2021’s Best Cities for Street Workouts (Calisthenics)

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Strong woman is doing exercises and calisthenics

You don’t need a gym — or your own equipment — to tone up that pandemic body. With street workouts, the world is your gym.

Street workouts, or “freestyle calisthenics,” are mainly done outdoors: at a playground, on a park bench, or with a street lamp or even a tree. The exercises rely on your own body weight for resistance. (Think yoga, gymnastics, martial arts, parkour, and pole dancing — all rolled into one fitness routine.) The best part? It’s all free. 

Not every city is in the best shape for this type of fitness routine, though.

That’s why Lawn Love did the heavy lifting of finding the Best Cities for Street Workouts. We compared over 130 of the biggest U.S. cities based on access to playgrounds, ratings of street-workout parks, variety of available equipment, and eight other metrics.

Check out our ranking below, followed by some highlights, lowlights, and expert insights from street-workout experts.

When you finish reading, start warming up — soon, you’ll be doing human flags just like Zac Efron. 

In this article

  1. City rankings
  2. Results in depth
  3. Expert take
  4. Methodology

City rankings

See how each city fared in our ranking:

infographic showing the best and worst cities for street workouts
Note: A total of 134 cities were ranked for each metric. However, the lowest-ranking position for some metrics may not be 134 due to a significant number of ties and/or lack of data for certain cities.

Results in depth

Pumped-Up Providence

Your brain isn’t the only muscle you can strengthen in Providence, Rhode Island. This major college town topped our ranking of the Best Cities for Street Workouts, and that might be partly due to influence: The Creative Capital is only 4.5 hours away by car from New York City, the birthplace of street workouts (in America).

What pulled Providence up to the top? The city finished sixth in Access (to street workout parks and playgrounds and equipment variety). 

More impressive is the quality of these facilities: Providence ranked No. 2 overall in this category, with one of the highest walk scores (No. 6) and calisthenics fanatics who rated the city’s street workout parks an average of 3.6 out of 4 stars (the fourth highest among the cities in our ranking).

Weighing Providence down is the city’s middling, wet-and-cold winter climate (No. 76). But many street workout warriors are like postal carriers — they aren’t deterred by rain or snow.

Pro Tip: Check out Brown Street Park & Playground, a popular, highly-rated spot among the Providence street workout community because of the park’s wide range of available calisthenics equipment, such as pull-up bars, monkey bars, and even gymnastics rings. 

Big Cities = Big Muscles

The U.S. street workout movement first took hold in New York City (No. 5 overall) over a decade ago, but it quickly spread to other big cities that cultivated a rep as popular hubs for the sport. Unsurprisingly, these cities all made the top 15, namely Chicago (No. 9), Miami (No. 11), and Washington, D.C. (No. 14).

Other large metros that could grow into the next street workout capitals: Las Vegas (No. 2), San Francisco (No. 3), Honolulu (No. 8), and Seattle (No. 18). 

There’s no discernible pattern among these cities, though — each has its own strengths. Sin City, for instance, claimed the No. 1 spot for Access but ranked No. 49 for Quality and No. 77 for Climate. The Big Pineapple, on the other hand, ranked 30th for Access, 12th for Quality, and first for Climate. Then there are cities like San Francisco that performed well across the board: 15-4-5, respectively. 

Regardless of how they ranked in each category, big cities — especially the street workout pioneers — clearly have a leg up on the competition.

Pro Tip: Aiming to muscle your way up to star status in the street workout world — like Melanie Driessen, Frank Medrano, and Eduard Checo? You’ll want to get to know the community so you can learn from the best. 

Start by finding a local group in your city, like the Walnut Creek Calisthenics Meetup Group in the Bay Area. If you’ve been at it for a while, then you probably know some of the more globally recognized groups like Bartendaz in the Big Apple and Barstarzz — the largest international community — founded by Checo.

A Low Bar in California and Arizona

California cities Bakersfield (No. 134) and Santa Clarita (No. 133) occupy the last two spots in our ranking, while Fontana ranked sixth-worst overall. These results seem ironic when you consider the fact that these cities all surround Los Angeles (No. 40), one of the trailblazing U.S. cities in the modern street workout movement. 

But these LA suburbs aren’t the only strong contenders for the “Worst Cities for Street Workouts” title. Some of Arizona’s biggest cities are down there, too. In fact, four of the seven Grand Canyon State cities in our ranking all landed in the bottom 10, including Chandler at No. 127, Scottsdale at No. 128, Glendale at No. 131, followed by Phoenix in 132nd place.

If you find yourself in one of these weak links, you’re better off parkouring your way to the nearest best city for street workouts — or getting a gym membership.

