Outdoor Fitness: 10 Base Moves

The base moves are the foundation of the Outdoor Fitness program; the “base” on which you’ll build your strength, flexibility, endurance and mental focus, from the core out. These moves are designed to get you strong—physically, mentally, and emotionally—all the while integrating with your outdoor environment. The strengthening and foundation they provide also help to keep you safe from injury.

These ten move get your body moving the way it wants to move, the way it was built to move. Forward. Backward. Laterally. Diagonally. Squatting, lunging, bending, twisting, pushing and pulling. Simple, elemental moves that you were born to do.


Beginners: 1-2 sets; 8-10 repetitions
Intermediate: 2-3 sets: 10-12 repetitions
Advanced: 3 sets; 12-15 repetitions or  1-2 sets; 1 minute per exercise

1) Wide-Legged Squat

Wide-Legged Squat

Works: Glutes, Hamstrings, Quadriceps, Adductors, and Balance

Props: Flat Ground

The wider stance is preferred for its greater control on uneven terrain and to target the inner thighs.

Starting Position: From an Athletic Stance, position your feet just beyond shoulder-width apart with toes positioned naturally from the heels. Distribute your body weight evenly between both feet. Lift your ribs to engage your center. Press your palms firmly together at the height of your sternum, and lower your shoulders down, away from your ears. Maintain pressure between your palms.

Action: Inhale as you lower your hips pressing your tailbone back behind you and your knees create a 45-90° angle. Be sure to keep your knees and body weight aligned over your mid-foot through your heels. Pause for a second, then exhale as you press up through your heels to the starting position.

2)  Split-squat

Split Squat

Works: Glutes, Hamstrings, Quadriceps, Balance

Props: A curb, root, berm or step with a three to 8 inch rise

This is a time-efficient exercise that quickly strengthens and sculpts the legs and glutes. You are training the legs independently, where the front leg works the glutes and hamstrings, while the back leg sculpts the quadriceps. Core strength and balance skills are also enhanced.

Starting Position: From the athletic stance, step back into a long split stance, resting your right foot, toes down, heel up on the surface of the prop.  Place your hands on your hips and distribute your weight evenly between your front heel and the back toes.

Action: Inhale, as you lower your hips until your left forward knee is at a 45-90°angle. Keep your eyes focused forward, your ribs lifted and your shoulders square. Keep your knee inline with your ankle and exhale as you press back up through your front heel and your back toes.

3) Forward Lunge

Forward Lunge

Works: Glutes, Hamstrings, Quadriceps, Core Stability

Props: Flat Ground

Lunges are a staple in your outdoor fitness program because you can do them on a variety of terrain. Once you are comfortable with the basic forward lunge you can progress by moving along grassy knolls and sandbars, up stairs, ramps, and hills. You can also incorporate fun props like stumps, curbs, and flat rocks for step lunges.

Starting Position: Start in the Athletic Stance, with your hands on your hips, ribs lifted, chest open, and eyes forward

Action: Inhale as you take a long step forward onto your right foot so that your right knee forms a 45-90° angle, and your left knee points down to the ground. Maintain even balance and weight distribution between both legs. Exhale as you engage your midsection, and push back through the right heel to the starting position. Repeat on the left leg.

4) Reverse Lunge

Reverse Lunge

Works: Hamstrings, Glutes, Quadriceps, Balance

Props: Flat Ground

The reverse lunge helps you gain strength, especially in your quadriceps. It will also rapidly improve your balance and spatial awareness in the ever-changing outdoor environment.

Starting Position: Start in the athletic stance with your hands on your hips, chest open, eyes forward.

Action: Inhale as you take a long step backwards onto your right toes so that your right knee points down to the ground. Gradually lower your hips until your forward left knee is bent at a 45-90° angle. Exhale as you press firmly through your back right toes to the starting position. Alternate between the right and left legs.

Focal Point: Maintain even balance and weight distribution between both legs.

5) Lateral Leg Press

Lateral Leg Press

Works: Adductors, Abductors, Glutes, Thighs

Props: Flat Ground

This is an excellent exercise for the adductors of the inner thigh, as well as the abductors of the outer thigh and hips. Add an upper-body “palm press” with your hands to improve posture and to engage and activate the core muscles. As you become stronger and more comfortable with the exercise try them while traveling up ramps and hills, steps and stairs.

Starting Position: Begin with the athletic stance, firmly press your palms together with your elbows level.

Action: Take a wide step out laterally, onto your right foot; weight both feet evenly.  Inhale, pressing your tailbone back, while lowering only slightly (no more than a 45° bend at the knees). Exhale as you press through the arch of your left foot—big toe-to-heel–back to the starting position. Continue moving laterally to the right for a series of 2-8 steps, pressing firmly through the arch of the left foot—big toe to heel.  Alternate between moving right and left.

