11. JUNGLE GYM! What are the health benefits of Work as a Workout?

23 Nov

Jungle Gym Community Work in Hawaii!

Included in your stay at Hedonisia is a 'membership' to our Jungle Gym! Landscaping in a Hawaiian jungle is a dynamic, full-body, exercise. We use a variety of tasks and tools to turn this wild jungle into our garden and home. Our work shifts tend to be similar to “cardio and sculpt” or “sculpt and tone” fitness classes you would find in a regular gym. Toning up those arm muscles and working to tighten that booty in the morning allows our Jungle Queens to show off their jungle bod at the beach later in the day!

Beulah Jungle Queen Builder and Volunteer-2018
Light Building and Eco-Construction is a fun and healthy jungle activity!

You will see that keeping your core tight and standing in an athletic stance is a common theme among all exercises and work tasks. Doing so will help you work efficiently, save your body (in the short-term and long-term), and get the best possible sculpt and tone workout during your shifts.

Getting Around on our  4-acre property vies plenty of opportunity for a cardio workout! The hilly terrain; assures an increase in heart rate. And the hot and humid weather; promotes sweating.

The jungle is not flat, especially in the crater. Hawaii's climate is hot and humid -- adding a benefit similar to hot yoga. The heat increases your heart rate as the body burns more calories to regulate your body temperature. It's important to stay hydrated because you will sweat.

Upper Body

  • Machete use for path clearing. Hacking motion targets arms, back, and chest.
  • Saw used for tree removal. Pushing and pulling motion targets chest, lats, biceps, and triceps.
EcoFeminist Volunteer in the Rainforest!
EcoFeminist Volunteer in the Rainforest!

We're not just walking around though. We clear the cane grass and cut down unwanted trees with machetes.

Our arms, back, and chest work hard to hack through the jungle. Often, once a tree is down, we saw it into smaller pieces. And then we carry and move the logs to make a trail border, for our compost or to use them for construction.

All the various carrying jobs are a great upper body workout!

Carrying buckets of soil, cinder

  • Bucket carry (farmers carry) from mud harvesting. Emphasizes grip, upper body, lower body, and core strength.

From working in the crater to finding fresh soil that wild pigs have dug up the previous evening, we harvest a lot of fresh, fertile soil. Carrying buckets of fresh soil mirrors exercises, such as the farmer’s carry, farmer’s hold, or a dumbbell static hold targeting the biceps. This helps in building strength and tone in your whole arm – from your finger grip strength to your forearms, to your biceps, to your shoulders. Farmer’s carry and farmer’s hold also target your back muscles, or your latissimus dorsi, also known as “lats.”

These muscles are targeted only if carrying buckets is done ergonomically. So carrying one bucket by its handle on each arm while keeping your core muscles tight will allow you to stay upright and save you from hurting your lower back.

Carrying lava rocks

  • Lava rock lifting. Proper squatting lift targets lower body, and core. Biceps targeted when lifting rocks to the body.

Big volcanic rocks are spread out on the property. They mark our trails and help contain all of the green foliage we have at Hedonisia. Carrying rocks efficiently will also be similar to a dumbbell static hold. Holding the rock from place to place will target your shoulders, biceps, triceps, and forearms to get those queen arms toned and looking fierce!

To perform this task efficiently and without hurting yourself, be sure to lift with your legs when first picking up the rock, or any load around the property. By doing so, you work on your glutes, hamstrings, and quads as if performing a squat. Do not lift with your back as this can create problems for any jungle queen of any age.

Trail work, prep

  • Clearing paths with a pickaxe and rake. Scraping motion targets core and complete upper-body.

As you walk around the property you’ll see many stepping stones leading to important landmarks, such as The Smoking Temple and the Eco-Toilet and shower we have. Building this network of trails requires the use of a pickaxe, a rake, and the carrying of heavy stepping stones from one place to another. As stated before, the pickaxe will target your shoulders. The raking required in some of this trail work will do the same. To target the other muscles in the top half of your arm, you will also carry heavy stones. The holding of these stones will target your biceps and triceps.

As always, use your strong squat stance when standing up, rather than bending over and risk hurting your back. Never dig with your pickaxe; rather, scrape with your pickaxe so as to not create more work for yourself. Get in that legwork whenever and wherever you can!

Pickaxe work

Using the pickaxe will require heavy use of your deltoids or shoulder muscles. Working this muscle will allow the top muscles of your arms to take shape and become more defined. The motion in pickaxe work is similar to the motion of performing a shrug with weights.

However, be sure not to swing the pickaxe over your head. This is for safety purposes, as well as efficiency purposes. This will allow the pickaxe exercise to mimic a better bicep curl and allow you to get more repetitions in (with lighter weight), which is how muscles become more toned. Use your squat stance to target your lower body and be more stable and productive, as well.

Machete jungle clearing

Anju was a great Fair-Trade Volunteer from Japan
Anju - Fair-Trade Volunteer 2013

Using the machete to clear out the jungle is similar to using the pickaxe in terms of the muscles being used. More of a squat will be required to chop down some trees closer to the ground.

When clearing trees higher up, more of your back will get a  workout, similar to a lat pull machine at the gym.

Depending on the angle you need to approach a tree, you will have to either use a squat or a lunge.

No matter what, remember to have a strong, straight back. To check yourself, simply remember the two B’s -- booty and back!

