Written by Tasia Crawford, NASM certified personal trainer


After giving birth, it can be hard to find time to lose those last few pregnancy pounds and get back into shape, and sometimes it’s even harder to keep the scale from continuing to creep up as we juggle work, caring for our kids, and running a household. Believing that a lot of fancy equipment or time is necessary to achieve a great workout needlessly holds back many of us from ever getting started. Returning to our old Pilates classes or finding dedicated time for the treadmill may be a thing of the past for now, but great results are within reach with nearly no equipment at all—thanks to fast-paced, explosive movements paired with bodyweight resistance training.

Follow this simple, effective series of exercises to tone and strengthen your muscles and launch your metabolism back into fat-burning mode. Do this playground workout at least three times a week and you’ll see results within six weeks.

Perform the eight exercises below for one minute each (except where noted), moving as quickly as possible without compromising your form. Don’t rest between exercises—just set up and go. The whole set should take ten minutes, and if that’s all the time you’ve got, great, you’re done! If you have another ten minutes that day, do it again, even if it’s hours later. Do this workout every other day, up to five sets a day. The only pieces of equipment you’ll need are a pull-up bar, an inverted-U bike rack, or a swing from which to do pull-ups (skip it if you can’t find one), and some kind of weight (~10 lbs.) for the Squat-and-Twist (sometimes I use the baby), though feel free to add weight to any of the exercises!

1. Plank Knee-to-Elbow


Begin at the top of a push-up, on your palms and toes. Brace your stomach (this is different than sucking it in; imagine tightening as though you were about to take a punch in the gut), pull your shoulders back away from your ears, and drop your hips so your body is in a straight line. Do a push-up, and then when you are back at the top, bring your left knee up and out to tap your left elbow (you’ll have to do a side-crunch to reach). Can’t quite make it? No problem. Repeat on the right side. If you’re at the playground, you can modify this by putting your feet up on a swing and trying it (hardest), or bringing both knees in to your chest at the same time (still hard).

2. T-Lunge


Start in a low lunge, with left knee directly over or slightly behind your left ankle and your fingertips touching either side of your foot. Drop the right knee almost all the way to the ground. Straighten your left leg, keeping your back flat, and lift your right leg off the ground (if you get it high enough, you’ll be making at T with your body). Slowly bend the left knee and simultaneously return the right foot to the ground as you lower yourself to starting position. After a minute, switch sides.

3. Squat Thrust


From standing, drop into a squat and place your hands on the ground. Jump back into plank (top of a push-up) position, and then jump your feet back in and explode out of the squat, jumping into the air. Repeat. Add a push-up once you’re in plank position for extra points, and to make it extra hard, keep one foot off the ground the whole time.

4. Pull-up, Jump Hang, or Bike/Swing Row


If you’re at the park, you can perform this on monkey bars, a pull-up bar, or using a swing. You can also use a wide inverted-U shaped bicycle rack. You’ll either complete this exercise by doing pull-ups, jumping into a pull-up position and hanging for as long as you can (try to lower yourself slowly), or by hanging underneath a horizontal bar with straight legs out and heels on the ground and then rowing your body up to the bar.

5. Squat with Twist


Take a wide stance, with your toes pointed forward and your knees staying over or behind your ankles. Hold your baby (or a cat, or a kettlebell, or a sack of flour…) out in front of you. As you lower yourself into the squat, twist your entire upper body (not just your arms) to the left and tap your weight to your thigh, just above the knee. Return to center. Repeat on the right side, alternating sides each time you squat.

6. Lunge Hold with Arm Circles


Step your right foot forward into a lunge, keeping your right knee over or behind your right ankle. Drop the left knee almost to the floor. Hold. With arms extended, make circles for a minute. Switch legs and reverse directions of your circles.

7. Side-Lying Triceps Press-Up


Lie on your right side with your right hand on your left shoulder, and your left hand flat on the ground at your rib-cage, with fingers pointing toward your right armpit. Press up and extend your left arm, lifting your upper body off the ground. Lower yourself to start. After 30 seconds, switch sides.

8. Dead Bug


Lie on your back with arms overhead and legs extended and hovering two inches off the ground (if this irritates your lower back, keep them up higher), and brace your stomach (see above). Draw your left leg straight up as you crunch up and across to meet it with your right hand. Return to starting position, and repeat with right leg and left hand. Continue alternating sides.

Final Thoughts from Tasia

After my daughter’s birth last November, it immediately became evident that I needed a quick, simple, and powerful workout to get back into shape. Being stuck at home with limited time, a baby who refused to nap, and little equipment meant the workout had to be flexible and fast, and using high-intensity total-body movements (make sure your doctor has cleared you for exercise before beginning this program), I lost all of my baby-weight rapidly and safely. Now that Evie is old enough for the park, I do this workout at the playground. Remember, body composition change isn’t rocket science! The most important thing you can do is be consistent with your workouts. Keep at it, and you will absolutely reach your goals!

*All photos by Brian Crawford

How about you?

How did you shed your pregnancy pounds?