The Travel Fitness Plan and the Ultimate Portable Gym: A workout plan for Travelers

The Travel Fitness Plan and the Portable Gym: A workout plan for Travelers

Health is one of the most important things in life.  Without health, life is miserable and we can’t live or explore the way we’re meant to – whether at home or on the road.  This means on the road, it takes planning and intention to keep up the workout and fitness routine needed to stay in shape for the best adventures to come.  Luckily, I have just the thing for you – the perfect travel fitness plan and what has been, in from my experience, the perfect portable gym.

The travel fitness plan is simple and easily adapted to any goal – whether you’d like to lose weight, gain muscle, or just keep what you’ve got – and can be done anywhere, without a gym and with minimal extra gear. Just a compact suspension trainer, like the Monkii Bars 2, and a pair of short, high resistance exercise bands, such as the Shorty Monster Bands from Rogue Fitness

The goal of this post is to share a basic fitness plan I’ve used and adapted over the last 10 years to stay in shape without using a gym in order to help travelers achieve their fitness goals regardless of what the goal is and wherever they are.  I’ve used this plan to improve my cardio enough to do the Everest Base Camp Trek turbo speed then regain the 20lbs in muscle I lost in Asia in only a few months of training – so I’m certain (with a couple of tweaks) this framework will help you whatever your goals are to stay in shape anywhere, virtually for free

Note: If you have any questions or concerns about how to make this plan work for you, just ask in the comments or shoot me an email at Carlos@ABrotherAbroad.com.  I’m all for chatting about fitness and I’d love to help you reach your goals

 

Contents of this Post:

My Favorite Travel Workouts for Strength and Muscle (Jump to the Workouts)

Other Travel Workout Options

  1. The No Equipment Travel Workout
  2. The quick cardio workout (no equipment required)
  3. The Travel Arms Workout
  4. The Travel Workout for weight loss
  5. The Travel Workout for women

 

How the Travel Fitness Plan it Works

This portion of the travel fitness plan that follows is geared towards men and their common goals (maintaining/increasing muscle or burning fat) while also improving cardiovascular health, but the plan will work equally well for women (with some tweaks I’ll mention later).

The plan is divided into two workouts, one for upper body and one for lower body, each performed on a separate day with a rest day in between.  On the rest days you’ll take an “active rest day” (or two) in which yoga or stretching is the activity of choice.

In future posts I’ll provide a travel workout that requires no equipment, a travel workout for losing weight, and a travel workout for women’s tastes.

 

My Travel Fitness Plan for Strength and Muscle

Day 1: Upper Body Circuit and Burpees Tabata

Day 2: Rest and Yoga or Mobility Wod

Day 3: Lower Body Circuit and Burpees Tabata

Day 4: Rest and Yoga or Mobility Wod

Day 5: Take an additional rest day OR repeat at Day 1….

 

 

The Travel Workout Plan for Muscle and Strength

How to Get a Great Workout While traveling

To build more muscle, increase strength, or maintain what you have, a workout with high resistance is necessary, which is why weightlifting is the activity of choice in most gyms.  While traveling, we can’t carry weights, and finding/going to a new gym frequently is generally a pain, so we’ll recreate a good resistance (weightlifting) workouts using calisthenics, gymnastics movements, and a few other strategies.

Recreating weighted workouts with resistance bands

High resistance exercise bands with carabiners for handles allow us to recreate the deadlift and weighted squats, while keeping our “portable gym” small

 

Recreating weighted workouts with a suspension trainer

A suspension trainer, like the Monkii Bars 2, can be used to recreate any upper body resistance/weightlifting exercise in the gym

 

 

The Travel Fitness Plan and Portable Gym - Rogue Shorty Monster Bands for deadlifts while traveling

The Rogue Fitness Shorty Monster Bands are the go to bands for creating the resistance for a proper deadlift or squat while traveling. Setup with carbiners as handles (see above) these bands are half a gym, but fit in your bag

Recreating weightlifting workouts with calisthenics: The travel workout plan for muscle and strength achieves high resistance on the muscle (similar to using weights in the gym) by using normal bodyweight calisthenics and suspension trainer exercises and movements combined with 20 second static holds, and slow, 6 second repetitions for the final exercise.  The static holds and slow reps create tension in the muscle that ultimately gives us the results (more strength and muscle) that we want.  Bodyweight resistance in this workout will be more than enough for most individuals.

Including cardio: To maintain balanced fitness (strength and cardio), each workout ends with a 4 ½  minute Tabata workout that targets cardiovascular conditioning and improvement and gets your body burning fat insanely quickly – Tabatas are a killer, equipment free workout perfect for travelers!

Incorporating “Active Rest” Days: Finally, plan for plenty of rest (one to two days between workouts) and good focus on balance in your exercises (a pushing exercise for every pull), health, and recovery by doing yoga, intense stretching, or short mobility improving “workouts” on off days.  I’ll provide a link to a free 30 day yoga program and mobility training at the end of this article.

