If you’re like me, you travel for work at least 1 week a month and the hotel gyms usually aren’t on par with the gym that you have a membership with. The hotel gyms typically look something like this…1-2 treadmills, stationary bike, bench and slim pickings on the dumbbell rack. Don’t fret! There are a couple easy steps to ensure that you can get a good hotel gym workout in.
1: Actually go. Don’t look at travel (especially travel for work) as a time where you can sit back and relax, or let your current fitness plan go up in flames. Do you usually workout before work, at lunch, after work? Keep this same routine when traveling. It will help ensure that you get your butt to the gym. When traveling you likely don’t have the same family or friend commitments as you would when you’re home. Take advantage of this extra time!
2: Plan for this. Did you all of a sudden have to jump on a plane and fly to a city and pick a random hotel to stay in? Probably not. Do a little research and ensure that the hotel you’re staying at does in fact have a gym. There’s usually a picture of the hotel gym on the company website, so you can understand what you’re getting yourself into. You can preplan your workout routine based upon what type of equipment that gym offers.
3: Be Flexible. Other than actually going (see 1) the most important aspect in getting a good hotel gym workout in is being adaptable. If you’re planning on hitting your Deadlift PR or performing a machine superset circuit, you’re going to be disappointed. Hotel gyms are typically set up to accommodate cardiovascular workouts. There’s nothing wrong with a nice cardio day; however, if your focus is to build lean muscle then focusing on strictly cardio isn’t going to help you get there. You can get in a good hotel gym workout with whatever equipment is provided!
I recently stayed at a hotel that had this gym:
With the hotel gym not having adequate weights for me to challenge myself with heavy (heavy for me) weight, I upped the volume of work. Since I’m in a hypertrophy* phase and not a strength building phase, this was an easy adaptation. *Hypertrophy is a method used to help stimulate muscle growth. With hypertrophy training, it is typical to perform high volume sets / reps (as you will read below) schemes to help muscles grow. During a hypertrophy phase, one is not necessarily focused on getting as strong as possible. If the goal was to build strength then the workout would focus on lower volume sets / reps and at a higher weight – weight that is closer to you 1RM.
Day 1 – fell on my normally scheduled lower body day, so lower body was my focus for this workout
Stretching, 5 minutes – after spending a day sitting at the airport and flying, it’s nice to do some stretching to help make you feel like a human again
HIIT Treadmill Circuit, 1 min warmup with 3 pulses of 1-minute sprint with 2-minute cool down – I usually don’t do HIIT style training so this was a nice switch up
Goblet Squat, 5 sets of 15 – great for lower body and core
Dumbbell Lunge, 5 sets of 15 – another great way to stretch out the lower body after a day of traveling
Front Foot Elevated Bodyweight Split Squat, 3 sets of 15, 12, 10
Romanian Bodyweight Spilt Squat, 3 nonstop super sets of 15, 12, 10 – burnout sets completely trashed my legs!
Swiss ball crunch, 3 sets of 20 – core specific
Stretching, 5 minutes
For those of you counting at home, that’s 5 lower body / core exercises (not including the HIIT or stretching) for a total of 19 sets and 284 reps. Since the weights were light, the rest periods were kept to 30 seconds and the workout was completed in less than 45 minutes. Exercises performed that aren’t part of my normal workout routine were: HIIT, Goblet squat, Romanian Split Squat, Swiss Ball Crunch
Day 2 – My normal day two is an upper body day. With my focus being hypertrophy training I will typically sprinkle in high volume machine exercises. With being at the hotel gym, and lacking in the way of any machines, day 2 was tailored to adapt to the equipment
Stretching: 5 minutes
Dumbbell Clean and Press: 3 sets, 15, 12, 10 – Although technically a “fully body” exercise, it was more of an upper body workout due to the weight being low to really engage the lower body
Superset Single Arm Dumbbell Concentration Curls & Forearm Curl: 3 sets, 15, 12, 10 – this is a nice superset because it allows the use of the same dumbbell weight for both exercises
Single Arm Dumbbell Pulls: 5 sets, 15, 15, 15, 15, 15 – volume is high because the weight is low
Dumbbell Triceps Kickout: 3 sets, 15, 12, 10 – easier to focus on the arms with limited options
Medicine ball twists: 3 sets of 20 – core workout
Steady state cardio, walking at an incline for 10 minutes – I could say this was part of my cardio strategy for the day, but really I was killing 10 minutes until breakfast opened at 6:00 AM!
Stretching: 5 minutes
That’s 6 upper body / core exercises (not including the steady state cardio or stretching) for a total of 20 sets and 246 reps. Similar to day 1, the weight was relatively light, the rest periods were kept to 30 seconds and the workout was completed in less than 45 minutes. Exercises performed that aren’t part of my normal workout routine were: Superset single arm dumbbell concentration curls & forearm curls, Dumbbell triceps kickout, Medicine ball twists
As you can see, it’s not difficult to get in a really good hotel gym workout with limited equipment and time. *The pictures weren’t taken from the home gym (obviously). As you can see, the workout can be almost entirely replicated from your home with a couple dumbbells and a chair.
1. Make time in your day to get in your hotel gym workout. It’s usually easier if you stick with the current schedule you have with going to your home based gym.
2. Plan ahead of time. Do a little research on the hotel gym and build a workout plan that will accommodate what is offered.
3. Be flexible. As you can see from my 2-day hotel gym workout routine, more than 50% of my exercises weren’t part of my normal workout routine, and the ones that were needed to have a major volume increase to offset the light weight.
No excuses! Get that workout in and don’t let travel impeded you hitting your fitness goals!