When we travel, it’s about exploring unseen sights, enjoying new foods, and experiencing adventure and relaxation. But we’re not total hedonists. We also like to do a few workouts. There is simply something about working out away from our typical environment — perhaps without a gym — that both energizes and energizes us. The key is to work on the best bodyweight exercises while on vacation.
“It’s more than possible to work out while on vacation,” says Shaun Zetlin, CPT from Brooklyn. “All you need is your own body weight and a bit of space.” Even taking just 10 minutes to move your body offers a wide range of benefits and leaves you feeling refreshed, energized and excited to enjoy your time off, adds Zetlin.
A short break from heavy lifting, endurance work and/or lots of high-intensity interval training can also do something good for your body. If you’re traveling for extended periods of time, such as working remotely for an extended stay, it’s a good idea to maintain your daily activity levels.
“A longer break from training can result in a higher risk of injury when you return to the gym, depending on how long you’ve been away,” says Janelle Fleites, CSCS, owner of Impact Physical Therapy and Sports Performance, in Miami, FL. The key to a good lift without a gym is to add pace and isometric holds while increasing reps and sets of exercise to increase muscle load.
Mike Nicholson, CSCS, fitness director at Chelsea Piers Fitness headquartered in Manhattan, reiterates these views on the benefits of working out while on vacation. “Exercise increases your endorphins and makes you feel good. So if you’re working out while on vacation, you can of course enjoy your new environment even more,” he says, adding that the onslaught of endorphins after your workout can also help your confidence. Nicholson recommends starting your “power pack” (core, glutes, shoulders, and diaphragm) to maximize neuromuscular activation around your spine and hips. “Keep exercise low to minimize fatigue you inflict on your central nervous system and focus on deep breathing while moving to increase oxygen flow, which increases well-being and improves your mood,” he says. The aim is to get the blood flowing and move your body — and not to be so exhausted after training that you have to cancel your hiking tour plans.
Below, Zetlin, Fleites and Nicholson share the best body weight exercises you can do while on vacation. Turn them into one-train workouts, or combine them to create your own workout.
Best body weight exercises on vacation
1. Single-leg balancing deadlift
Stand on your right leg and lift your left knee toward your chest. “You can extend your arms to keep your balance, or use a wall or chair as extra support,” says Nicholson. “Balancing improves your mind-body connection and heats up your nervous system.” Hinges on your waist and lower your upper body until your spine is parallel to the floor. Now stretch your left hand forward and your toes back to make your body as long as possible. “This decompresses your spine and activates your core stability,” adds Nicholson. Push your heel into the floor and stretch it through your hips to get into the starting position. Take a deep breath as you turn your chest toward the ground and let the air out of your lungs as you straighten your body up again. Do 3 x 10 reps on each side with a 30-second break between rounds.
2. Push-ups with isometric holding
Sorry guys — another push-up option for you. “Start in plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders,” says Fleites. “Lower your body slowly to the floor while keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle from your body.” Now lower your body until your chest is about a fist off the floor and hold the lower position for five seconds. “When you return to the starting position, stop halfway and hold for three seconds. Then push your way through the floor and return to starting position,” adds Fleites. Do 3 or 4 sets x 15 to 20 reps with a 30 second break in between.
3rd plank with alternating legs
This rotation on a standard plank gives your glutes targeted training. In a prone position, start with your elbows bent and forearms stabilized on the floor. “Next, lift a straight leg about two inches off the ground and hold it down for 10 seconds,” says Zetlin. Repeat this and alternate legs each time Increase the intensity by alternately holding bird dogs with bears: Start on all fours and then move your knees above the ground. Snap the core into place and lift your opposite arm and leg. Do 6 x 10-second holds with a 30-second break in between.