So, our workout plan looks like this:

Day 1: Upper body day + 4 1/2 minute Tabata workout

Day 2: Rest & stretch (yoga and stretching day(s))

Day 3: Lower body day + 4 1/2 minute Tabata workout

Day 4: Rest & Stretch (yoga and stretching day(s))

 

A Note on Extra Rest Days

If you are pushing yourself to exhaustion or failure, don’t be afraid to take an extra rest day.  Rest is when muscle recovery happens, which is good for us.  Also, Resistance workouts (like these) boost metabolism and fat burning for 24 to 48 hours during rest, so as long as you’re pushing hard during the workout, rest is well earned.  If you have a day when you’re having difficulty finishing most of your exercise sets, give yourself two days rest until the next workout day.

 

Using Static Holds and Slow Repetitions lasting 6 seconds to increase muscle tension, increase strength, and grow muscle

“Static holds” consist of moving to the midpoint of an exercise and holding that position.  Because muscle growth is triggered by extended time under tension, the tension created by simply holding bodyweight in a static position can increase strength and trigger muscle growth.  Granted, you won’t achieve the bodybuilder level muscular bulk with this technique, you will build the effective, balanced, and lean muscular build of a gymnast.  In this workout, we’ll aim for 20 second “static holds” done after the last repetition of each set.

“Slow repetitions” or “Slow reps” consist of moving smoothly through an exercise at a steady but slower pace.  For instance, in a push a slow rep might consist of taking 6 seconds to go from the top of the push up to the bottom and taking 6 seconds to go back up.  This is another method for keeping the muscle under tension for an extended period to increase strength and encourage muscle growth.

Static holds and "slow repetitions" of 6+ seconds are perfect for travel fitness plans for muscle growth because the techniques create muscle tension that encourages muscle growth, even with only body weight

Static holds and “slow repetitions” of 6+ seconds are perfect for travel fitness plans for muscle growth because the techniques create muscle tension that encourages muscle growth, even with only body weight

For this workout plan, we’ll use “20 second mid-range static holds” after each set and “6 second reps + mid-range static hold” on bodyweight exercises to increase tension on the muscles, ultimately increasing strength increasing/maintaining muscle mass

20 Second Static Holds after each set (How it works): After each set of an exercise, except for the last set, move to the midpoint of the exercise and hold at that mid-point for a 20 second, or as long as possible

6 second repetitions for last set (How it works): During the last set of an exercise, aim to complete all repetitions of that set slowly and smoothly, taking 6 seconds to go down, and 6 seconds to go back up for every repetition of the set.  After the last repetition, perform one negative as slowly as possible

 

What does the Travel Fitness Strength and Muscle protocol look like for a single exercise?

Example of Travel Workout plan for gaining/maintaining strength and muscle – Pull Ups

Set 1: 8-10 Pull Ups then hold 20 secs at the halfway point of the pull-up (or as long as possible)

Set 2: 8-10 Pull Ups then hold 20 secs at the halfway point of the pull-up (or as long as possible)

Set 3: 8-10 Pull Ups then hold 20 secs at the halfway point of the pull-up (or as long as possible)

Set 4: 6-8 Pull Ups taking 6 secs to go up and 6 secs to go down. On the final repetition perform a negative by returning to the top of the pullup and lowering yourself as slowly as possible

 

What if the full 4 sets of the exercise are too difficult?

There are two options for reducing difficulty

  1. Decrease the difficulty and resistance of the movement – we’ll discuss changing exercise difficulty later. Decrease the difficulty (by reducing resistance) enough that you can complete the workout
  2. Reduce the number of sets of the exercise (to a minimum of 3)

What if the full 4 sets of the exercise are too easy?

There are three options for increasing workout difficulty

  1. Reduce rest time between sets
  2. Increase your weight (using a backpack and water jugs or other weight)
  3. Perform unilateral exercises or research “progressions” with calisthenics to increase resistance and difficulty – this technique is best if “muscular gains” is your workout goal
  4. Add one more set of the exercise (to a maximum of 5 sets, no more)

 

Unilateral and assisted unilateral movements are perfect for increase resistance in a calisthenics workout for muscular and strength gains - similar to increasing weight in the gym. Pictured above is an assisted one armed push-up, one step in "progression" above pushups

Unilateral and assisted unilateral movements are perfect for increase resistance in a calisthenics workout for muscular and strength gains – similar to increasing weight in the gym. Pictured above is an assisted one armed push-up, one step in “progression” above pushups

 

Will this travel workout plan work for women?