Pro Tip: You can find street workout parks and playgrounds even in the lowest-ranking cities on our list. But if you want training from an experienced pro, you might have to make a trek to the big city. A quick Google search for “calisthenics trainer” in LA suburbs, for example, yields zero results, while options (like Street Workout Academy) are far more abundant in the more populated parts of town.

Expert take

Freestyle calisthenics is touted by its biggest fans as one of the most accessible and inclusive fitness programs: Anyone can do it. But starting any type of new workout routine can be daunting.

To help you master the basics, we reached out to a panel of experts for their best beginner tips and insights. See what they had to say below.

  1. What are the five biggest benefits of street workouts/calisthenics?
  2. Why are street workouts better than traditional gym/weightlifting workouts now?
  3. What are your top three tips for street workout/calisthenics beginners?
  4. Personal trainers who specialize in calisthenics can be challenging to find. What’s the best way to find one?
  5. Besides park playgrounds, where are some of the best places to do street workouts?
  6. Street workouts can be solo, with a friend, or with a small group. Is it safe to work out with your buds or family with COVID still raging?
Kristin A. Scrabis-Fletcher, PhD
Associate Professor, Physical Education Program Coordinator
Sara Campbell
Associate Professor, Graduate Program Director
Dr. Jacob Earp CSCS, USAW
Professor of Kinesiology
Maureen Chiodini MPH, M.Ed.
Instructor , Exercise Science
Rosie Lanphere, PhD, CSCS
Associate Professor of Exercise Science
Kristin A. Scrabis-Fletcher, PhD
Associate Professor, Physical Education Program Coordinator
Montclair State University, Department of Exercise Science and Physical Education

What are the five biggest benefits of street workouts/calisthenics?

  1. They can be done anywhere
  2. Equipment is minimal, so they are inexpensive to do
  3. You can go at your own pace
  4. They can be done with the whole family whether your pushing a baby in a stroller, following a toddler on a trike, a child on a scooter, a tween on a bike or with your 4-legged buddy. Sometimes it’s hard for working parents to balance self-care / exercise time and family time. By coupling them together you get the best of both!
  5. They are replicating actual daily environments which helps with day to day living and moving safely.

Why are street workouts better than traditional gym/weightlifting workouts now?

  • Fresh air, nature
  • Reconnecting with the beauty around us
  • Can be very social

What are your top three tips for street workout/calisthenics beginners?

  • Bench/curb step-ups
  • Stair running at parks
  • Tempo runs using landmarks as the place to change pace, along with dips and crunches on park benches

Personal trainers who specialize in calisthenics can be challenging to find. What’s the best way to find one?

Checking with those who are ACSM certified and have credentials. These should be available on the ACSM site. Also, social media has many great sites for connecting

Besides park playgrounds, where are some of the best places to do street workouts?

  • Local high schools football stadiums
  • Fitness trails
  • Other (hiking) trails
  • The beach
  • Riverwalks

Street workouts can be solo, with a friend, or with a small group. Is it safe to work out with your buds or family with COVID still raging?

You can easily do a street workout and stay socially distant, you just need to be mindful of your spacing and personal bubble.

Sara Campbell
Associate Professor, Graduate Program Director
Kinesiology and Applied Physiology, Rutgers, New Jersey Medical School

What are the five biggest benefits of street workouts/calisthenics?

  1. Scenery. A lot of these workouts are done outside, near parks or other scenic locations. Nature has become a highly studied area for aiding in mental health. My cousin (a PhD) wrote a book on ecotherapy that highlights the importance of being outside.
  2. Change of scenery, being in a different location makes things seem exciting and new, which may facilitate adherence to a program.
  3. Improvements in muscular endurance and energy expenditure since many of these workouts highlight time under tension, e.g. multiple lunges, push-ups, sit ups, and circuit type exercise
  4. Body weight exercises are important to overall fitness and may increase body awareness.
  5. Some street workouts include flexibility components which may help with stability.

Why are street workouts better than traditional gym/weightlifting workouts now?

That is a tough argument to make considering the biggest issue with working out is getting people to work out. If street workouts are more appealing to someone, they are more likely to do it.

Another important factor is that often people feel uncomfortable in a gym environment, so street workouts may provide an alternate and more personal approach to fitness. The idea is that we are all n=1 and finding what works for you is what will help you best achieve your goals.

What are your top three tips for street workout/calisthenics beginners?

  • Stay within your ability, know what you are capable and not capable of, and listen to your body–avoiding injuries is critical. If you are injured, you cannot workout.
  • Learn proper technique
  • Plan ahead what the workout will look like

Personal trainers who specialize in calisthenics can be challenging to find. What’s the best way to find one?

