How to turn your backyard into a gym

Living Well | Sarah Marinos | Posted on 28 April 2020

Missing your workouts? Here’s how to use backyard basics as a home gym.

It seems all the news for fitness fans is bad. Gyms are closed, pilates classes are paused and community sport is cancelled. Even the incidental exercise we might usually do walking to the train station or running up the stairs for a meeting has evaporated for those of us working from home

But the good news, says Brooke Olsen, Fitness Centre supervisor at Victoria University, is that many of us have an extra hour or two a day when we’d normally be commuting or socialising, that we can now devote to exercise.  

And better still, she says we don’t need special gym equipment to keep our abs fab and our glutes great. “There are heaps of things in your home and backyard to help you work out. But when you are using equipment that is not built for exercise remember to check that it is stable and sturdy.”

Man doing kettlebell workout outside


Eight ways you can turn your backyard into a home gym 


Bodyweight work out

Use your own body weight to exercise and build strength by doing squats, push-ups and lunges. “If you haven’t exercised much before, start by doing push-ups against the wall,” says Brooke. Stand about 60 centimetres from a stable wall in your backyard with arms out in front of you. Place palms on the wall, fingers pointing towards the sky. Your palms should be shoulder-width apart and just above shoulder height. Bend your elbows and lean forward until your nose almost touches the wall. Keep your back straight and then push back to the starting position. Do 20 of these and gradually do two sets of 20, three sets of 20 and so on.

Brick up your biceps 

Build stronger bicep muscles by doing bicep curls with two old house bricks. “Most people have a few old bricks laying around the backyard or garage and they weigh about the same so you have equal weight in each hand to curl with,” says Brooke. 

Watering can shoulder raises

Do shoulder raises using two watering cans – start with empty cans and as you get stronger you can fill the cans with water. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, a watering can in each hand, arms by your sides. Slightly bend your knees and slowly lift the watering cans out to your sides – don’t go above shoulder height. Pause for a few seconds, lower your arms to your sides and repeat. 

Take a (tricep) dip

Use a sturdy garden chair to do some dips. Facing away from the seat of the chair, sit on the edge of the seat and place your hands behind your hips. Lift your bottom off the seat, edge feet forwards and then slowly lower your body to the ground. Then push upwards to starting position, using your arms. Repeat.

Build a (glute) bridge

Build a bridge using a garden chair or bench. Do the glute bridge exercise by lying on the ground, putting your feet up on the garden chair or bench and lifting your hips off the ground. Your knees, hips and shoulders should form a straight line as you squeeze the muscles in your bottom and abdominals tight.

Add resistance

If you have a resistance band, wrap it around a verandah pole and do some assisted squats. This is an ideal leg-strengthening exercise for beginners. Hold on to the band with both hands as you gradually lower yourself into a squatting position and stand, lower and stand. The band will take some of the weight off your legs, making the exercise gentler. If you don’t have a resistance band, use a towel.

Get the gear

Keen to replicate your gym workout at home? Enjoy a sweat sesh from the privacy of your own backyard with a few key investments. Some of the most effective, affordable and versatile investments for any at-home gym include battle ropes, TRX straps, a training bench, kettlebell or dumbbells set and barbells with adjustable weight plates. Skipping ropes and medicine balls are also great for small spaces. Oh, and don't forget a sound system or set of portable speakers to really round out the gym experience.