Absolutely.  The biggest worry of women when resistance training is that they will put on too much muscle or bulk, as if it happens magically, instantly making them look like Arnold Schwarzeneger.  Because of basic physiological differences between men and women (e.g., hormone ratios, genetics), women don’t have to worry about getting instantly muscular. For women, this workout will simply tighten and tone, but I do recommend one change.

For the upper body workouts, I recommend replacing the “static holds” and “slow reps” with simply going until failure for the last set of each exercise.  Additionally, I recommend a repetition range of 15-25 for each set of these exercises – this range is more suited for toning and burning fat and is much less likely to encourage muscle growth.  The result will be a tight, toned, and strong yet natural upper body

For the lower body, I recommend doing exactly what this workout recommends – repetition ranges of 8-10, including static holds and “6 second slow repetitions”.  This will help build and maintain the shape that most women are after (a round, “self-supported” but and toned legs)

In coming articles, I will provide travel workouts specifically designed for the bodies and fitness goals of most women

What exercises do we use in the Travel Workout?

The Short Answer: “Gymnastics exercises and calisthenics”

The Long Answer: We use calisthenics and gymnastics exercises to exercise the major muscle groups in the arms, legs, back, chest, and core in a balanced way.  For every “pushing” movement we do a “pull movement” in the same direction, to develop the body in a balanced way.

To make the important exercises possible, I carry a small kit of portable exercise equipment also known as my “portable gym” – a portable suspension trainer (the Monkii Bars 2) for good upper body workouts and high resistance exercise bands (such as the Rogue Shorty Monster Bands) for doing deadlifts and “weighted squats” while traveling.  I’ll provide replacement exercises that will allow you do the workout without the a suspension trainer but you likely won’t be able to achieve enough resistance to gain muscle if there is no pull up bar around – but any workout is better than no workout!

 

The Primary Exercises of our Travel Workout

Upper Body

  • Pull Ups & Overhead Press (Using Monkii Bars suspension trainer)
  • Push Ups & Rows (Using Monkii bars suspension trainer)
  • High Pulls/Vertical Rows & Dips (Using Monkii bars suspension trainer)

Lower Body

  • Deadlifts (using resistance bands)
  • Squats/Single Legged Squats
  • Lunges
  • Sprints

Full Body

  • Burpees

 

THE PORTABLE GYM

Resistance bands and a travel suspension trainer make the perfect portable gym

When it comes to fitness and exercise, regardless of the sport, getting in a good workout comes down to a few core movements (the same movements listed above), that incorporate the major movements of the upper body – pushing and pulling in each possible direction with the arms and standing up with the legs.  To grow more muscle or increase strength, we simply perform these movements with more resistance against our movement.  Our “portable gym” consists of a few items that allow us to perform all of the above movements using our bodyweight as resistance.

So, to get a great resistance workout while traveling, you only a few pieces of equipment to provide enough resistance for any workout, no Gym required

  1. A compact suspension trainer – My trainer of choice is The Monkii Bars 2
  2. High resistance, short exercise bands – My bands of choice are the Rogue Shorty Monster Bands because a single band provides up to 145lbs of resistance
  3. “0” Style carabiners – to hook onto the fitness bands and use as handles
  4. A durable backpack – to hold weight should you need to increase resistance

With these three items we can recreate every worthwhile exercise you would do with weights in a gym, from bench presses to deadlifts without a gym

 

Portable Gym Equipment Overview & Exercises

 

1. Any Compact, Travel Suspension Trainer – I Prefer The Monkii Bars 2

A compact, ready for travel suspension trainer is the only equipment we need in our portable gym for a great upper body workout.  If you have a pullup bar available, you can getaway with not having a suspension trainer – but carrying one means you can get a great upper body workout using a light pole, tree, or any other pole or high anchor point.  Having the suspension trainer on hand allows us to use our bodyweight to create resistance in all directions effectively working out the chest, back, and shoulders in a balanced way.

There are many suspension trainer options, and any will work as long as it is compact, ready for travel suspension trainer.  At home, I do have a TRX (which is great), but that is too bulky for carry-on only style traveling.  When on the road, I prefer the Monkii Bars 2.  The “Monkiis” (as I like to call them) have created a suspension trainer option that packs down smaller than most suspension trainers, making it more conducive to travel.  The setup allows us do all of the pushing and pulling exercise movements of the upper body in our workout, anywhere, just like our fitness program calls for.

I was using a homemade version of the Monkii Bars 2 for a few years before the Monkiis came up with this great piece of gear.  When I saw it, I immediately had to try it out.  The Monkiis were kind enough to send me one free of charge to test out – honestly, I actually planned on paying for the trainer but after sharing that I’ve followed their project for a couple years and did similar work with my own travel suspension trainer, the Monkiis were kind enough to send me a tester.  For those that don’t have a sewing machine and extra rock climbing hardware lying around (like I did) I highly recommend the Monkii Bars 2 to recreate an upper body gym workout anywhere and easily increase resistance by putting gallon jugs of water in a backpack. For those do-it-yourselfers (like me) I’ll post instructions later on how to make a similar trainer on your own, with some rock climbing equipment, pvc pipes, and a sewing machine.

