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You don’t need a gym to workout. Gyms don’t want you to believe this, but you can easily strength train outside of a gym. You don’t even need any equipment for strength training. This is tough for some people to realize as they have been working out at gyms their entire lives. I was definitely on this boat since I learned how to work out in a gym in high school. I did not even know there was another option.

 

For years I have grinded through workouts at the gym trying different machines and exercises. Whenever I traveled my workouts went out the window since there was often no access to a gym. I began to look into strength training I could do with my body and found some amazing options. These workouts were perfect since they added much-needed variety.

 

I still workout at the gym, but there is something visceral about getting outside and using your body to get in a workout. I often get bored with same routine over and over again. A body weight routine allows me to get outside my norm. This is great for shocking your muscles while creating more variety and adventure in your life. I need a healthy dose of adventure in my routines or else I get bored.

 

Beat the Fat – Strength Train

There are so many options for putting your body through a strength training routine. You can often get a better workout with just your bodyweight. As a traveler, it is really important to add a body weight workout to your routine. This will allow you to maintain strength anywhere in the world. Body weight workouts are also the easiest and least intimidating way to begin strength training. Building strength has multiple benefits beyond muscle development. People on strength programs often lost more weight than people doing cardio.

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First and foremost you should be concerned with getting your diet right if you want to lose weight. Weight losses and gains are made in the kitchen. This ia step number one. Strength training is the next best for weight loss followed by high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Long steady state cardio is the least effective for weight loss (see research in the link above).

 

I believe strength training is important for everyone. Besides being good for losing weight, muscle gains allow you to remain lean while eating the same number of calories (1 pound of muscle burns 75-150 calories per day while 1 pound of fat only burns 3 calories per day). Is strength training right for you?

 

Strength training has multiple benefits over weight loss. Studies have indicated decreased race times with the inclusion of strength training. Many athletes that felt they had reached a plateau broke through it with strength training. Increasing force allows you to race faster. It also helps you avoid injury. Clearly, strength training should be a part of any fitness routine. So where do you begin with a strength training routine?

 

Mold Strength Training Around Your Goals

As I have recommended in other posts, first you must take account of where you are. Do you have a good base of strength and power? Have you ever strength trained before? Someone who has done most of their strength training in the gym will find the transition to a body weight workout easier than someone starting from scratch.

 

First and foremost, figure out your goals and your baseline. If you do not have much experience,  start easy and build from there. Bodyweight workouts can be completed in as little as 10 minutes. Start simple and build!

 

String together a few exercise to start with resting when you need. This is called rest-based interval training. There is no set rest time. You rest when you need to for as long as you need to. If you are a beginner, start by working out for 10 minutes. Work up to going for 20 minutes. Rest when you are tired or completely out of breath. You should be short of breath pushing yourself to finish more sets in a row. Full body workouts are preferable since they allow for greater flexibility. If you miss a day, you don’t miss a full muscle group.

 

Don’t forget to warm up. This is best done by active movements, not stretching. Pretend you are running, but only move your arms really quickly. Do some jumping jacks or jog up and down stairs. Make sure you get your heart rate going before starting.

 

Do all the exercises with proper form first. If you can’t complete another rep with proper form, rest.

 

Just A Beginner: Do This Routine

A compound exercise is the most effective in developing strength. They work multiple muscles at the same time. They are much more functional since they involve movements used in training and everyday life. A recommended beginner workout begins with 10 reps (as shown). Complete each set before moving on to the next exercise. Keep going for 20 minutes (or 10 minutes if you are inexperienced) resting when you need to.

 

Here is an example plan using compound exercise:

  • 10 x Bodyweight squats (make sure you pretend you’re sitting in a chair – form is everything)
  • 10x Push-ups
  • 20 x Walking lunges (10 on each leg)
  • 10 x Inverted body weight row using table, bench or available weight (suitcase or another available item)
  • 20 Crunches or 15-second plank
  • 30 Jumping jacks

 

You can do all of these exercises anywhere, and you will be surprised at how they get your heart rate up. You will also definitely feel sore the next day especially if you are a beginner. Note the body weight row can be done under a desk or bench by pulling yourself up from the ground. You can also use a heavy item as a weight pulling up to your body.

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Good form is really important. Make sure you are following the proper form. This site lists some of the benefits of body weight workouts along with videos on proper form. Record how many rounds you complete so you can see your progression! Try to complete the exercises as fast as possible. Push yourself!

 

Do Your First Push-Up

If you can’t do a push-up, start with a wall push-up. This is the same as a ground push-up except you do it on a wall. Advance to an incline push-up (put your hands on an inclined surface like a bed and your feet on the floor). Before you know it, you will be doing regular push-ups!

 

Mastering the beginner workout for at least 10 minutes, 3 days a week is essential. This gives you the momentum to make it a routine. If you’re traveling and don’t have a set routine make this routine the only one you follow. Work up to doing it every other day if possible. Make sure you have adequate rest time because this is where the muscle is built.

 

Everyone is different and stronger in some areas. Modify the routine as necessary to fit your needs. Add more reps or different body weight exercises to add variety. Increase the time! Make sure you stretch after even briefly!

 

A more advanced routine utilizes, even more, compound movements but should be completed somewhere where you can access a pull-up bar. This could be a bus stop or a playground. Anywhere with an overhead bar works. You may get some looks, but who cares!! Don’t be afraid to get after it!