4th Bulgarian split squat
A replacement chair is all you need for this outstanding lower body movement. “Find one with a seat about one foot high and place it a few meters behind you,” says Zetlin. “Now rest your foot on the chair and stabilize your standing leg on the ground at the same time.” Next, plunge down and bend your back knee a few inches from the floor. Switch legs with every set. Do 4 x 12 repetitions with a 30 second break in between.
Sits Assuming you’re not camping or living out your glamping yurt vacation dreams, you have no excuse not to push him into your vacation. Position yourself securely against a wall with your back. Next, perform and maintain a squat with your knees bent 90 degrees. “Your feet should be shoulder-width apart and both heels should be directed downwards throughout,” says Zetlin. Do 3 x 20 to 60-second holds with a 30-second pause in between.
6. Dynamic Tension Arm Hold
This active stretch is something you can do on a poolside chaise longue. “To start, raise one arm to shoulder level and cover the wrist with your other hand,” says Zetlin. This is all about contrasting tensions. Press your outstretched arm down while using your other hand to maintain the opposite tension (up) for a 5-second hold. Then push your outstretched arm up while your other hand resists down for another 5-second hold. Shift arms with every set. Do 4 x 8 reps with a 30 second break in between.
7th Glute Bridge March
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. “Reach your fingertips toward your feet to pull your shoulders away from your ears as you push your elbows and hands into the ground,” says Nicholson. “Pull your core in to hold your tailbone and push your feet into the ground to raise your hips as high as possible without arching your back.” Keep your hips raised and parallel to the ground as you lift one foot off the ground and raise the toe of the raised leg to the sky. “Alternate the movement between your legs and be careful not to rotate your hips when lifting your legs,” Nicholson adds. Take a deep breath as you get your foot back on the ground and exhale deeply as you lift your foot into the sky. Do twice as many reps as you can (AMRAP) in 1 minute with a 30-second break in between.
8. Sliding forward and lateral lounge
Take a towel out of your hotel room or the laundry closet in your apartment and place it under a foot. (You can also use a paper plate if you’re lying on a rug.) Bend the other leg slightly. Stretch your arms forward as you push your working leg straight forward, then return to the starting position and immediately push your leg into a lateral lunge. This compound exercise “not only trains your quads, but also foot intrinsics, dynamic knee control and individual leg balance,” says Fleites. Do 3 to 4 sets of 15 reps with a 30 second break in between.
Lie flat on your back. Straighten your hands straight up and squeeze your heels together with your inner thighs. Bend at your waist and lift your legs and upper body off the floor at the same time. “Try folding your body in half into a V shape,” says Nicholson. Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position with your abdominal muscles. Take a deep breath as you lower your body to the ground and exhale deeply as you lift your upper and lower body off the floor. Do 2 x 15 reps with a 30 second break in between.
10. Plank With Shoulder Taps
Place your hands on the floor just below your chest and keep your body in a push-up position while keeping your feet slightly wider than your hips. Make sure your shoulders and hips are level and actively push the floor away to illuminate your core. “Tighten your abs to protect your lower back and be careful not to bulge your back,” says Nicholson. “Tap your left shoulder with your right hand and then place your right hand down again. Then tap your left shoulder with your left hand and continue to alternate this movement between your arms.” During this exercise, Nicholson stresses the importance of not turning your hips when tapping your shoulder. “Pretend to balance a glass of water on your lower back,” he recommends, noting that you should take a big breath in when you put your hand on the floor and then exhale big as you raise your hand to the opposite shoulder. Do twice as many repetitions as you can (AMRAP) for 1 minute with a 30 second break in between.
Push-ups aren’t anyone’s favorite, but once you’ve released a set, you instantly feel empowered. Zetlin suggests this simple change to traditional push-ups: standing up with shoulders and hands spread apart. Now adjust your position by placing one hand forward. Imagine a line running from the top of your fingertips to the hindquarters and the bottom of the palm of your forearms). Keep your knees and feet together for more core stabilization Switch your arms between sets. Do 4 sets x 8 to 10 reps with a 30 second break in between.
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