The "Optimus" was a homemade creation and the original tool of my travel workouts - the Optimus was essential a pair of minimalist gymnastics rings that could be setup anywhere and a direct cousin of the Monkii Bars, which I recommend for the non-DIY'ers

The “Optimus” was a homemade creation and the original tool of my travel workouts – the Optimus was essential a pair of minimalist gymnastics rings that could be setup anywhere and a direct cousin of the Monkii Bars, which I recommend for the non-DIY’ers

With the Monkii Bars 2 and resistance bands we can recreate gym exercises as follows:

  • Lat Pull Down à Pullup (Pulling Down)
  • Overhead Press à Overhead Press / Handstand Push Up / Pike Push Up (Pushing Up)
  • Bench Press à Push Up / One Armed Push Up (Pushing horizontally from the body)
  • Row à Row with suspension trainer(Pulling horizontally toward the body)
  • Standing Row or high pull row à Inverted Row (Pulling Up)
  • Dips à Dips with suspension Trainer (Pushing Down)
  • Deadlift à Deadlift with Short Resistance Bands (Glutes and Core)
  • Back Squat (Legs, quads, and hamstrings)
  • Biceps Curl Variations
  • Triceps Extension Variations

 

The Monkii Bars 2 is an extremely compact suspension trainer that takes a minute to learn but is a quick setup and lets you do nearly any upper body exercise possible in the gym

The Monkii Bar 2’s compact size makes it perfect for travelers with limited space

The Monkii Bars 2 is perfect for travel fitness because it let's you recreate any upper body weightlifting exercise in the outdoors and packs down into a compact package

All of the Monkii Bar 2’s components are contained in one, tight, packable case

The Monkii Bars 2 is perfect for travel fitness because it let's you recreate any upper body weightlifting exercise in the outdoors

After a brief learning period, the Monki Bar 2 allows you to recreate virtually any upper body gym exercise

 

2. Any High Resistance Exercise Bands & Carabiner 

2 Short (or 1 long) high resistance exercise bands, combined with a pair of carabiners, are some of the most valuable pieces of portable exercise equipment and complete our travel rig by allowing us to do high resistance lower body movements anywhere.  I use Rogues Shorty Monster Bands, but several other high resistance exercise band options are available and rated well on Amazon (such as these Serious Steel Resistance Bands) on Amazon or the Rogue Fitness Shorty Monster Bands, which I prefer) and will work just as well.  Both options are great quality and provide some of the highest resistance poundage numbers I’ve seen for exercise bands.  The resistance on each of my purple bands from Rogue are 145lbs for a total of 290lbs maximum resistance in my exercises, and the black Serious Steel Bands offer 150lbs resistance, but there are several other poundage options from 15lbs up.

Recreating weighted workouts with resistance bands

Short, high resistance exercise bands with carabiners for handles allow us to recreate the deadlift and weighted squats, while keeping our “portable gym” small

By hooking a carabiner around each resistance band to create a handle and stepping onto each band (to hold it in place) we create a deadlift setup with resistance equal to what you would need in the gym for good results– except this fits in a backpack and you could do the workout in your room or in a park.

The Rogue Fitness Monster "Shorty Bands" with a carabiner allow us to recreate a deadlift with up to 145lbs resistance - with the purple bands. Any heavy resistance, short exercise band with a carabiner will work

The Rogue Fitness Monster “Shorty Bands” with a carabiner allow us to recreate a deadlift with up to 145lbs resistance – with the purple bands. Any heavy resistance, short exercise band with a carabiner will work

 

The carabiner needed to create a handle for the resistance band can be purchased at any REI or outdoor sports store, or rock climbing gear distributor

The carabiner needed to create a handle for the resistance band can be purchased at any REI, any outdoor sports store, rock climbing gear distributor, or Amazon.com

Additionally, we could get creative and add a “runner” (a high strength nylon strap used in rock climbing) to place over our palms, and we have a setup similar to a weighted front squat – but – I prefer doing one legged squats (with bodyweight only) for my other leg exercise.

