3 Tips for Effective Hotel Workouts

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I don't travel much, but this past week I was in Miami for 5 days coaching athletes at a CrossFit competition. We had athletes compete everyday intermittently from 8am to 7pm, so my time was limited to get my own workouts in. Luckily for me the hotel I stayed had plenty of good equipment, but I still had to get creative to get good workouts in. Below are three big tips I think everyone can benefit from to maximize their training while traveling and some sample workouts I performed. Enjoy! 

1) Focus on Compound Movements

When you’re limited on time, focus on exercises that will hit the most muscle groups possible. Most hotel gyms don’t have heavy DB’s or barbell bench setups, vertical pressing works well because of lighter weight. Single-arm DB OHP and any pull-up variation are great. These two exercises will hit delts, triceps, lats, biceps and forearms.  Exercises like tricep pushdowns and bicep curls are fun if you’re just trying to get a pump, but to maximize muscle stimulation and calorie expenditure, go compound. 

My recent hotel strength workout
A1) Body weight pull-ups. 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps
A2) Single-arm DB OHP. 4 sets of 8 reps (adding weight reach round)
Rest 2 minutes


2) Mix up the Stimulus

If you’re limited on equipment and are forced to do the same exercises (bike, row, run) you can stay engaged by switching up the stimulus. For example, one day focus on steady aerobic work such as the aerobic threshold workouts from Aerobic Capacity. If you’re not a consistent runner don’t be afraid to scale down the overall volume of these workouts. The first month I was doing Aerobic Capacity runs I cut the volume in half and still got in good workouts. The next day focus on high-intensity intervals, such as 3 sets of 400m run @ 80% with 3 minute rest between sets.

Last weekends cardio work
Friday - Active recovery
5 rounds
250m row (easy pace)
5 air squats
5 pullups
1 minute of mobility of choice.

Saturday - Aerobic work
*My paces noted for reference, not goals. Performed on treadmill.
10 min easy jog (5mph)
1 min walk
2 sets of 6 min run w/2 min rest between rounds (6.5mph)
2 sets of 4 min run w/1 min rest between rounds (7mph)
2 sets of 2 min run w/30 sec rest between rounds (7.5mph)
2 sets of 1 min run w/10 sec rest between rounds (8mph)

Sunday - Interval training
3 sets of 500m row @ 80/85/90% with 3 minute rest between sets. Each round got faster. (1:46/1:43/1:38)


3) Strength Train with Upper Body, Conditioning with Lower Body 

Odds are the hotel gym will have limited lower body strength training equipment. Squats, deadlifts, leg presses and Olympic lifts aren’t likely an option. For this reason I’d recommend saving your lower body for conditioning work. Lunges, goblet squats, jumping squats and glute bridges are good options to do in a circuit fashion or timed. Ab work is also easily meshed in. 

The hotel gym should have heavy enough DB’s to do some compound upper body work, even if it needs to be 10+ reps to be challenging enough. I’d recommend picking 3 upper body lifts, a push, a pull and a concentration movement. Lastly, if the hotel gym has no weights at all, even the most advanced athletes could get a good stimulus from a few rounds of 20 pushups +10 pullups. 

Exercise examples

Pushes - DB OHP, push-ups, DB bench presses

Pulls - Pull-ups, DB row, lat pulldown, TRX row

Concentration movements - DB lateral raise, DB curl, tricep pushdowns 

Sample lower body conditioning piece:

A1) Goblet squats x 15 reps

A2) Glute bridges x 15 reps

A3) Body weight front plank x 20 - 60 secs

Rest 1 min

B1) Lunges x 20 total steps

B2) Jumping squats x 10 reps

B3) Side plank x 15 - 30 secs on both sides

Rest 1 min. Start again at A1. Repeat for 4 total rounds.

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