You may think of them only as children's play equipment, but the monkey bars at your local playground can help you work out, too. If you're looking to tone up your shoulders, get off the park bench and take part in a playground workout. Try the exercises two or three times a week, making sure to give your shoulder muscles at least 24 hours' rest in between workouts.
Swinging from one bar to another on the monkey bars -- which kids can do so easily -- is one way to exercise the muscles of your shoulders, chest and core. After you've swung across a few times, stand underneath the monkey bars and jump up to do a set of pullups on the long bars that stretch from one side of the monkey bars to the other. If you're not ready to do a full set of pullups, stand on the ladder and do "negative" pullups. Start in the high position of the pullup, take your feet off the ladder and lower yourself down slowly. This helps develop the shoulder, back and arm muscles needed to achieve a full pullup. As you gain strength, try doing one full pullup, and then two the next time, and so on.
Use the monkey bars as a makeshift dip bar. Dips work the chest as well as the shoulders and arms. Stand on the ladder and grasp the monkey bars' long bars, working your way up so that your hands rest on the top of the long bars and your arms are extended and holding your body weight. Raise your feet off the ladder -- if they're still resting there -- and then bend your elbows, lowering your body down until your arms create a 90-degree angle. Press back upward to complete one repetition, and then repeat the motion a total of 12 to 15 times.
The ladder of the monkey bars serves for incline pushups, which work the chest as well as the anterior deltoid muscles of the shoulders. Place your hands on a rung of the monkey bar ladder that's about chest or waist high, and then step backward to create a long straight line from your feet to your head, with your arms extended and straight. Lower your body down toward the ladder rungs, stopping when your chest nears the ladder rungs. Do a set of 12 to 15 repe
Another pushup variation to try on the monkey bars' ladder is decline pushups -- that is, if the area is not too muddy or wet. Like incline pushups, decline pushups also work the chest and anterior deltoids. Place your feet on one of the lower rungs of the monkey bar ladder, and create a long straight line with your legs and trunk, resting your hands on the ground. Bend your elbows and lower your body toward the ground, pressing back upward when your chest gets close to touching. Press back upward and repeat the motion a total of 12 to 15 times.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.