6) Push Up

Push Up

Works: Pectorals, Anterior Deltoids, Core Stability

Props: Bench, low wall, curb, log, boulder, or any flat surface

I think this is the best all-around upper body toner because, it not only works your chest muscles as primary movers, it calls upon your shoulders, arms, serratus muscles and abdominals to play supporting roles.

Starting Position: Place your hands on the prop just a bit wider than shoulder-width apart. Step back to a distance that elongates your backside in a straight line from your heels to your head.

Action: Inhale as you slowly lower your body until your mid-chest is a few inches from the prop. Pause. Exhale and press firmly through your hands back to the starting position.

7) “Reverse” Pull Up

Reverse Pull Up

Works: Upper back, Lats, Deltoids, Biceps

Props: Low gate, monkey bar, or tree limb

A pull up is tough, but reversing it so the lowering part is the resistance phase makes it easier and will strengthen your muscles just as effectively.

Starting Position: Grip the bar or limb with your hands shoulder-width apart and your palms facing away from you. Walk your feet out until your body is elongated and your knees are nearly straight, but not locked, balancing on your heels.

Action: Exhale as you pull your self up until your chest touches, or nearly touches, the bar. Hold for a count. Inhale as you SLOWLY lower your body back down until you feel the lengthening in your back muscles.

8) Triceps Dip

Reverse Pull Up

Works: Deltoids, Triceps

This exercise does an excellent job shaping your shoulders and your arms.

Props: Bench, log, stump, high step, concrete block

Starting Position: Take a seat on the edge of a bench or block. Place your palms, fingertips down, along the edge. Extend your legs in front of you, slightly bent, resting on your heels.

Action: Inhale and lower your hips until your upper arms are nearly parallel to the ground, then, exhale back up pressing firmly through your palms.

9)  “TVA” Ab Flattener

TVA Ab Flattener

Works: Transverse Abdominus

Props: Flat Surface—picnic table, bench, grass, sand, concrete

TVA stands for the main muscle we are targeting: the transverse abdominus. It’s a “stability” muscle, which if it’s trained efficiently, can and will flatten that dreaded “pooch” that happens after pregnancy or through the aging process.

Starting Position: Lie on your back with your hands held lightly behind your head, elbows pointing out to the side, with your knees bent and your feet flat and spaced feet shoulder-width apart, about 10-12 inches from your glutes. Press the area between your navel, your hips and tailbone firmly into the ground—and maintain this pressure throughout the entire exercise.

Action: Exhale, lifting your shoulder blades anywhere from a half-inch to two inches off the ground. Inhale as you lower. Maintain even pressure between your navel and the pelvis and make sure your feet remain flat—toes to heel.

10)  Aqua


Works: Back Erectors, Glutes, Hamstrings, Deltoids

Props: Flat Surface—picnic table, bench, grass, sand, concrete

This exercise strengthens the erectors, improves posture and prevents back injuries.

Starting Position: Lie face down on the ground with your head in line with your spine. Lengthen your arms overhead, palms down on the ground.

Action: Lift your right arm and your left leg up, pause, then lower. Alternate, by lifting your left arm and right leg. Continue, slowly lifting and lengthening your opposite arm and leg, as if you’re swimming.


September 26, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Thanks for sharing these outdoor exercises. I’ve been doing most of the ones you wrote about, but now I will add the ones I haven’t done to my routine.


September 26, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Thanks for promoting outdoor fitness! we’ve had a class at our YMCA for 12 years now. Bringing a resistance band to use around trees, railings and just underfoot adds another whole plethera of options for full body workouts. We love to use hills, stairs and playgrounds for even more resistance options! enjoy and breathe in the wonderful fresh air!


September 26, 2010 at 7:32 pm

As a mother of three who used to be very active, and just started to move again, and walk just a little bit, I commit to doing at least one of these base moves. Thank you!!


September 26, 2010 at 9:42 pm

Great exercises to “take along” while traveling anywhere. Thanks!

Patti roberts

September 27, 2010 at 3:36 am

Thank you for sharing.
I will add them to my current work out routine.
Normally I jog walk for 45 min up and down hills in my neighborhood. Then do some yoga stretches
10 push ups, 100 crunches, 100 butt ups while lying on my back and knees bent, the I have 8, 10, & 15 lbs weights for
Arm exercises. I have dropped two dress sizes since starting this routine 6 months ago.


October 01, 2010 at 4:46 am

These exercises sound great to add to my run. Moved back home to Sweden acouple of years ago and enjoy running in the wet, mossy forests here. I can definately picture what I will look like after my new workout routine- can’t wait to get down and dirty!!


October 18, 2010 at 6:35 pm

I believe in your fitness technique. Thank you for your Inspiration.

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