Use resources online and investigate gyms that may offer this as part of their overall program.

Besides park playgrounds, where are some of the best places to do street workouts?

Parks and playgrounds are the best locations as they are designed with this in mind, and the natural environment would be best suited for these workouts.

Alternate places may be hiking trails or athletic fields that have a track and additional open space.

Street workouts can be solo, with a friend, or with a small group. Is it safe to work out with your buds or family with COVID still raging?

COVID is a sticky subject, the first and foremost is to follow all guidelines that are put in place for optimal safety. Social distancing and masking are always good ideas even when vaccinated these days because of the delta variant creating a surge in cases.

Outdoor spaces make it easier to social distance and could be a safer alternative to being indoors.

Dr. Jacob Earp CSCS, USAW
Professor of Kinesiology
University of Connecticut

What are the five biggest benefits of street workouts/calisthenics?

1. Trying a new form of training is a great opportunity to get creative in your training and find new challenges to overcome. Street / calisthenic exercises aren’t limited to push-ups and lunges in place like some may think, there are thousands of exercises with countless variations that can challenge any fitness level if you’re open to exploring.

2. For those who already resistance train, adding street workouts / calisthenics can provide a novel stimulus to your body that can break through plateaus and reduce the risk of overuse injuries.

3. Many exercises in street workouts / calisthenics are outcome orientated (i.e. performing a feat, overcoming an obstacle, covering a distance, ect…), which is great for motivation and providing a sense of accomplishment.

4. Learning new exercises and moving your body through space stimulates your brain in ways other training doesn’t and can increase your self awareness and coordination.

5. With a little creativity and minimal resources, you can get the same benefits of resistance training (increased strength / power, hypertrophy, improved bone density, ect…) without the need to go to the gym.

With COVID-19 still raging across the country this means a low-risk workout space that is subject to less safety restrictions than a traditional gym.

Why are street workouts better than traditional gym/weightlifting workouts now?

It’s not necessary to go to a gym to get a challenging workout. For many street workouts / calisthenics provide a free, convenient alternative to typical gym-based resistance training workouts.

Additionally, with COVID still raging, street workouts / calisthenics provide a training alternative in an outdoor space that has lower transmission risk that is reflected by less strict masking requirements than your local gym.

What are your top three tips for street workout/calisthenics beginners?

1. Use the techniques you’ve learned in the gym when training outside. For instance, whether you’re in a gym or not when doing lower body exercises you should still focus on keeping your knees, feet and hips in line and keep a tight core.

2. The best training is always the training that you enjoy since you’re more likely to keep with it. Make it enjoyable by finding appropriate challenges, tracking your progress over time, creating goals and being creative.

3. Be safe and smart. Check any outdoor equipment before trusting your weight to it, wear appropriate clothing / footwear, bring water and a towel, and in case of an emergency have a phone and first aid kit.

Personal trainers who specialize in calisthenics can be challenging to find. What’s the best way to find one?

The pandemic has rocked the fitness industry. Many great personal trainers have turned to freelancing or joined one of the many virtual / remote personal training platforms that have exploded over the past year (which include ones targeted for street workouts).

If you want someone local / in-person, you can reach out to a trainer you’ve worked with before or check a regional directory for certified personal trainers (e.g. https://directory.nsca.com/ or https://www.acsm.org/get-stay-certified/find-a-pro ).

Besides park playgrounds, where are some of the best places to do street workouts?

Don’t overlook your own backyard. At my house we repurposed some logs from a downed tree and for about $100 we were able to set up a bouldering wall (rock climbing holds on plywood) and a course of rings, suspended monkey bars and climbing ropes. Even if you don’t want to go that far, there’s still a lot you can do with a bench and a chair.

Street workouts can be solo, with a friend, or with a small group. Is it safe to work out with your buds or family with COVID still raging?

Of course, just follow CDC guidelines and you’ll minimize risks. At the moment (8/25/2021) there are no masking recommendations outside for vaccinated people when exercising outside together.

However, if you’re training with unvaccinated people in close contact, they do recommend wearing a mask to keep the risk minimal.

Maureen Chiodini MPH, M.Ed.
Instructor , Exercise Science
University of South Florida

What are the five biggest benefits of street workouts/calisthenics?

o They are outside

o There is no equipment requirement

o They can be great strength and cardio workouts

o They can be really fun

o They can be great for all ages, stages and abilities

Why are street workouts better than traditional gym/weightlifting workouts now?

o They may not be “Better”, but they can be just as good and sometimes better.

o They are outside so you can be safer.

o They can engage a more social component since you are outside and can engage the neighborhood.

o They can be so much more fun and functional.