 

A note on pull-ups. The previous inverted row is a building block for a pull-up, but a pull-up is a much harder exercise. If you cannot complete one pull-up, work up to one by starting with chin-ups (palms facing you). Pull-ups is a natural movement that is amazing for your back. They are highly recommended.

 

Jacked Already? Do the Advanced Routine

An advanced workout follows the same protocol adding difficulty. Make sure you can do the beginner workout before doing the advanced. Don’t injure yourself! Start with the prescribed reps. Do as many rounds as you can for 20 minutes, resting when you need to (you may only finish 1 round).

 

An advanced sample workout would be:

  • 10 x Burpees
  • 20x Body weight squat
  • 10 x One legged squat (5 on each leg)
  • 20 x Jump step ups (10 on each leg – jump onto a bench)
  • 10 x Pull-ups or chin-ups (substitute inverted body weight rows with bench or table if you can’t do a pull-up or chin-up)
  • 10 x Dips on bench
  • 30-second plank

Make sure you warm up just as with the beginner workout. Complete each exercise with the best form first and foremost. To begin, you can add exercises from the advanced workout to the beginner workout. Find what works for you. If the advanced workout is too much, start with just some of the exercises.

 

Increase time and reps as you become more experienced. Decrease rest time as much as possible to get a better workout. Push yourself!

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Proper Pull-up

Body weight exercises are awesome and quick. You don’t need a gym to workout. Strength training can be done anywhere and anytime. Don’t let location limit you! Travel and strength train with ease.

 

Bring it All Together

Strength training can seem intimidating, but you can do a lot with just your body. To get the best out of your body weight workouts:

  1. Be realistic about your baseline and your current strength level
  2. Match your strength training with your goals
  3. Add an easy beginner workout for 10 minutes 3x per week
  4. Add more time and days as you get into the routine
  5. Ensure you have enough rest time between workouts
  6. Add more exercises or switch to the advanced workout
  7. Get the strength gains you are looking for!

I love body weight exercise since it frees me to workout anywhere. There is something truly freeing about this. Integrate these workouts into your travels to stay in good shape around the world.

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Plank in Peru

 

What are the body weight exercises you like? Are there any plans you have followed which have worked well? As always let me know if you have any questions.

 

If you are interested in some guided body weight exercise routines (videos) check out the links below (they also highlight good form!):

12 Comments

  1. Rachel

    This post is extremely helpful! I too have only been trained in how to use a gym and I have the exact same problem of my fitness lacking when I’m on the road because of that. It’s so nice to have a strength training guide I can use next time I’m traveling.

    Could you explain how to do an inverted body weight rows or link me to a site that can? That’s the only exercise I’m unfamiliar with.

    Thank you so much for this info! I can’t wait to start to implement it so my workouts don’t become existent next time I’m traveling.

    • Joe

      Thanks, Rachel. I really want to people to realize you don’t need a gym to train. This is especially important when traveling. A quick 5-10 minutes in the morning can make a world of difference for your health.

      This video from Nerd Fitness explains it really well. You basically just have to find any raised surface with space under it and pull yourself up. Let me know how the program goes next time you are traveling! Would love to hear about your experiences.

      Joe

      • Crystal

        Hey Joe, I just tried the workout, unfortunately, in my place, there is no way to hang a push-up bar, and we don’t have a sturdy enough table to do the pull-up exercise. Can you recommend an alternate exercise that doesn’t require any equipment at all that works the same muscle group?

        • Joe

          Yes! If that’s the case you can grab something heavy and pull it towards your chest. Think a milk jug or something similar. Even a rock will do. You should be able to find some kind of raised platform as well if you want to do the body weight row.

          Joe

  2. Whitney

    Joe! This is awesome! I am a sponsored Ironman triathlete and ultra-runner and adventure sport athlete so ALOT of these concepts apply and i appreciate you posting about this. Because I’m often traveling and training for something or traveling to race, I am always having to be creative with workouts or find places to run or something. I’m thrilled to find another fitness traveler! Love to stay connected! @ironwillwhit

    Happy Training!

    • Joe

      Whitney,

      Thank you so much for reaching out! I find traveling and training to be difficult but super fun. I love exploring new places on a bike or in my running shoes. Being creative is half the fun! I will definitely reach out to you since we are doing a lot of the same things!

      Joe

  3. Crystal

    This is exactly what I need! I just finished one-year backpacking in central/south america, and have decided upon my return that I need to develop a strength training routine that I memorize before heading out on the road again. Need to get this going strong before heading to Africa! I’m gonna start with the beginner routine this week and I’ll let you know how it goes. p.s. I recognize Huacachina! what an amazing spot!

    • Joe

      Hey Crystal,

      Glad to help! I loved Huacachina! How did you like it?

      Strength training is an important overlooked part of staying healthy. It can do a lot for you especially when you are traveling. Let me know how the routine works for you!

      Joe

      • Crystal

        I’ll report back! I have a feeling, at least tomorrow, I’m gonna be a bit sore!!! haha. I LOVED Huacachina, I was there only one day, but I’ll never forget it. Did you take the Peru Hop? I mean, south america is FULL of surprises. Didn’t know I was going to see a real desert oasis on the trip. FYI, my profile picture was taken when I was sandboarding that day – I doctored it up with Prism effects.

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