Want to work out during your vacation? Here is a challenging and efficient high-frequency workout that requires no equipment and won’t interfere with your vacation!
I should start off by saying that I’m not a fan of working out during vacation. I have a number of reasons/ideas for taking this stance, the most important one being an opinion of mine that you should use your vacation time to throw in a back-off week.
A back-off week means taking a break from regular training for the purpose of recuperation and allowing your joints and surrounding soft tissues to catch up and recover properly. Back-off weeks can vary a lot in their implementation, from taking a full week off from training, to just having a general de-load or doing light workouts that you find fun and/or want to experiment with.
I advocate taking a couple of back-off weeks every year. In an ideal scenario, like the one I mentioned here, you’d take a back-off week at the end of each 12-week-long mesocycle. In practice, of course, you shouldn’t be as strict regarding these things. Simply put, keep an eye out on weeks that you’ll be spending out of town or during which you’ll be extremely busy, and use them to take some time off from training as well. For example, I have two “fixed” layoffs each year, one in the week between Christmas and New Year, and one somewhere between mid-July and mid-August, when I take my vacation, so I try to throw one or two more during the year.
So, normally, I don’t recommend doing any sort of vacation or hotel workouts, but there are special instances when these have their place. E.g. this year I went to a two-week long trip to Montreal, Canada (and am still here at the time of writing this article ). The first week was a much needed week-off, since I’ve been training full-bore for almost 8 months beforehand (from that previous, Christmas time layoff). The second week, however, was ripe for some fun, but challenging hotel working out.
Here’s an example of such a workout that can be used to keep you primed on longer, gym-less vacations.
The 3P (trip) workout
This workout requires almost no equipment. The “almost” part notes that you’ll need to find some place to do pull-ups. Other than that, it’s you and the floor. Again, this is a short-term workout suitable for one or two week long trips. It’s purpose is more to maintain than to gain, although I’m positive that gains can be made on it, providing proper nutrition is in place (something that also becomes a problem when you’re on a vacation).
The principles of the workout are as following:
- rely on a few bang-for-buck movements that cover your full body: in this example, we use the three Ps – Push-ups, pull-ups and pistols. That’s why the workout is called 3P.
- train twice a day (morning and evening), every day – we apply high frequency to compensate for lack of intensity, as well as that of volume and fatigue accumulation in each individual sessions.
- use moderate-to-low volume on each session – do two sets of each exercise per session, or three if you’re very weak on these movements (e.g., you can do less than 5 pull-ups).
- stay far away from failure.
This workout is both efficient and convenient – each session should last around 5 minutes, depending on how conditioned you are. No, this isn’t a fad or con “AMAZING 5 MINUTE WORKOUT”, it’s just a small hotel workout designed not to interfere with your vacation while still providing a good training stimulus.
I’ll outline how the workout looks in my case, then we’ll go on and give a few remarks on its structure and efficiency.
Hotel workout – everyday, once in the morning, once in the evening
A1 Push- ups – 2×20 / 0
A2 Pull- ups – 2×10 / 0
A3 Pistol squats – 2×15 / 60-90
For those of you who aren’t familiar with my workout notation, the above basically says that you do the above exercises in a circuit – you do 20 reps of push-ups, immediately go to 10 pull-ups, and finish off with 15 pistols (starting, naturally, with the non-dominant leg). Rest a minute to a minute and a half, and then repeat the circuit one more time.
This is in no way a tough workout, nor is it designed to be as such, but it’s actually much more challenging than you probably think it is. There are two keys to success here: picking your rep range well and being honest with your reps. These two are somewhat entangled.
The important thing here is to utilize the 3 Ps as much as possible. This means no half reps, bouncy reps, and other abominations we usually see when people jump to calisthenics. For one, do your push-ups properly: place your hands closer to your hips and place more weight on them (your body should resemble an arrow), go all the way till your chest touches the floor, and all the way up, protruding your scapulae. Keep your body rigid and attempt to squeeze the floor with your hands as you go up (pronate as you go up, slightly supinate as you go down).
The pull-ups part of the workout depends on what object you found to play the role of your pullup bar. In my case, I did them hanging from the edge of a wardrobe. The main issue here was my inability to grip it properly: I usually have no problem doing pull-ups off stairs and similar edged surfaces, but this one was particularly sharp and slippery. Another thing to note regarding doing pull-ups off these is that you need to mind your balance and trajectory a bit more, since you can never exactly position your center of gravity under your grip, as you can with a real bar.
Lastly, pistols are a difficult exercise on their own. If you can’t do them, feel free to substitute with short stride lunges. If all you lack when it comes to performing pistols is balance and flexibility at the bottom position, do them inside a door frame, holding onto it so you don’t roll back at the bottom. If using this technique, be sure that you’re only supporting yourself using the door frame, and not pulling yourself out of the squat with your arms. This can be ensured by just placing your palms onto the inside of the door frame, instead of actually grabbing it, and then slightly pushing it to ensure that the friction will be strong enough to keep you from falling backwards at the bottom.
Dosing The Difficulty
With all of this in mind, pick your rep range for each exercise. Again, stay far away from failure. These sets should be challenging, but you should be able to perform all of them (all circuits in a session) without that much trouble. Go somewhere between 50 and 70% of max reps. The high rep range allows you to dose this more precisely.
Try to make a total of around 30 reps in both sets – more if the exercise is easier (like push-ups), less if it’s harder (think pull-ups). This way, you can decide between doing two or three sets of each (repeating the circuit twice or thrice).
The great thing about this workout is that it actually provides you with a ton of stimulus over time. In my particular case, I’m doing 80 push-ups, 40 pull-ups and 60 pistols every day. In a week’s worth of time, this accumulates to 560 push-ups, 280 pull-ups and 420 pistols. Even if we take away the fact that intensity isn’t that great, it’s still a lot more volume than I usually do during a regular training week. Moreover, you probably aren’t accustomed to this kind of training, so don’t be surprised to get sore.
If you do get sore, try pausing for one session, or maybe taking an entire day off. The story is a bit different with fatigue, as this is something we’re actually aiming for: it’s this accumulation of everyday work that builds up enough load over time to make the workout efficient. It’s also a part of its demise, though, as such non-stop high-volume training cannot be maintained over longer periods of time (this has lately become quite a controversial topic, though). Other than that, it’s the lack of progressive overload, specificity and intensity that make this workout unfeasible for regular training purposes
Try It Out!
As always, try it out and let me know how it went. Again, this isn’t an easy workout, it’s for people who want to train but can’t due to special circumstances, it’s challenging and it delivers. Take care!