What are your top three tips for street workout/calisthenics beginners?

o Start low and go slow!

o Delayed onset muscle soreness is REAL!

o Use gloves if you are gripping bars

o Have fun

Personal trainers who specialize in calisthenics can be challenging to find. What’s the best way to find one?

o Why do you need one? Get a personal trainer who is versatile enough to train what you want and need.

o The best way to find the good PTs is to ask the people who engage with personal trainers.

Besides park playgrounds, where are some of the best places to do street workouts?

o In the street in your neighborhood

o On your porch

Street workouts can be solo, with a friend, or with a small group. Is it safe to work out with your buds or family with COVID still raging?

Social distancing, vaccinations and mask wearing are the three things that have proven to reduce the risk of covid transmission, hospitalizations and deaths. Follow the guidelines and you should be safe.

Rosie Lanphere, PhD, CSCS
Associate Professor of Exercise Science
University of Kentucky, Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion, College of Education

What are the five biggest benefits of street workouts/calisthenics?

1) No equipment necessary. Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of street workouts or calisthenics is the need for little-to-no equipment. Due to the shortage of home gym equipment during COVID19, many people took to the streets for their daily exercise as gyms and community areas were closed.

2) It’s free. Calisthenics, or body weight exercises, specifically can be done in the comfort of your own home and don’t require an expensive gym subscription

3) Anyone can learn to do it. With a few searches on the internet, anyone can find descriptions and examples of exercises that can be done within the comfort of their own COVID bubble.

4) The intensity is up to you. Another great benefit of street and calisthenic workouts is that the intensity is up to you. As with beginning any new workout program the phrase “start low and go slow” should be adhered to until adaptations of the nervous system and muscular systems occur. You can expect an initial amount of soreness and drop in performance, however, listen to your body as exercise is a stressor that can result in injury if you do too much, too soon.

Progressive overload is another important principle to adhere to as adaptations occur. Progressive overload is the gradual increase in repetitions, sets, weight, intensity, rest periods, or time that is required for continual adaptation. If you can successfully complete more repetitions during your workout then planned, for two consecutive workouts, then consider changing a component of your workout to avoid a plateau in results. This is a modification of the National Strength and Conditioning Associations 2-for-2 rule.

Scientifically proven high intensity workouts like Tabata and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) can also be modified for home workouts and to kick up the intensity when you are ready.

5) Exercise improves mental health. For many people, the isolation and uncertainties during the COVID19 pandemic resulted in rising mental health illnesses and challenges. The National Institute of Mental Health reported that in 2019 the prevalence of any mental illness in the U.S. was 24.5% in females, and 16.3% in males, with a higher incidence in young adults (18-25 yrs, 29.5%) and mixed-race individuals (31.7%).

Luckily, studies on exercises’ ability to improve mental health have shown that all types of exercise were associated with lower mental health burdens.

Other takeaways from these studies reveal that vigorous exercise is associated with more favorable outcomes than light and moderate intensities; exercise 3-5 times a week was the optimal frequency for lower mental health burdens; and durations of exercise bouts between 30 min and 60 min were shown to be the most effective.

Street workouts can be solo, with a friend, or with a small group. Is it safe to work out with your buds or family with COVID still raging?

A study by Chekroud and colleagues (2018) revealed that group exercise and team sports had the lowest mental health burden when compared to other types of exercises. To put it another way, working out with others is great for your mental health.

In uncertain times like these, it may not be possible to participate in large group exercise activities, however, working out with a buddy can be a safe way to socialize and exercise as long as you stay 6 feet apart and exercise outside.

Methodology

We ranked 134 of the biggest U.S. cities from best (No. 1) to worst (No. 134) based on their overall scores (out of 100 possible points), averaged across all the weighted metrics listed below. 

We collected data for Playgrounds per 100,000 Residents from two sources, TripAdvisor and Yelp. We used the higher number from either of the two sources to ensure the most accurate playground count in each city.

Access

  • Street Workout Parks per 100,000 Residents (Weight: 3)
  • Playgrounds per 100,000 Residents (Weight: 3)
  • Variety of Equipment (Weight: 2)
  • Average Yard Square Footage (Weight: 1)

Quality

  • Average Rating for Street Workout Parks (Weight: 3)
  • Walk Score (Weight: 2)

Climate

  • Average Monthly Rainfall (in Inches) (Weight: 0.5)
  • Average Amount of Sunshine (Weight: 0.5)
  • Number of Very Hot Days (Weight: 0.5)
  • Number of Very Cold Days (Weight: 0.5)
  • Air Quality (Weight: 2)

Sources: Calisthenics Parks, National Centers for Environmental Information, Street Workout List, TripAdvisor, Walk Score, and Yelp

Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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