You might be out of town for a business event or to visit your family for the first time in who knows how long. Or, you might be out on an actual vacation. Whatever your reason for being off somewhere that’s not your regular gym, it’s easy to fall into the “will I lose all my gains?” despair. But the reality is actually to the contrary: Taking time away from the barbell allows you to recover and reveal your true strength (fatigue masks fitness, after all). So your travel workout program may be a good thing for your heavy lifting, after all.
Let’s face it: your diet isn’t going to be perfect while traveling, and neither will your sleep schedule — let alone the amount of time you actually have to devote to your workout while so much else is going on. So performing short, intense training sessions while on the road will help you maintain what you’ve worked so hard to build and keep up the momentum that you need to continue moving forward with your regularly scheduled programming.
Below, we outline five workouts to try, broken up by training goal. Of course, mobility-focused workouts will have positive crossover effects on your strength training. And sessions that are geared toward making you stronger will help you build muscle. There’s a lot of overlap in these travel workout categories, but if you’re trying to reach one goal above others efficiently, read on to learn which ones to pick and which moves to emphasize.
- Travel Workout For Muscle Gain
- Travel Workout For Conditioning
- Travel Workout For Strength
- Travel Workout For Mobility
- Travel Workout For Fat Loss
To gain or maintain muscle without equipment on the road, try to minimize your rest periods and complete these sets with 45 seconds between each set and two to three minutes between each of the three circuits. You’ll alternate between lower and upper body movements to give your specific muscle groups a break while making sure your body is still working hard overall.
Three rounds of:
- Bodyweight Squat — 50 reps
- 1.5-Rep Push-Up — 15 reps
- Lateral Lunge — 25 reps (each side)
- 1.5-Rep Triceps Push-Up — 15 reps
- 1.5-Rep Split Squat — 20 reps (each side)
You’ll notice a fair amount of 1.5-reps, which are when you complete a full rep, then half a rep, and counting those combined as a single rep). One-and-a-half reps increase your time under tension and maximize the mind-muscle connection — a perfect storm for building muscle — while keeping your volume high to compensate for your lack of external loading.
You don’t need access to a sled — or even a kettlebell or jump rope (although those are great if you can travel with it) — to get a solid conditioning workout while you’re traveling. Here, you’ll want to time yourself each day you do this workout and stack your results against each other so you can track your progress. The goal is to rest only as needed.
- 10 burpees with push-up
- 20 mountain climbers (per leg)
- 9 burpees with push-up
- 18 mountain climbers (per leg)
- push-up burpees with push-up
- 16 mountain climbers (per leg)
- 7 burpees with push-up
- 14 mountain climbers (per leg)
- 6 burpees with push-up
- 12 mountain climbers (per leg)
- 5 burpees with push-up
- 10 mountain climbers (per leg)
- 4 burpees with push-up
- 8 mountain climbers (per leg)
- 3 burpees with push-up
- 6 mountain climbers (per leg)
- 2 burpees with push-up
- 4 mountain climbers (per leg)
- 1 burpee with push-up
- 2 mountain climbers (per leg)
By the end of this session, you’ll have completed 55 burpees — which will include 55 push-ups — and 110 mountain climbers per leg. If that’s not enough for you, feel free to bump it up to two rounds: just make sure you’re keeping track of your time to completion.
To stay strong on the road, you’ll want to prioritize taking full-body movements to failure — repeatedly. To accomplish this, you’ll start by performing as many quality reps of the exercise as you can in one go.
For example, if you can bang out 26 crisp diamond push-ups at once before reaching failure, do it. Then your task will be to rest as little as possible to perform 26 more diamond push-ups. For example, you might be able to hit 14 reps on your second set; then eight, and then four, which will give you 26. In total, you’ll have performed 52 reps in as little time as possible — a strength builder both physically and mentally.
With exercises that require a static hold — like bodyweight pause squats and planks — time how long you can hold each position before failing, then rest as little as possible as you try to accumulate the same number of seconds in the position (count your seconds like reps, above).
To Repeated Failure:
- Diamond Push-Up
- Bodyweight Pause Squat
- Pike Push-Up
- Side Plank (left)
- Side Plank (right)
- Wide Push-Up
While you’ll want to rest as little as possible between your sets of each exercise, rest as long as you need to between the different exercises. In other words, after completing your diamond push-ups, rest as long as you need to before getting started on your bodyweight pause squat.
Aim to increase the number of quality reps you can start with — it’ll give you something exciting to strive for and a way to track your strength and progress without weights.
Improving your mobility will improve your lifting — it’s as simple as that. For this travel mobility workout, you’ll do moves that you’re familiar with in the gym, sans the weights, and concentrate on strengthening and extending the end ranges of motion.
Four Rounds Of:
- World’s Greatest Stretch — 6 reps (each side)
- Single-Leg RDL — 10 reps (each side)
- Scapular Push-Up — 15 reps
- Frog Stretch — 15 reps
- Single-Leg Glute Bridge — 15 reps (each side)
- Back-to-Wall Shoulder Flexion — 15 reps
- Crab Reach — 10 reps (each side)
Ensure every rep is completed with intention, under extremely slow control — and don’t forget to breathe fully through each rep.
