Cross-training exercises are a great way to see results from your workouts again. What follows is a cross-training workout that you can do barefoot.
One of the best ways to strengthen your feet is to do strength training exercises without shoes – as long as you decrease your risk of injury by using common sense.
Cross-training is a style of exercise that means to train your body in different ways than what it’s used to.
Done properly, cross-training will help develop your upper body and give you a strong core – while also making you a better runner. The trick is to engage in different activities that elevate your heart rate – including resistance training and aerobic exercises.
Ideas for a Highly Effective – and Super Fun – Barefoot Workout
There are hundreds of muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the human foot. These “primate muscles” are there for a reason. Nature intended them to be supple and strong – to help us run, jump, climb, and balance.
Shoes are overrated.
It can be beneficial to sometimes move around outdoors without shoes:
- Our feet are designed to ground us and provide us with a base of postural support.
- Being barefoot in the sand gives us direct physical contact with a vast supply of electrons on the Earth’s surface.
- Direct access to these electrons helps create a helpful internal bioelectrical environment for the healthy functioning of our body’s systems – including immunity and anti-inflammatory responses.
Within this article is a video that shows examples of the types of exercises you can do during a barefoot workout.
Cautions for a Barefoot Workout
Shoes help protect the feet from glass and extreme weather – and create cushioning from modern asphalt.
However, shoes can also weaken and cramp the feet which, in turn, impacts the health of the rest of the body.
Keep in mind that if you’re not in the habit of being barefoot, it’s wise to proceed with caution.
You may not think that your athletic sneaker shoes have a high sole, but they probably do – and this can weaken foot muscles and shorten your Achilles.
If you’re used to working out in standard trainers with an elevated heel, or if you have weak arches or weak ankles, then instead of doing a barefoot workout you might instead want to simply switch to an athletic shoe that has a lower heel.
Take it easy the first few times you do a barefoot workout. You want your feet to gradually acclimate (you don’t want to injure an Achilles or roll an ankle).
Doing a Barefoot Workout Outdoors
Instead of being strapped into a gym machine that forces its range of motion upon you, outdoor functional training develops your coordination, flexibility, agility, posture, and speed.
Shoes that Are Almost Like Being Barefoot
Sometimes I wear shoes when exercising outdoors, but I usually choose shoes that are “low rise,” meaning they do not have an elevated heel. These shoes mimic what it’s like to be barefoot, except they offer the added protection from scrapes, stubs, and cuts. Currently, two of my favorite brands are:
- Vibrams Five-Fingers
For those who are too shy to wear Vibrams (they are a bit odd-looking with their separate toes, though they feel amazing to wear), I recommend Altra as they have low-rise models that are attractive and more conventional in appearance.
How to Do Cross-Training Exercises Barefoot
The following cross-training exercises will engage multiple muscle groups in each drill – using your own body weight and strengthening your body to perform better movements (that can be adapted into the real world).
The idea is to feel fantastic after your workout. So, if you’re outdoors, wear sunscreen (including in your ears and on your scalp). You might need sunglasses, too (especially if you have light-colored eyes). Check the weather report before you go – to see if it will be windy – and if it’s in the summer you might want to avoid going between 11:00 am and 3:30 pm (especially if you’re working out at the beach as I do in the video – the sand can get quite hot. Bring water with you.
These cross-training exercises are for both women and men and can be modified to accommodate any fitness level.
As always, I encourage you to use common sense. If you feel a sharp pain in your joints, stop. If you feel profoundly dizzy, stop. Consult with your medical doctor before trying this workout (or before making any significant changes to your exercise habits).
You have a choice of how you do these particular drills.
- Beginners can do their training in the traditional strength-training way – 3 sets of each exercise with a 2-minute rest in between.
- Intermediate and advanced-level athletes can instead do a circuit training variation, in which you do 3 or 4 exercises back-to-back with no rest period, and then take a 3-minute break before repeating. (Each circuit is repeated 3 times, before moving on to an entirely new circuit.)
If fat loss is a priority, it’s a good idea to use the timer on your phone to make sure your rest periods don’t run too long. This will keep your heart rate from plummeting and help you remain in a fat-burning zone. (It’s human nature to think your rest periods are shorter than they actually end up being, so a timer can prove very helpful).
You don’t need the equipment I use in the video. Hurdles, cones, and a speed ladder are fun to have, but they’re completely optional and the exercises can be done easily without them.
Beach Warm-Up Circuit:
- Side-to-Side Jump with Oppositional Toe-Touch
- Barefoot Sand Mountain Climber
- Beach Toddler Jump
TIP: you’ll notice that when I’m supporting the weight of my body on my hands, sometimes I use flat palms and sometimes fists. This is a personal preference. Do whichever feels comfortable. The trick to keeping your wrists healthy is to never dump all your body weight into your hands. Instead, you use the power of your core and glute muscles to help lift the weight up toward the sky and off of your wrists.
Second Cross-Training Exercises Circuit:
- Beach Frog Jump
- Barefoot Sand Side Hurdle
- Knees-Up Run
TIP: when jumping, resist the temptation to dump all of your body weight into your knees and feet. Instead, imagine being light on your feet and direct the energy of your body upward away from your knees. The more you engage your abdominals and glutes, the less weight your knees and lower back will have to absorb.
Third Cross-Training Exercises Circuit:
- Barefoot Sand Hopscotch (2 forward, 1 back)
- Beach Bunny Hop
TIP: there are all sorts of circuit-training drills and sprints you can do at the beach while barefoot in the sand. It’s fun to invent your own exercises, and you’ll be surprised what you can think of – all you need is a little patience, creativity, and initiative.
- Barefoot Banded Side Shuffle
- Sand Sprint
- Zig-Zag Beach Cone Drill
TIP: if you have a workout buddy who can hold onto some sort of looped light-resistance band (around your lower waist) while you side shuffle, it makes the drill more challenging. However, it can be done without a band, too.
Be mindful of your alignment when doing sprints or drills:
- Keep your head up.
- Shoulders relaxed down and back.
- Chest floating forward and up.
- Pelvis centered (this happens when your lower abdominals and glutes stay slightly activated).
- The ball of your foot should land before your heel.
A drill teaches you how to distribute your body weight and engage your muscles in specific situations.
The big benefit of cross-training exercises is that they tend to burn a higher number of calories than most other exercises. They also teach you to work anaerobically for short bursts and – as an added bonus – they improve your performance in other sports.
Most people know somebody who has broken their ankle simply by stepping off a small curb. This is exactly the kind of injury that barefoot sand workouts at the beach are designed to help prevent. By gradually improving the mobility and strength of the ligaments, tendons, and muscles in your feet, you are helping to better prepare yourself for typical movements that occur in your real everyday life.
Burn Calories with These Interval Training Moves
Try this training routine for weight loss and improved muscle strength. It’s a barefoot workout that uses higher-intensity interval cross-training exercises to burn calories from fat cells while adding sculpted muscle tone to your body – all while strengthening your heart and lungs.
Being barefoot can help you become healthier – and a barefoot workout has unique advantages.
In particular, doing speed drills without shoes (such as in beach sand, on a lawn, or even on your living room carpet) can help strengthen your core muscles, legs, and feet.
Additional Sources on Cross-Training Exercises and Moving Barefoot in Beach Sand:
Earthing: the Science Behind Grounding – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3265077/
Benefits of Barefoot Running and Walking – https://www.movnat.com/10-human-movements-that-are-going-extinct/
How We Know Humans Are Primates – https://humanorigins.si.edu/education/how-do-we-know/how-do-we-know-humans-are-primates