Either way, the deadlift is such a beneficial exercise that it is worth bringing two exercise bands to enable the exercise, and this workout, anywhere.  So, with the resistance bands we are able to do the following exercises:

Lower Body Exercises achieved with resistance bands

  • The Deadlift – heavily works the glutes, core (abs & lower back), and legs
  • Squat – Heavily Works the legs

 

Increasing Resistance in Calisthenics Via Weights in a backpack

As most of these exercises as they stand in this workout are already difficult to complete for most people, the idea of more resistance (and more weight) may be unthinkable.  But when the time comes, a strong, durable backpack filled with weight to increase resistance is the answer.  Gallon water jugs work perfectly as extra weight because each gallon jug of water added to a backpack is an easy way to add 8lbs.  If you’re traveling, then the luggage in your backpack is perfect and convenient weight

My backpack of choice is the GORUCK GR2 or GR3 – as these double perfectly as travel backpacks and backpacks for working out with heavy weight.  I opted for the GR3 in 2017.  The GORUCK GR3 (and GR2) is admittedly more expensive than other backpacks ($100 to $200 more expensive), but I purchased it with the intention of using it as a weighted backpack for workouts.  The backpack is designed and tested to hold 450lbs of weights without any issues (fit, ripping, etc.) – something that few other backpacks are capable of.  As such, I was able to add 40lb – 50lbs to my workouts and continue my muscular gains and strength improvements without getting close to pushing the backpack’s limits and while staying comfortable during my workouts – aside from the intense burning sensations!

 

A weighted backpack and rings recreates a VERY heavy upright row or high pull

A weighted backpack and rings recreates a VERY heavy upright row or high pull

 

A weighted backpack and dip bars, rings, or suspension trainer recreates a bench press or decline press in the outdoors

A weighted backpack and dip bars, rings, or suspension trainer recreates a bench press or decline press in the outdoors

 

A simple pull up bar and weighted backpack recreate lat pull downs in the gym and offer an amazing biceps workout

A simple pull up bar and weighted backpack recreate lat pull downs in the gym and offer an amazing biceps workout

So, though the GORUCK line seems expensive, my backpack has paid for itself in gym savings alone.  I was able to workout at parks and on beaches routinely, saving the cost of a gym for 6 months.

Whatever backpack you use to increase the weight in your workouts, be sure to check the max weight recommended by your manufacturer before overloading (and potentially ripping) it.

 

If you are unable to get a hold of the Monkii Bar 2…

Use the following exercise conversion guidelines to get your workout in without the suspension trainer.  You won’t achieve the same resistance (which limits muscle gains) but any workout is better than no workout at all.  Also, I’ll post DIY instructions for a portable suspension trainer soon.

  • Lat Pull Down à Assisted Pullup on any bar or ledge (Pulling Down)
  • Overhead Press à Handstand Push Up / Pike Push Up (Pushing Up)
  • Bench Press à Push Up / One Armed Push Up (Pushing horizontally from the body)
  • Row à Horizontal Row using a table or low bar (Pulling horizontally toward the body)
  • Standing Row or high pull row à Inverted Row from pull up bar (Pulling Up)
  • Dips à Chair Dips (Pushing Down)

 

The Bottom Line on our portable gym

After a few years of not having a gym membership but staying in shape, and gaining muscle at will, I’m certain these three items (the Monkii Bars 2, heavy resistance exercise bands from Amazon or Rogue Fitness, and a durable backpack) are the only portable exercise equipment you will ever need, and they’ll allow you to do nearly any workout anywhere.

For More information on the GORUCK line and the GORUCK GR3 for workouts, checkout this GORUCK GR3 review

For More information on my experience with the Monkii Bars 2, check out my full review of the Monkii Bars 2 (Coming Soon)

 

 

THE TRAVEL WORKOUTS

The Travel Workout for Strength and Muscle – Upper Body

This travel workout can be done in any park that has a pull up bar or jungle gym, but I carry the Monkii Bars 2 with me so that I can do the same workout anywhere I can find a tree or light pole.  It is a variation of one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s favorite workouts, adapted with calisthenics to build a toned yet muscular and balanced body and combining principles from the 4 Hour Body to grow muscle and increase strength without requiring weights.

Gear Required

  • A Monkii Bars 2 setup or pull up bars – or similar packable suspension trainer
  • (For extra resistance) A heavy duty backpack (such as a GORUCK) with weight (such as water jugs) – not necessary for most people

Guidelines of the Workout

  • A push for every pull – balance in the workout
  • For Gaining Muscle: 30 to 60 seconds rests between sets for gaining muscle
  • For Losing Weight: 0 sto 20 seconds rest between sets for weight loss
  • Finish each workout with a 4 minute Tabata workout

 

The Upper Body Workout

 

Perform 4 sets – 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions (or to failure if less than 10) and 1 final set to failure using “slow 6 second reps” of each of the following exercises.

