floor for stability. Repeat by pressing off your right leg and landing on your left. The quicker you do this move, the more difficult it is.
Originally published July 2021, updated June 2023
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