beach lifeguard workout exercise

Prepare for Summer With A Beach Lifeguard Workout (Workout Schedule)

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Every summer families travel to the beach to enjoy time outdoors. Though the years change, the sun, sand, and waves remain a constant source of memories, providing us with tans, sunburns, and discoveries of ocean creatures.

There’s another constant at the beach, the lifeguards, who have become iconic symbols on American beaches.

Lifeguards always appear in the summer, in perfect physical shape with lean muscles. Their dark tans seem to never fade. We look at them, then at ourselves, and wonder how we compare to these “Beach Gods” we call lifeguards.

As we all know, beach lifeguards aren’t merely objects to stare at.  They have a purpose on the beach – a serious one at that and the job is not always fun.

While they are pleasant to look at, their impressive physique comes from hours of training, even in the winter when beaches are mostly empty.

In this article we’ll look at the components of a beach lifeguard workout. If you want to get in shape and have the slim yet toned body of a lifeguard you should adopt some of their workouts.

The best part about lifeguard workouts is you don’t need a gym. If you live near a beach it’s the perfect place to exercise. If you live farther away from the coast, visit a nearby track or park and workout for free. Having access to a community pool will help as well.

Lifeguard Beach Training: Observations lifeguard training

Recently I drove from Northern to Southern California on my way to San Diego. I hadn’t visited Laguna Beach in a number of years so I made a short detour from the 405 Freeway and headed West to check out the quaint beach community and enjoy the sun.

I arrived at the beach early – about 7am. Mornings at the beach are more peaceful, with less people and walks on the beach are perfect. I walked along the beach and on the path that goes north along the cliffs.

It’s such a picturesque beach and well-taken care of.  As I was walking on the cliffs I watched students in the junior lifeguard program take part in their summer morning workouts. What they were doing wasn’t easy.

The students had stations along the beach. They would run to the end of the beach, jump in the water and swim back parallel to the beach, then they would jump on a paddle board (kneeling), paddle around the cliff to the next cove, drop off their paddle board and begin running again.

I was tired just watching them. All of the guys and gals were in great shape, tanned, and working hard. They seemed to enjoy the workout even though I knew their muscles were suffering.

I imagine they did this workout (or a similar variation) 2-3 times per week and mixed in strength training on the beach. The workout below combines endurance and strength training to help create “lean strength” perfect for the lifeguard look.

Related: Beach Lifeguard Responsibilities and Equipment

Lifeguard Physical Training

Exercises for Endurance

Component #1 – Swimming

If you want to train like a lifeguard, swimming must be part of the workout. For weak swimmers visit the local YMCA and practice your stroke to become more comfortable in the water.

If you’ve ever watched swimmers or water polo players in the Olympics, you’ll notice their long, lean muscles. Swimming is great for so many reasons – it actually stretches while strengthening muscles.

It’s also a total body workout so you’re arms, core, and legs muscles will all be engaged.

San Diego universities take their competitive swimmers to the beach and have them swim up to a mile, parallel to the beach. In order to do this, you must get past the break where ocean water is calmer.

The rough ocean water makes your body work extra hard against waves and currents.

If you try this ocean lifeguard workout, make sure you are familiar with the beach current – it’s also wise to notify a lifeguard what you are doing. If an open-water swim sounds too difficult, try a 1 mile swim in the pool (you’ll be tired). There’s a swim test to be a lifeguard.

Workout recommendation: 1 mile swim 3x per week

Component #2 – Paddle Boarding beach lifeguard workout

Compared to swimming, paddle boarding is more fun and, if you’re good, you won’t get as wet. I usually see lifeguards paddling on their board in a kneeling position and using their hands. This is an essential exercise for lifesaving purposes.

Unless you are training to be a lifeguard, it’s fine to stand on the paddle board and use an oar. It will take some getting use to if you’ve never been on a paddle board before. Just trying to balance is a good workout and you’ll use muscles you didn’t know you had.

Using long, deep strokes you’ll propel yourself forward while keeping your balance.   This is a great exercise for the beach and I always see people out past the wave break who are paddle boarding for their morning workout.

Paddle boarding will develop your core (abs, obliques, erector spinae, serratus) as well as your arms and back (latissimus dorsi).

Workout recommendation: 1 mile or 30-40 minutes 3x per week

Related: Best Stand Up and Rigid Paddle Board for the Beach

Component #3 – Beach Run

While components #1 and #2 force you to get in the water, a beach run requires little equipment other than shorts and a top. Long distance running is great for endurance – something every lifeguard needs. If you’re near a long beach it’s easy.

In Southern California there are 2-to-3 mile stretches of sand to run on with beautiful scenery and fresh air. You’ll find plenty of healthy inspiration on the beach and like-minded people. Better yet, you can even run barefoot (though we’d recommend sand socks).

A beach run will keep your legs toned, not bulky, and get your heart and lungs in shape. If you’re running on sunny days, you can even work on your tan.