One of your goals might be body recomposition, and there are plenty of workouts you can do on the road to help you out. If you’re looking to decrease your body fat percentage, you’ll want to emphasize higher intensity moves requiring your full body to engage. Building strength while also resting relatively little and integrating intensive cardio work can help you shift your body composition toward more muscle and less body fat if that’s what you’re going for.
Three to Five Rounds:
- Clapping Push-Up — 6 reps
- Jumping Lunge — 12 reps (each side)
- Hand-Release Push-Up — 12 reps
- Jump Squat — 20 reps
- Lateral Bound — 12 reps (each side)
Aim to rest as little as possible between exercises, but rest for at least two to three minutes between rounds. That way, you’ll push yourself during the rounds, but let yourself come back with crisp form with each new round. Of course, if your form is ever slipping, rest as needed before proceeding.
If you want to measure your progress with a barometer beyond fat loss, time yourself during your workout and write it down. See if you can get faster and more efficient with your movements during your vacation.
The Best Exercises For Traveling
Especially if you tend to get bored when you can’t play with all the barbells and dumbbells in your regular gym, you’ll want to emphasize full-body, compound bodyweight movements when you’re on that business trip.
Think all manner of squats, push-ups, lunges, and dynamic movements like burpees, mountain climbers, and — if you have access to certain equipment — kettlebell swings and double-unders. When in doubt about an exercise, ask yourself if it requires your entire body to put in work and if you can execute it with perfect form to failure. If yes, then it probably passes the proverbial litmus test for travel exercising.
Using these kinds of high-energy, high-concentration compound movements, you’ll be making the most efficient use of your time, physical space, and mental energy. Remember, traveling can be emotionally and mentally exhausting, so your goal should be to maximize whatever energy you do have to get a solid workout in — even if you only dedicate 15 minutes to the cause.
Why Should You Work Out While You’re Traveling?
Let’s be real — whether you’re away for business or pleasure, traveling can be stressful. Working out while traveling is that it doesn’t need to add to your stress. You can get a high-quality workout in, even if it’s just in your childhood bedroom or hotel room, for 15 minutes with nothing but your bodyweight. So instead of adding extra planning, being intentional about working out when you’re on the road will decrease your stress levels and improve your overall mental health.
Plus, traveling is exhausting on the body, but that doesn’t often translate into resting better. On the contrary: With all those road trip coffee stops and all that jet lag, you’ll often find that your circadian rhythm is way off on your business trips. Enter working out — getting a hard workout can help improve your sleep. And the better you sleep, the better you train. This is definitely the kind of feedback loop you want to get yourself into: good sleep, good training — a win-win for every part of your body and mind.
As if decreasing your stress and improving your on-the-go sleep wasn’t enough, continuing your workout program while you’re traveling will keep you ready to get back to the gym with little interruption when you get back home. Instead of looking at your trip as a potential detriment to your gains because you won’t have your barbells, try to think of it as a chance to work through your sticking points. You might be able to use potentially equipment-free training as an opportunity to get stronger in areas that you typically neglect — think mobility, lateral movement, or bodyweight strength and conditioning.
When Should You Work Out While Traveling?
When you’re figuring out when to work out on your business trip, things might be somewhat more stable than when you’re visiting family. You might have access to a hotel gym and more predictable hours (i.e., you’ve got to be at that conference by nine, get your workout in at seven). If you’re using a hotel gym, check the hours before you make your plan. So if you prefer to work out at night, instead of going to happy hour, make sure the hotel gym will be open; and if you’re the 4 a.m. workout type of human, make sure it’s open 24/7.
If you’re traveling to see family or are going on vacation, chances are you’ll have less control over your schedule and what you eat than you usually do. The latter isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but your body may feel pretty unsettled if you’re used to eating for your gains but then get loaded up on pie and processed foods all week with your fam. If you’re looking to maximize the impact of your workouts and minimize the impact of grandma’s cookies, you might want to consider working out before tucking in.
Why? Your body (and muscles) are primarily fueled by glycogen, stored in limited quantities in the liver and the muscles. Exercise (particularly before eating) increases glycogen breakdown of liver glycogen to maintain blood glucose concentrations to make sure your muscles have enough fuel for movement. Doing moderate-to-high intensity exercise for an extended time results in lowering of liver glycogen stores. Exercise-induced glycogen deficit increases insulin sensitivity and helps the body efficiently process and store the calories (and especially carbohydrates) you’re about to eat. AKA, work out before you eat up on your vacation.
Workout With Your Bodyweight
Limited equipment, time, and space don’t have to stop you from training when you’re traveling. Doing short, high-intensity work will allow you to maintain your fitness while enjoying the finer things in life. If you’re looking to learn more about training with your bodyweight or limited equipment, check out these training articles.
- Best At-Home Bodyweight Workouts
- 9 Mobility-Focused Exercises to Improve Your Squat Without Weights
- Yes, Office Workouts Are a Thing — Here’s What You Need to Know
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