Complete all sets of each exercise before moving on – i.e., complete 4 sets of pull ups before starting dips

  1. 4 sets of Pull Ups (3 x 8-10, 1x slow 6 second reps to failure)
  2. 4 sets of Dips (3 x 8-10, 1x slow 6 second reps to failure)
  3. 4 sets of Push Ups (3 x 8-10, 1x slow 6 second reps to failure)
  4. 4 sets of Rows (3 x 8-10, 1x slow 6 second reps to failure)
  5. 4 sets of Handstand Push Ups, Pike Push Ups or incline Push Ups (3 x 8-10, 1x slow 6 second reps to failure)
  6. (Optional) 4 sets of Inverted Rows (3 x 8-10, 1x slow 6 second reps to failure)
  7. 4 Minute Tabata Workout (see below)

For each exercise, perform the 4 sets as follows:

Sets 1-3 After completing all repetitions for the sets 1 through 3, move to the midpoint of the movement (without resting) and hold at that point for 20 seconds

Set 4 For the 4th set (or the final set), for every repletion move slowly and smoothly taking 6 seconds to go up and 6 seconds to return to the start of the movement.  Repeat this (6 seconds up, 6 seconds down) until failure

Once you’ve completed the upper body workout, jump directly into the 4 minute Tabata workout to get in your cardiovascular training

 

The Tabata Workout

A Tabata workout is a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) protocol consisting of one moderately difficult exercise performed over 8 rounds of 20 seconds each with 10 seconds rest in between. During each round, go full intensity and do as many of the exercise as you can.  Trust me, its harder than it sounds.

The benefits are cardiovascular conditioning akin to most steady state (e.g., running, rowing) exercise programs done for 5 times as long.

For travel workouts, we’ll do a round of the Tabata protocol using burpees to keep our cardio up and kick up the fat burning mojo.

 

Our Tabata Workout

Start

Round 1: 20 Seconds – As many burpees as possible

Round 2: 10 Seconds – Rest

Round 3: 20 Seconds – As many burpees as possible

Round 4: 10 Seconds – Rest

Round 5: 20 Seconds – As many burpees as possible

Round 6: 10 Seconds – Rest

Round 7: 20 Seconds – As many burpees as possible

Round 8: 10 Seconds – Rest

Die in Peace knowing you’ve given your all

 

Note: The Tabata Protocol can be performed with any moderately difficult exercise or by combining two moderately difficult exercises, so feel free to switch up how you Tabata.  Here are a few examples of good Tabata exercises and Tabata exercise combinations:

  • Squats
  • Push-Ups
  • Squats + Push Ups
  • Jump Rope / Double-unders
  • Pull Ups + Dips
  • Pull ups + Squats
  • V-Ups

 

 

 

Travel Workout for Strength and Muscle – Lower Body

This lower body travel workout stays simple by focusing on two core lower body exercises – the deadlift and the squat.  Two of the best exercises for general health, longevity, and muscle/strength development.

To do the deadlift while traveling, we use high resistance exercise bands with carabiners for handles, step through the loops of the resistance bands to hold them down, and perform the exercise with the resistance bands using the exact same form we would with an Olympic bar.

Amazon offers several options, such as the Serious Steel Resistance Bands that offer up to 150lbs of resistance, recreating a 300lbs deadlift while traveling. The Rogue Shorty Monster Bands are another ideal option, offering up to 145lbs of resistance.  That’s impressive, considering we won’t need a gym.

Why the deadlift?

The deadlift is one of the best all around exercises for mobility, health, and strength.  The full body nature works everything from shoulders, to core (abs & lower back), to glutes and legs.  Because this exercise involves multiple joints and large muscle groups (glutes) it creates a positive hormone boost (including testosterone) in the body and ultimately encourages more muscle growth.  Hands down, this is one of the best exercises for staying in shape and building muscle and developing an amazing and high performing body.

Why the one-legged squat?

The one-legged squat allows us to recreate another very important exercise, the back squat.  Not only does this exercise tone (and develop) your legs, it makes a round, very enviable butt, encourages fat burning (for the next 24-48 hours), and positively boosts hormones just like the deadlift.

The one-legged squat done with your bodyweight is the equivalent resistance (on your legs) of squatting with your bodyweight on your back – so, if you weigh 150lbs, doing a one legged squat is the same as doing a squat with 150lbs worth of weights on your back.

 

Lower Body Travel Workout for Muscle

 

Gear Required

Tenets

  • For muscle growth: 30 – 60 seconds rest period between sets
  • For losing weight: 0 – 20 seconds rest period between sets

 

 

 

Perform 4 sets – 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions (or to failure if less than 10) and 1 final set to failure using “slow 6 second reps” of each of the following exercises.

