How to Get a Workout in at Milwaukee’s Many Calisthenics Parks

Trade in your gym membership for a day in the park with these tips from a local fitness coach.

Playgrounds aren’t just for kids. This summer, venture to one of Milwaukee County’s many calisthenics parks – outdoor spaces outfitted with exercise equipment – for some fresh air and a free workout.

“Adding strength training to a workout plays a great role in challenging your muscles and building endurance, because you’re pushing yourself outside your normal exertion,” says, Ryan Mleziva, owner of Brew Fitness Milwaukee. Not exactly sure what’s what? Here’s how to get a great workout at a calisthenics park. 



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Pull-up bars 

You can use any playground bar for pull-ups, but most calisthenics parks have dedicated bars for working your arms, shoulders, back and core. If you’re new to pull-ups, Mleziva suggests creating momentum by jumping. Jump up, grab the bar, and then pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. “While you’re hanging, do a leg raise or knee tuck to work your core,” he says.

Step-up stations

Use step-up station, bench or playground equipment that is about knee height to work your legs and buttock muscles. Slowly step up and down one leg at a time, loading all your weight into your leg. Try not to push off your lower foot.


If you bring a resistance band, any park with a post – or even a tree – is an ideal spot for bicep curls, chest press or rows. Hook the band around and use the post as if it were a cable machine, suggests Mleziva.

Use a resistance band with a tree or post to do bicep curls, chest press or rows; Photo by Aliza Baran

Incline benches

Many park workout areas have incline benches for core workouts and pushups. Stand in front of the bench and squat down with your hands on the bench, shoulder-width apart. This inclined position strengthens your chest and core without straining your shoulders or wrists. If the park doesn’t have an incline bench but does have a low bar, try pushups on it. 

Parallel bars 

Parallel bars offer a great way to strengthen your upper body and arms with dips. Standing between the bars, hold them and straighten your arms as you jump up. Then, using your core strength, lower and lift your body.


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s August issue.

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