Staying in shape while traveling is something I’ve never been able to quite figure out. Since my goal is to keep muscle and minimize fat, it has always been tricky deciding whether to eat more (to prevent atrophy) or to eat less (to prevent fat gain). In the past, it wasn’t uncommon for me to lose 15 pounds every time I took a trip.
I once lost 30 pounds while traveling Japan. Since the food there was so expensive, and the portions so small (particularly meat), for four weeks I ate nothing but ramen and onigiris (Japanese rice balls). Not exactly the best way to preserve your body composition.
In subsequent trips, I got smarter and started bringing my own protein powder, which worked very well. As annoying and awkward as it is to lug around a five pound tub of protein, it has actually become a must-have item for all my trips, right up there with my DSLR. Oh, the things I do for bodybuilding.
While I’ve mostly solved the atrophy problem (I now supplement with 100-150 grams of protein when I travel), I only recently started experimenting with travel workouts. The pictures below are from my most recent trip to Iceland and Norway, where I had a ton of fun figuring out creative ways of working out at the hostel and on the road.
Back Workouts (with cables)
These were a lot of fun to setup. I used a set of Black Mountain resistance bands, which my girlfriend got for me on Amazon. As long as you have something to latch on to (trees, rails, door handles, moving vehicles), you can work out any muscle group.
Although these resistance bands are awesome, I did end up breaking two of them, so I recommend getting a heavier duty set if you’re fairly strong. I ended up purchasing the Bodylastics 19 piece set after I got back from my trip.
Back Workouts (without cables)
If you don’t have any equipment, here are some cable-less ways of working out your back. Using people as weights was partly inspired by Kali Muscle, the ex-convict bodybuilder from the Geico commercials. He has a video where he talks about how he got swoll in prison…lifting other people.
You can work your abs anywhere, so the challenge is to find interesting locations to work them out at. Bonus points if you perform the Superman Plank while dressed in a superman costume.
Infinite pushups is a lot of pushups. Try making it harder for yourself by squeezing your chest as hard as you can when you come up. Keep your elbows turned inwards to work your chest more (rather than your shoulders). Without weights, it’s important to mentally squeeze whatever muscle you’re trying to work to get the most intensity out of your workout.
Ricep Curls – choose your favorite kind of rice, then curl it. Basmati, wild, short-grain, brown – they all work. Start with the 5 pound bags of rice from your local grocery store, then work your way up to the 20 pound bags from Chinatown.
The boulder press picture was taken at Kjeragbolten in Norway. It’s a giant boulder wedged between two cliffs, suspended above a 984 meter abyss. I almost peed my pants taking this picture.
Although girlfriends are an excellent form of resistance, you may have to progressively get a bigger girlfriend as you get stronger.
List of Exercises
|Exercise||Similar to||Muscles worked|
|Parking Lot Pulldowns||Close-grip lat pulldowns||Back|
|Fire Escape Rows||Dumbbell rows||Back|
|Seated Cable Car Rows||Seated cable rows||Back|
|Rear Delt Flys||High-pulley rear delt flys||Delts (rear)|
|Sumo Bedlifts||Sumo deadlifts||Back, legs|
|Tug-of-Door||Machine iso-lateral rows||Back|
|Trash Raises||Trap raises||Traps|
|Crosswalk Pullups||Assisted pullups||Back|
|Swivel Chair Rotations||Machine torso twists||Obliques|
|Playground Situps||Decline situps||Abs|
|Public Bench Press||Flat bench press||Chest|
|Car Trunk Press||Incline bench press||Chest (upper)|
|Classroom Flys||Cable flys||Chest|
|Jasmine Ricep Curls||Bicep curls||Bicep|
|Door Frame Pulldowns||Rope tricep extensions||Tricep|
|After School Dips||Dips||Tricep|
|Hammer Curls||Hammer curls||Brachioradialis, brachialis, bicep|
|Boulder Presses||Shoulder presses||Delts|
|Cateral Raises||Lateral raises||Delts (side)|
|Girlfriend Squats||Barbell squats||Legs|
|Girlfriend Hamstring Curls||Hamstring curls||Hamstring|
|Girlfriend Calf Raises||Standing calf raises||Calf|
|Girlfriend Lunges||Barbell lunges||Legs|
|Glute Bridges||Glute bridges||Glutes|
|Hamswing Curls||Hamstring curls||Hamstring|
I ended up working out three times a week, splitting my workouts into push, pull, and leg days. End result? I started at 192 lbs, ~10% body fat, and came back three weeks later at 192 lbs, ~11-12% body fat. Success!