Complete all sets of each exercise before moving on – i.e., complete 4 sets of deadlifts before starting squats

4 sets of 10 of each of the following exercises:

  1. 4 sets of Deadlifts (Using Resistance Bands with Carabiners as handles) – (3 x 8-10, 1x slow 6 second reps to failure)
  2. 4 sets of One legged squat on each leg, alternating between legs (3 x 8-10, 1x slow 6 second reps to failure)

Notes:

Set 4 (or the final set) should take 6 seconds up and 6 seconds down for each rep and end with a negative (if possible)

 

Follow up the lower body workout with the same 4 minute Tabata protocol we did after completing the upper body workout:

Tabata Workout – 8 sets of the following circuit:

Start

Round 1: 20 Seconds – As many burpees as possible

Round 2: 10 Seconds – Rest

Round 3: 20 Seconds – As many burpees as possible

Round 4: 10 Seconds – Rest

Round 5: 20 Seconds – As many burpees as possible

Round 6: 10 Seconds – Rest

Round 7: 20 Seconds – As many burpees as possible

Round 8: 10 Seconds – Rest

Die in Peace knowing you’ve given your all

 

If you can’t get access to resistance bands: Do Lunges – 4 x 50 meters

The best “resistance” leg work out possible without resistance bands consists of what I call “prancer lunges” – a deep lunge followed by rising out of the lunge onto a single leg, raising the knee high and then do a calf raiser onto the tip of your toe – so named because you will definitely look like you’re “prancing” around, but it’s worth it.  The movement also resembles the final step (penultimate step) in the triple jump.  Doing this exercise intensely works the front of the leg, back of the leg, glutes, and calves, all in one movement.

Get your lunge workout in by doing prance lunges for 50 meters, resting for one minute, and continuing for another 50 meters, until you have done 4 x 50 meters.

Feel free to do the 4 x 50-meter lunge workout in place of our normal lower body workout whenever you feel like it but try to lunge as far as possible in the 50 meters without pausing or resting, in order to increase the burn and effectiveness of the workout.  This workout is amazing for toning without bulking.

 

 

 

Rest Days

Rest days are integral as these are the days when real growth in muscle and ability happens.  If you don’t take care of yourself properly on off days, you won’t see the gains from effort put in on your workout days – or worse, you’ll be more susceptible to injury.

Two things are necessary for a good rest day:

  1. Rest & Feed
  2. Stretching & Active Recovery

 

Rest & Feed

During rest is when muscle is built

  • Eat well (plenty of protein and veggies)
  • LOTS of water – especially if you are drinking alcohol or caffeinated drinks. 3 liters minimum for men and 2 liters for women, plus enough water to compensate for sweat

 

Stretching & Active Recovery

Repetitive movements and positions result in a shortened range of motion and stiff muscles.  This is fine normally, but when doing workouts like that span the entire usable range of motion of your body, tight muscles and stiff joints put you at risk – whether the repetition is sitting at a tesk working as a digital nomad or walking 7 miles a day through a new city, the repetition shortens and stiffens your muscles.  Stretching and mobility work will keep you at tops

Stretching and mobility drills ensure your joint range of motion stays healthy and combined with muscular strength means being able to live an active, healthy life while being less susceptible to injury well into old age

The increased blood flow from stretching drenches muscles and the tissue surrounding joints (while avoiding impact) with nutrients and oxygen to promote quicker recovery from workouts as well as injuries on your off days

My two favorite resources that making stretching programs easy are “Yoga with Adriene’s 30 Days of Yoga” on Youtube and Kelly Starret’s “Mobility Wod,” also on Youtube.  The 30 days of Yoga is great for generalized stretching in a structured program and informing you of your tight spots and trouble points to work on.  Mobility WOD is great for targeting and fixing nagging injuries, quickly increasing range of motion and regaining healthy movement and flexibility in trouble spots – I find this program is better for intense athletes than yoga.

 

Yoga with Adriene – 30 Days of Yoga on rest days

Adriene did the world a HUGE favor by recording 30 Days of Yoga – a program of 30 yoga sessions, each 15-30 minutes long, meant to be done one per day. The structure makes it easy to follow along and do on off days, and its completely free.  Once you finish the 30 days, just start right back at Day 1.

For me, I find this best for getting my blood flowing, and feeling through my body to find tight trouble spots – I’ll then use Kelly Starret’s Mobility WOD videos to dig heavily into extremely tight muscles and pain points or troubleshoot issues.

Kelly Starret’s Mobility WOD on Rest Days

A few years ago Kelly Starret, a Doctor of Physical Therapy, believed that athletes should be able to fix their bodies and do maintenance on whatever hurts without going to a doctor.  He wanted to create a program that guides athletes through diagnosing themselves based on aches and pains and using stretching and specific movements to fix their issues, on their own.  The result: The “Mobility Workout of the Day”, or “Mobility WOD”.  The program is free on Youtube and consists of 365 episodes, each ~10 minutes long, guiding you through healing shoulder aches, knee pains, back pains, headaches, and damn near everything else you can think of.  I’ve been using this program for 5+ years and have never had to go to the doctor for a single injury since.  My nagging knee issues from my time in the Marine Corps have gone away, and in my 30’s I feel healthier, stronger, and more mobile than I ever did in my 20’s – in large part to the mobility wod

