The Swing Set Suspension Workout

Christopher McKhann STACK

Many of us are trying to figure out how we stay in shape while gyms are closed, and we must keep up our “social distancing”. There are a few good options out there, but one that you should seriously consider involves your local swing set.

While I was a late adopter, suspension training can be serious, effective, and even brutally difficult. As an Olympic Weightlifting and sports performance coach, I was focused on sleds, barbells, and dumbbells for the most part. Then I was traveling and ended up taking a TRX class. I was an instant convert and started experimenting with all of the possibilities that suspension training allows for. You can work all of the primary movements, pressing (assisted one-arm pushups anyone?), upper body pull, squat, lunge and hip hinge, and most of all core work. But you don’t need to spend $150 or even go to the gym to get in a great suspension training workout. Just jog down to the local playground and grab a swing (this is really convenient for those with younger kids to sneak in a workout).

Advanced Plyometrics

Advanced Burpees

But I love to train outside when possible. And I like to save money whenever possible. So let me introduce swing set suspension training. I will admit you can’t do everything with a swing set that you can with a real suspension trainer like the TRX. But being able to run down to the local playground and get a real workout in, or even do one while your kid is playing on the said playground, is priceless.

I program this workout like I would most others. The jog gets you warmed up. If you didn’t jog to your swing set, do a little now and add in some backward running and some lateral shuffles. Go through a good dynamic warmup like the one below.

Then its time to get swinging.

Lower Body Workout

  • Start with a power movement like the assisted jump. A couple of sets of five reps is great. Your power movements should be kept to low reps, so you are truly working power.
  • Squat. This can be done two-legged or as an assisted pistol squat (like the one in the video). In either case, the arc of the swing allows you to keep a nice upright upper body throughout the course of the squat. Work to a depth that is comfortable.
  • Lunge. This is actually a Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat (RFESS), also known as a Bulgarian split squat, as shown in the video. Place your rear foot up in the swing and lunge with the front leg, keeping the knee in line with the toe. A slight forward lean – while keeping the back flat – is fine. Since the rear leg is “unstable,” this is really challenging. If you need extra load, grab a loaded pack, a rock, or your small child, and you will blast your legs and glutes.
  • Hip bridge. With your back on the ground and facing the swing, put your heels up in the swing. Raise your hips and then curl your legs toward you. You can do this with two legs or one.

Upper Body Workout

  • Push up. The unstable nature of these makes them surprisingly challenging. You can also put your feet in the swing and hands on the ground. If either of these is too difficult, you can do just negatives (lowering yourself down).
  • Row. This one is pretty self-explanatory, and it is shown in the video. It gets easier, the more upright you stand.
  • Ab roll-out. This is also very challenging and can be made easier the farther forward you walk, and therefore the more upright you are standing. You can also just hold a plank with your arms or hands in the sling.

For all of these movements, you can vary your rep and set ranges. To start, aim for 8-10 reps for three sets. You can do all sets for each movement and then move on to the next, or you can do them as a circuit. Try both and see which you like more (your neurotransmitters will largely determine which works best for you, but more on that later).

Advanced Challenges

You can have some fun with the swing as well, trying variations of the plyometrics (like having one foot in the swing and jumping with the other leg) or doing swing set burpees. Jump over the swinging swing and drop-down under it as it comes back over you. For more advanced training, check out

Suspension training can be a great addition to your current workout or stand-alone training. You can hit every movement pattern, and if you vary your rep and set ranges, you can progress toward a wide variety of goals. And best of all, it is free, easy, and outside!