It happens to everybody at some point: you are on a trip at work, on the road, on vacation, and realize that while it’s time for your workout…there isn’t a gym handy nearby. But you need to keep your form, or at least try and keep your routine. But how?
Well, you could first take a look at our workouts and find the perfect workout for your next “away from the gym” exercise time. Second, you could start following our No Weights Workout Plan and never have to worry about not having equipment. Read below and find some tips on working out when exercise equipment is lacking.
There are several methods to work out in the absence of equipment, and they are:
- Calisthenics. Yes, the stuff you did in high school; used properly they can keep you fit or even build muscle.
- Dynamic Tension, where you work groups of muscles in your body against each other. For example, put your hands in front of you, press your fist against your palm, and try to push your arm back with your fist. That’s dynamic tension.
- Isometric exercise, where your body doesn’t move. A good example of an isometric exercise is to assume the yoga “plank” position: essentially the starting push-up position, only held.
You can use one or all of these, although all are recommended, and they’ll all help. But the foundation of any routine should be…
Your Friend The Push-Up
Push-ups are really a great all-purpose exercise, and they should be the foundation of any weight-free exercise program. Don’t think so? Go ahead, drop and give us fifty. We’ll wait.
…See what we mean? A push-up program can be useful even worked into your weightlifting routine. When you have no weights, they can be absolutely essential. Start with your basic push-up: if you don’t do push-ups on a regular basis, get into push-up position and try to do as many as you can.
From there, work out how many would be a good set. Then try the following:
- Vary how wide apart your hands are. This works different muscle groups in your arms. Try to go as wide as possible and as narrow as possible; the narrower will work your forearms more, while the wider will make more use of your triceps.
- Switch up where you place your hands on the floor. Try putting your hands at your shoulders, and at your midsection.
- Vary the speed of the push-up. Sprinting push-ups feels much different, and develops muscles differently, than an extremely slow push-up.
Remember to try these out in various sets, as well. No two sets should have the same style of push-up. So now that we’ve laid the foundation, what else can you add to your workout?
Generally used by bad gym coaches to convince people they don’t like exercise, calisthenic exercises are an easy and cheap way to get some exercise in. They can build muscle, too, although it’s going to take more work than weightlifting. They’re also ideal for maintenance: after all, you need to get your body moving. Take a look at this Calisthenic Workout Plan and start your workout TODAY!
Here’s some calisthenics to try:
- Pull-ups. If you can hang off of something, and it will support your weight, pull-ups are a great option for maintaining and increasing body strength. If something is too low, try bending your legs at the knee and see if that works.
- Stomach and back crunches. Yes, they’re classic, but things become classics because they work. With stomach crunches, try this: imagine you’re at the center of a clock, and do a set of crunches “towards” each number. This will work your entire core and give you a goal to keep things moving. With back crunches, try diagonal crunches: lift up your left arm and right leg, and then your right arm and left leg.
- Bodyweight Squats. Yes, you can squat without weights. Simply take the squats as slowly as possible, to get the maximum amount of exercise out of them.
- Bodyweight unges. A good lunge can work your entire leg and lower back.
Working muscle groups against each other is great exercise, because it builds both groups at once. The key to dynamic tension is to remember: the slower the better. All of the dynamic exercises you try should at least be on a five count. Also remember to breathe slowly; breathe in on contraction and out when relaxing.
Some dynamic tension exercises to try:
- Place your palms together as if you were praying. Press your hands together and slowly bring your hands to your chest. Point your fingers towards your chin, and then down towards your toes, keeping your palms together all the while. Then bring your hands back out. Repeat for at least three sets.
- Get into a lunge position, with one leg behind you. Slowly shift all your weight onto your forward knee, and then shift it back to the leg behind you. Do three to five sets for each side.
- Press your hands against a wall and push slowly, using your legs to resist your hands. Push with your hands until your legs contract, and then reverse. Three sets should do you
Last but not least, there’s isometrics. Isometrics are good for small areas, because you don’t move very much. They’re especially popular in martial arts, and in fact, an excellent isometric exercise is the most basic training tool for leg strength: the horse stance.
Assume the horse stance by putting your feet slightly wider than shoulder length apart. Keep your feet parallel to each other, and bend down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Arch your back so your body doesn’t lean forward. Now hold it. For how long? Well, how long can you hold it?
Shaolin monks were required to do this until a stick of incense burned out, which could take an hour or even longer. Horse stance is ideal for any workout because of all the muscles it builds: the legs, the back, the lower core, all of them are engaged by horse stance.
We recommend a minute or two to start, with more as you get used to it. Try adding a second to your best time each day.
A few other isometrics to try:
- The aforementioned “plank” from yoga. Just keep your arms straight and don’t move. Give the plank at least thirty seconds to a minute. It’s especially effective when used with dynamic tension exercises, or to finish a set of push-ups.
- Flex and hold it for a long time. Yep, posing as exercise. Remember to get the full flex out of your muscles.
- Take shorter breaks, or no breaks at all, between sets; this will help keep your intensity up.
- This will take more time than a weight-based workout, so be sure to budget at least an hour.
- If you’re in a hotel room or similar area, turn on the TV; the distraction will greatly help.
Don’t forget; just because there’s no equipment doesn’t mean, for example, you can’t get in some cardio. After all, we didn’t create a Cardio Workout Plan for nothing! If there’s an out-of-the-way stairwell where you won’t disturb anybody, try running up and down the steps repeatedly. Consider going for a walk or jog and get in some cardio. Check to see if a local yoga studio is holding a class or take a look at our Yoga Workout Plan!
Start your fitness revolution right now by taking our Fitness Report Card. Find out how fit you really are and then know what areas need improvement! Just because you’re on a trip is no reason to slack off: it may take a little more time out of your day, but it’s worth it to keep yourself looking great.