The key to mobility wod is not necessarily going in order (episode 1 – episode 365), the key is to search on Youtube for “Mobility WOD” plus whatever issue you have.  Like “mobility wod back pain” or “mobility wod knee” pain, then watch the episode with the title that matches your issues, and do the 10 minute drill assigned.  Everyone I’ve met that has used Mobility Wod for at least 3 months claims that they feel their in the best shape of their lives after those 3 months.  I completely Agree

How to use “30 Days of Yoga” and “Mobility Wod” while traveling

On your off day pick one of the two, 30 days of Yoga or Mobility Wod, and do one episode – either picking up where you left off or picking an episode that focuses on something you want to target

 

 

 

Exercise Conversions and Increasing/Reducing Resistance

Upper Body Exercises

  • Lat Pull Down / Pullup (Pulling Down)
  • Overhead Press / Handstand Push Up / Pike Push Up (Pushing Up)
  • Bench Press / Push Up (Pushing horizontally from the body)
  • Row (Pulling horizontally toward the body)
  • Standing Row / Inverted Row (Pulling Up)
  • Dips (Pushing Down)

Lower Body

  • The Deadlift – heavily works the glutes, core (abs & lower back), and legs
  • Squat – Heavily Works the legs

Arms

  • Curls
  • Extending

Nutrition

For gaining muscle, the two most important things to consumer are calories and protein.  When you’re on the go traveling (especially in Southeast Asia), getting enough calories and protein can be difficult.  Use these tips to maintain a diet that supports gains

For Protein

  • Skip the bags of protein and eat small canned fish such anchovies and sardines, however you prefer.  The cost of canned sardines and anchovies is much cheaper per gram of proteing than eating steak or chicken.  Additionally, the ease of preparation and eating makes this more convenient than hunting down/making food and more likely that you will consume enough protein.  These canned fishies will be available at nearly any liquor store or grocery store
  • Consider eggs.  This is one of the cheapest sources of protein and easiest to prepare.  Fried, scrambled, or boiled.  If you need to prep a dozen at once, consider making “healthy egg salad” for sandwiches by mashing boiled eggs with olive oil, salt, and seasoning to taste, and then store in the freezer
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches: The protein from the grains (bread) and legumes (peanuts in peanut butter) combine to form a complete protein making this sandwich a cheap and high calorie protein source that supports gains

For calories

  • Digestive biscuits are flavorless, easy to consume, and high in calories, making them a great, cheap calorie supplement for those that need a high number of calories to

 

For losing weight while working out, the primary goal is limit calories to only what is needed to workout while providing enough nutrients (proteins, calories, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients) to support recovery and healthy bodily functions.

  • Maintain a primarily protein and plant based diet with plenty of “healthier”, minimally process fats
  • Avoid carbohydrates, sugars, and generally starchy foods
  • Avoid taking more than one rest day between workouts and stay dedicated to stretching and yoga on rest days to promote quick recovery

Final Words

The best fitness plan is the one you can stick with that leaves you feeling good. I recommend taking this plan, adapting it according to what you want and need, and making it your own

Start slow and be consistent, that’s how results are achieved.  If you need to start with only two exercises or only 2 sets for each exercise, do it.  Something is always better than nothing – if you need help easing into this workout, feel free to email me at Carlos@ABrotherAbroad.com

Go all out on workout days.  Anything worth doing is worth doing well.  Its better to workout hard for 4 minutes (in a Tabata workout) than lazily distracted by your phone for an hour.  Get out there, do your best, get a sweat on, and feel good after

Honor the rest day. The rest day is when muscular gains and recovery happen, so don’t skip rest days.  If you feel energized and like you can do more, then make a note to go harder in the next workout – but respect the rest day

Stretch! A major contributor to injuries is stiff tissue or a short range of motion.  You’ll feel better in daily life if your and stronger in your workouts if you take of your joints and muscles on off days – by stretching

 

NOW GET AFTER IT!!!

Purchase the Shorty Monster Bands from Rogue

The Travel Fitness Plan and Portable Gym - Rogue Fitness Shorty Monster Bands Review
 

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The Travel Fitness Plan and Portable Gym Monkii Bars 2
 


 

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Note on Affiliate Marketing

This article contains affiliate marketing links to the Monkii Bars 2.  I was provided a Monkii Bars 2 trainer free of charge as a tester, but I would absolutely pay for the product.  I will be providing DIY instructions for a similar suspension trainer later because everyone should be free to get in a great workout.


CONSIDER CHECKING OUT THESE OTHER GREAT TRAVEL FITNESS ARTICLES

  1. The Travel Fitness Homepage for A Brother Abroad
  2. 10 Reasons to have a suspension trainer (**Coming Soon**)
  3. How to do the essential exercises with a suspension trainer, outdoors or in a hotel room (pull ups, dips, rows, overhead presses, curls, and extensions)
  4. How to make your own suspension trainer (**Coming Soon**)

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