Weeding, kama weeding

  • Weeding with the Kama. Pulling motion targets back, triceps, and biceps. Extension motion targets shoulders and lats.
Working with the Kama Tool
Working with the Kama Tool

If you have ever seen a cable machine at the gym, you’ll see a lot of different arm exercises going. One exercise that uses both cables is the alternating cable row. You stand in a lunge and pull one cable while pushing the other. There is an abundance of weeding to be done on the property, which means an abundance of cable machines around the property to work those arms.

Shoulders, biceps, and triceps are targeted. To get a great work done while getting work done quickly and efficiently, you will want to use one hand to pull away the weeds, and the other hand to cut the roots with the kama. Quick cuts and pulls will allow for more repetitions will lead to more toning!

Scrubbing shower, bathroom

  • Shower and bathroom cleaning with push broom; scrubbing motion targets back and upper body. Pushing motion can target glutes if done properly.

Scrubbing the shower and bathroom is a full body workout. You work your whole upper body from forearms to biceps, triceps, shoulders, and back. You also work out your lower body to really get some good scrubbing in.

Your power comes from your legs, Jungle Queen! So use that power to really get into scrubbing the floor. The more power you use, the more power you work those legs with!

Saw work – tree felling

Your legs are your strong trunk and roots that allow you to attack any work task you can be assigned. Saw work when tree felling is especially one of those tasks. This is an amazing arm and cardio workout. To perform this task efficiently, grab the saw with both hands -- one on the handle, and one on the top of the other one -- then saw like nobody’s business! Keep your core tight so you make more progress cutting the tree in less time. Think of it as a HIIT workout or High-Intensity Interval Training. The bonus of integrating this into your workday is the afterburn that comes from HIIT training. Not only will you target fat cells in your body while working, but you will be burning fat into the next day.

Shoveling cinder and soil

Similar to scrubbing the shower or using the rake, you are going to want to use a strong stance and keep your back straight. Do not hunch over to shovel the cinder. This will increase efficiency and productivity.

Lower Body

Hiking around the property, squatting while weeding, and working in the garden is a great way to build leg and core strength. People tend to bend over by folding at the hips and curving their back. Working like this does not build strength. This inefficient way of working can also cause lower back pain and a hunching body structure over time. But, if you embrace the squat, bend at the knees and keep your back vertical, you will build stabilizing strength in your back, hips, and legs.

Rolling logs

Jungle Gym Log Rolling Workout!
Jungle Gym Log Rolling Workout!

From keeping pigs out of the garden to marking trails, to places to sit, logs serve many a purpose around the property. Because of this, many are used and moved often. Depending on the heaviness of the log, it can be pushed, flipped, and even pulled. When having to roll the log, we use our chest (pectoral muscles) as well as biceps and triceps. Like we mentioned before, your power comes from your legs. You may have to be in a lunge to push the log forward along with your fellow Hedonisians.

Sometimes a log gets stuck in a difficult area to which it can’t be pushed out of. In this case, we flip it until we are able to push it to its final destination. If you have ever seen the “pig” being flipped in CrossFit competitions, that is exactly what we are doing here. This is a full body workout, which is great! Calves, hamstrings, quads, and hips help us explode up to flip the log or to push forward with the log. Then our triceps, biceps, back, and chest help push it forward or pull it behind you. From a deadlift to a curl, then up over our heads, you learn to get very close to your workmates in this work task. It can also be seen as a sled push or pull depending on the motion.

As always, ergonomically, you’re going to want to use your legs. Keeping a straight back is of the utmost importance in this because of how heavy the logs can be. Throwing out your back is possible in this work task, so never bend over! Teamwork makes the Hedonisia dream work, so communicate with your team when performing this task.

Crater work – slopes and legwork

The Stairmaster is a love-hate relationship at the gym. Cardio can always feel like it drags on. However, when you have a beautiful crater and jungle around you, you may not mind. We are currently working to build Moon Garden down in our crater, which makes for a lot of traveling up and down the crater. Body work definitely becomes booty work when working in the crater. Calves, hamstrings, quads, and glutes will be on fire. But it will pay off, we promise!

To decrease the load on your lower body and lessen your risk of injury, strike with the balls of your feet first, rather than your heels. Flex your toes upward, rather than down to save your shins from any shin splints that may occur. If you are not carrying anything, incorporate your arms to help you power up and keep up momentum. It also incorporates them and gives them a little workout as well.


2017 Intern Katie on Wheel Barrow Body Work!
Intern Katie on Wheel Barrow body Work

The key with the wheelbarrow is to begin the lift with your legs, like performing a deadlift. This will incorporate your glutes, quads, hamstrings, hips. Your abductors and adductors (the inside and outside of your thighs) also get a workout in this while you are steering the wheelbarrow. While moving with the wheelbarrow, you are mimicking a walking dumbbell hold that you would be performing in a regular gym.

Keep your core tight when moving with the wheelbarrow. In this way, you will also keep the wheelbarrow from leaning one way or another. Use those strong forearms to also keep the wheelbarrow stable.

The great benefit to our Jungle Gym is that it is functional training. Functional training is the act of working muscles that you use often in your daily life, rather than just to build muscle for aesthetic purposes. Additionally, in our barn, we have resistance bands, TRX bands, and places to work on pull-ups, yoga, core and body-weight exercises. Although our Jungle Gym may be enough, you can always use this space and this equipment to tone up those muscles even more to see better physical results, as well as work productivity results.

Working in the Hawaiian jungle is not easy. It is muddy, sweaty, and strenuous. And worth the effort. It builds camaraderie with your fellow volunteers. It is immensely satisfying to contribute to creating this beautiful garden community. Jungle work connects you with the landscape and cultivates an active outdoor lifestyle. And, of course, it is a great way to burn off fat storage and build that jungle queen bod!