Play time

The key to getting the most out of your club’s strength-training centerpiece: Using your imagination. Welcome to the jungle (gym).

Fitness innovation can take many forms. Sometimes, it's a brand-spanking-new piece of equipment or a game-changing scientific theory. And in other instances, results are achieved by taking something familiar, and using it in a smarter, more strategic way.

It may be one of the tried-and-true strength-training machines in the club—but you’ve never seen the jungle gym used like this before. “The jungle gym is my favorite piece of equipment,” says Joel Mayers, a Tier 3 personal trainer and group fitness instructor in Tysons Corner.“But I incorporate new things to make traditional exercises more interesting.”

Though the need for muscle confusion has been embraced by the masses, Mayers believes most exercisers are still a little stunted in their creativity. “We live in a society filled with routine habits, and our workouts fall into this category as well,” he says. “People may feel like their bodies aren’t changing, and it’s because even when they’re mixing things up, they’re not stepping outside the box. Sometimes, you have to play around to see what works and what doesn’t.”

Tired of the run-of-the-mill fare of lat pulldowns, woodchoppers and chin-ups, Mayers designed this surprising routine that torches calories as it tones. “The more muscles you can incorporate into one exercise, the more calories you burn,” says Mayers.

And the series may look like fun, but the work works—efficiently. “I am in the gym all day, every day, and I teach 5 classes a week. If I trained my clients the same way all the time, I would get bored very quickly. And my time to work out is limited, so using more muscles simultaneously allows me to get the most out of the time I have.”

Ready to revisit your recess days? Click through the slideshow above to see animated gifs of the moves, demonstrated by Mayers. Choose a light weight to start, so you can focus on form, and perform the indicated reps for each exercise once, circuit-style, then repeat 3 times.

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  • Swiss Ball Muscle-Up

    Swiss Ball Muscle-Up

    Squeezing a Swiss ball between your ankles, hold pull-up handles with an overhand grip. Drive hips and legs forward and then back to get momentum and do a pull-up; at the top of the pull-up, press hands down to straighten elbows and lift torso above bars to waist-height. Lower yourself down. Do 8 reps. 

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  • Hanging Scissor

    Hanging Scissor

    Set pulleys at low position, and strap cuffs around ankles. Standing midway between the weight stacks, facing one of the weight stacks, reach up and grasp crossbar of jungle gym. Pull yourself up until elbows are bent 90 degrees. With knees bent 90 degrees, scissor-kick your legs, alternating sides for one rep. Do 8 reps. 

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  • Windshield Wiper

    Windshield Wiper

    Squeezing a Swiss ball between your ankles, place hands on inner chin-up handles, palms facing each other. Do a pull-up, and at the top of the pull-up, lean back and straighten legs out in front of you. Rotate hips from left to right, making a semicircle with legs like a windshield wiper, for one rep. Do 8 reps. 

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  • Squat Press-Up

    Squat Press-Up

    Set pulleys at a low position. Stand midway between the two weight stacks on a Bosu ball, holding a handle in each hand at shoulder-height. Squat; as you come up out of the squat, press arms straight up into air to straighten elbows. Do 10 to 12 reps. 

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  • Plank With Toe Taps

    Plank With Toe Taps

    Set pulleys at low position, and strap cuffs around ankles. Place a Bosu mid-way between the two weight stacks. Walk hands out into plank position, hands under shoulders, and place feet, together, in center of Bosu, to start. Simultaneously tap toes on ground on both sides of Bosu, then return to start for one rep. Do 10 to 12 reps. 

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  • Single-Leg Lunge with Front Cable Fly

    Single-Leg Lunge with Front Cable Fly

    Set pulleys at high position. Stand midway between the two weight stacks on a Bosu ball, a handle in each hand, arms extended at shoulder height so your body forms a T. Step right leg forward into a lunge, pulling cables down until your hands are together in front of chest. Switch legs, and repeat. Do 10 to 12 reps. 

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