4 Killer Workouts for While You’re on Holiday or Vacation

Here are four workouts you can do, despite having only a hotel gym or no equipment at all. They’re a little different, but you might surprise yourself.

My wife loves to travel. She spent six months working as a nanny in France. She has visited nearly every continent and speaks English, French, and German. If she had her way, our feet would never be on the ground.

On the other hand, before I met my wife I had been overseas exactly once. When I was five, my family visited America for two years because of my dad’s work. Despite hanging on to the American accent nineteen years later, I never caught the travel bug. However, since being with my wife I’ve been to Thailand, Singapore, Morocco, Germany, France (where she banned me from speaking the language due to my awful pronunciation of words), Spain, the Philippines, and Kuala Lumpur – and all within a three-year period.

Needless to say, for a gym junkie like myself the thought of being away from my tubs of protein and barbells loaded with plates was, and still is, an almost paralyzing thought. The first trip we took, to Kuala Lumpur and the Philippines, my training continued but was fragmented and directionless. When we visited Europe on our honeymoon last year, I was unable to find a gym so I resorted to bodyweight exercises. But this year everything is different – I have a plan, a direction, and a purpose for my training.

In my time overseas I’ve come to realize one key truth – you will not get stronger. Unless your partner is a gym rat as well, and you are happy with spending your time in another country scouring the streets for somewhere that will allow you to tear some serious weight, it’s likely your hotel gym or room won’t have the necessary poundage to allow you to smash personal bests. Therefore, there are four things that you can do:

  1. Take the time off and deload. If you are like most lifters, myself included, you wait for life to tell you to deload and you could probably do with a week or two off. Regardless of what people tell you, you won’t become catabolic and shrink to the size of a pre-pubescent boy (or girl). In fact, you’ll probably come back stronger and more determined post-holiday.
  2. Start moving your body. Bodyweight workouts are great, yet vastly underrated. Whether you use Tabata-, volume-, or density-based workouts, most people underestimate the level of shredded that they can reach with their bodyweight alone.
  3. You know that mobility work you’ve been telling yourself you’d do for the past year? Well, guess what? You don’t need any fancy gym equipment to open up your thoracic spine or fix your hips. Now’s the best time to do it.
  4. Lower the weights and up the volume. Bodybuilding style training and using time under tension will allow you to use the 25lb weights in the hotel gym to stimulate some growth. Don’t believe me? Use 50-60% of your 8RM dumbbell bench press, employing a 2-3-2-1 tempo (implying a two second eccentric, a three second isometric hold, a two second concentric and a one second pause at the top position.) And your lower body? You may not be able to deadlift or squat as heavy as you’d like, so switch to single leg variations for added torment fun.

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Designing a Workout

So you’ve decided to still exercise to help stave off the vacation excess that always seems to creep onto your thighs and arse (if you’re a female) or your gut (if you’re a guy). Below are four effective, and time efficient, ways to make sure your jeans don’t become skinny jeans upon your return to real life:

Designing a Workout: 1. Density Circuit

Select four compound exercises (that either target all the same muscle or a plethora of different ones), a rep scheme, and a time limit. Density circuits work great when you only have bodyweight to work with. Aim to have the most metabolically challenging and technical exercise as the first in the circuit.

For example:

  • Bodyweight Squats x 25
  • Push Ups x 20
  • Single Leg Hip Thrusts x 15 (per leg)
  • Pike Pushups x 10

Repeat for 10 minutes, resting as necessary.

Designing a Workout: 2. Super Sets

If you’ve stepped into the gym, you’ve used these before. Pair two exercises together, rest minimally between sets and repeat.

For example:

A1) DB Bench Press

A2) Pull Ups

B1) Incline Bench Press

B2) Seated Row

Designing a Workout: 3. Giant Sets

On my last trip to Singapore and Thailand I fell in love with giant sets, which are essentially super setting two or more exercises of the same muscle group. However, my version was slightly different. Considering I was pressed for time, yet still wanted to cram in more volume than a grandmother does food, I worked with descending sets.

For example:

A1) DB Bench Press – 4 x 10

A2) DB Incline Press – 3 x 10

A3) Cable Press – 2 x 15

A4) Push Ups – 1 x 20

Rest 30 seconds between exercises and repeat until all prescribed sets have been completed. What I found is that I was able to get a nifty little metabolic training effect whilst also getting that ever-precious pump.

Designing a Workout: 4. Tabata Rounds

I’ve heard rumours that Tabata is used in some political prisons to torture inmates. Select an exercise, preferably a bodyweight one, and perform 20 seconds of ball-busting, hyped up on three scoops of illegal DMAA fueled pre-workout, adrenalin surging reps. Rest for ten seconds and then repeat for 8 total rounds (4 minutes of total time).

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Exercise is not something that is confined to four walls, grunting men, or even deafening thunderous thuds as plate-filled barbells smack against the floor and life, being what it is, has a nasty habit of throwing curveballs at you. Nobody wants to be that person who turns to his or her friend or loved one and says, “Sorry, I can’t visit X with you because I’ve got a leg day scheduled and, well, I can’t miss that – not even for an all expense paid trip to (insert dream destination here).” What truly defines someone who loves fitness, exercise, and by extension themselves, is the ability to adapt to different surrounds and circumstances and still get in the necessary work to grow and progress as a person.

Too many people take holidays knowing they will get fat, become overweight, and lose a level of their fitness, yet they do nothing to combat it. I’m here now, standing on my soapbox, telling you that whether you have a gym or not, there is always something you can do to stay active.

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.