Workout recommendation: 2-3 miles 2x per week

Related: Benefits for Beach Running Over Road Running

Exercises for Strength – Lifeguard Training Drills

Component #4 – Sand Sprints

Working out on the sand is tough! If you’ve never tried you must give it a shot. Sprints on a hard surface aren’t easy either, but running in deep sand makes you feel like….you’re not moving.

To set up sand sprints, find a high place on the beach away from the water. It should be in deeper sand. Walk 50 steps to get a measurement of approximately 50 yards. Mark it with cones, a hat, or shirt.

When you first begin sand sprints, run at about 50% max effort. We recommend 50% because many people end up pulling a muscle – the distance of your stride will need to adjust for the sand (it will be different than on a hard surface).

Running on sand will also take much more effort. You’ll feel like you’re going slow and your legs will burn!

You stride will naturally adjust to running in deeper sand and after a few weeks, increase your sprinting effort to 80, then 90, then 100%.

Workout recommendation: 10 sand sprints 2x per week

Component #5 – Medicine Ball Throws

Medicine ball throws are effective for strength and functional movement. They engage multiple muscle groups and can be done anywhere outside. Find a place on dry sand, higher on the beach.

There are many variations of medicine ball throws.  You can even make up your own. 1 variation is the overhead throw.  Squat down holding either side of the ball between your legs.

Explode upwards from the squat and throw the medicine ball in the air, behind your head. This will work the legs, core (glutes, abs, and back), as well as shoulders.   On the beach you can throw the medicine ball as high and far as possible, jog after it, and repeat.

Another variation is the side-throw. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, hold the medicine ball with hands on either side, and rest at the hip. Twist to throw the medicine ball – similar to swinging a baseball bat.

Explode through the rotation, squeezing with your core muscles and release the medicine ball. Jog after the medicine ball, pick it up, and do again. You can also do this exercise against a wall to omit the jog and chase.

Workout recommendation: 2 sets of 10 overhead throws or 10 side throws (each side) 2x per week

Related: Best Gear for a Beach Workout

Component #6 – Jump Squats

Have you ever tried jumping in sand? Similar to running in sand, it doesn’t feel good and saps your energy. It will, however, make you feel like you can jump extra high on a hard surface.

Jump squats are an easy way to gain strength and develop a “lifeguard body”. You’ll only want to do these a few times a week so your legs don’t become bulky, but if they’re added to an endurance workout they will help a lot in toning and strengthening your legs.

Jump squats are pretty straightforward. Find a level place in the sand. You’ll be jumping straight up and down so you don’t need a large area.

Lean forward and lower yourself by bending at the hips. Your chin should move relatively straight up and down in front of your knees and toes. Bend your hips/legs until your thighs are parallel with the sand and explode up. Use your arms to help propel your body up off the ground, engage your leg and core muscles.

This exercise is simple and employs many muscles to get your body off the ground. Don’t be discouraged by the lack of height you get off the ground – just explode as high as you can. Jump squats will produce explosive power and it’s a great complementary exercise to long distance endurance exercises like swimming.

Workout recommendation: 3 sets of 10 repetitions 2x per week

Example Lifeguard Workout Plan 

Sunday: 

  • Rest day

Monday:

  • Swim – 1 mile
  • Paddle Board – 1 mile or 30-40 minutes

Tuesday:

  • Beach run – 2-3 miles
  • Sand Sprints – 10
  • Medicine ball throws – 2 sets of 10 repetitions
  • Jump Squats – 3 sets of 10 repetitions

Wednesday:

  • Swim – 1 mile
  • Paddle Board – 1 mile or 30-40 minutes

Thursday:

  • Beach run – 2-3 miles
  • Sand Sprints – 10
  • Medicine ball throws – 2 sets of 10 repetitions
  • Jump Squats – 3 sets of 10 repetitions

Friday:

  • Swim – 1 mile
  • Paddle Board – 1 mile or 30-40 minutes

Saturday:

  • Rest day

Conclusion

If you’re looking to get into summer shape and want to train the way a beach lifeguard trains, then this is a great way to start. Beach lifeguards use a combination of endurance and strength training to ensure they can overcome strong currents and waves to save lives.

Their beach bodies come as a result months, even years of training.

Beach lifeguards train to save lives. Our recommendations will not be the same workouts that all lifeguards do. Lifeguards will have their own variation of how to train and most workouts will be much more thorough and intense than what we’ve outlined.

In addition, they’ll have additional training on Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation as well as first aid. To do so, they invest many hours to prepare for their job.

The United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) has specific expectations and qualifications to become a lifeguard. Even their junior lifeguard program requires qualifications for open water swimming and ability.

We hope you enjoyed this article on the beach lifeguard workout. Once you begin working out like a lifeguard, we think you’ll have a greater appreciation for what they do. Get outside, visit the beach, and get healthy. The beach is the best place to train!