Bus Bench Vs. Park Bench Workouts

Park Bench Workout

Around the holidays, I was able to take a little extra time off before my schedule becomes extremely full. I spend a lot of time in the gym setting, and it’s nice to spend some extended time outside of it, with my family. Even though I had some time off, it doesn’t mean I stayed completely away from work related information. I purchased a few DVD’s on discount for the holidays which included information on mobility, functional training, posture, core training, conditioning, and coaching philosophy/systems. I was really impressed with a video by Dan John and Chip Conrad titled, “A Systems Approach to Coaching and Training” and “How to Create a Holistic Athlete.” The DVD was filmed at 21 Grams gym in Arcata, CA. I know I have mentioned Dan John a lot in my past posts, but frankly, he has a lot of great things to say. I wanted to type a short post about one of the concepts he mentioned in his presentation, and I have heard it before in his other presentations and books. This concept is called the bus bench and park bench workouts. I hope I can do this topic some justice, so let me try to explain it further, and with greater detail.

When we are at the bus bench, it usually means we are sticking to a rather strict schedule, and we need to be some where in particular. Let’s say for example, I needed to be in downtown Medford by 9 am for an appointment. The bus stops near my neighborhood at 8 am, and if I choose to take it, by 8:43 am I should be in the heart of Medford. There is a daily schedule that I can rely on. Now let’s say I am down at the bus stop for the 8 am bus, 7:59 rolls around and there is no bus in sight. I start to get a little concerned. Then it’s 8 am, 8:02, 8:05, and then I am starting to freak out because I might miss my appointment. If we apply this to our workouts, it’s the equivalent of following a strict workout plan, with distinct phases, sets, reps, and percentages of weights. If we are peaking for a specific athletic event, this is the most effective type of workout plan. It’s also meant to be pretty taxing and to force your body to make the necessary adaptations. Maybe you do this kind of workout program only a few times a year. An example of this would be the workout plan I put together for the SOU Volleyball summer workouts. We have a very specific time frame (9 weeks), with very specific goals (get stronger, quicker, and jump higher) leading into the start of the competitive season.

When we are sitting on the park bench, we are usually not as concerned with time and more open to the mantra of “going with the flow”. One day in the park, we may observe the local wildlife. This makes me think of a time when I took a lunch breaks in Lithia park. I was sitting on a bench, enjoying my lunch when a Hawk swooped down and tackled a smaller bird. It was an amazing display of natures ferocity. The Hawk smothered the small bird until it stopped moving, and then flew off with it in it’s claws. Now the next time I sat down there for my lunch break, I didn’t expect to see the same scenario, and I didn’t get mad when it didn’t happen. Each time, it can be a slightly different experience and I am open to that. The rest of the year, workouts can be more like the experience of spending time on the park bench. Not as strict, and open to exploring new exercises and movement. It doesn’t mean that we completely ditch a program, but we allow for more freedom and exploration in our workouts. We also don’t have to let it bother us when we get thrown off schedule. I know it sounds crazy, but maybe you leave the gym or the workout feeling better than you did before you started. That doesn’t mean you don’t put in work, its just means that you aren’t killing yourself.

I really like this bench concept created by Dan John. I have also mentioned this a number of times before, but the current trend in fitness is to push “the pedal to the metal” on almost every workout. If we drive our car 90 miles per hour every day, our car is going to wear down pretty fast. Would we expect it to be different with our bodies? There is also something to be said about leaving your car to just sit there, inactive. By the time you start it up after extended periods of inactivity, it’s probably not going to run optimally. Think about pushing the pedal to the floor a few times a year to really see what your capable of, but it’s probably best to keep the speed reasonable the rest of the time. If you like pushing your limits on a regular basis, I give you credit for working out and having the mental fortitude to push yourself so often, but you’re probably going to have to downshift at some point, whether you want to or not. If you’re inactive, just know that working out doesn’t have to be brutal. Just get out there and do the fundamental movements (push, pull, hip hinge, squat, and rotate) each day. I think you will like the way you feel. So there you have it, it’s probably best to spend time on both benches throughout the year. However, most of us will probably want to spend a majority of our time on the park bench. I wish everyone a Happy New Year and get after those goals!

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