If you travel often or for long periods, staying in shape and following your preferred workout program can be tough. Running or walking the streets around you hotel or accommodation venue will get you some cardio, but your weight training can suffer if you don't have an in-house gym or one nearby.
Bodyweight exercise can offer a solution. It's easy to learn, effective, and you can do it just about anywhere.
You can enhance bodyweight exercises with bands and tubes, which are easy to carry in luggage.
The following bodyweight exercises work all the major muscle groups, and most are compound exercise that work multiple muscle groups within the one exercise.
Defining Bodyweight Exercises
Using the weight of your own body to create resistance was one of the earliest forms of strength training. Many forms of resistance and exercise training use your own bodyweight. Programs such as yoga, Pilates, calisthenics and plyometrics all use bodyweight to enhance strength, muscle, flexibility and fitness at some level. Resistance bodyweight exercises use a recognizable strength and resistance training model of concentric, eccentric and isometric exercise to achieve fitness and strength targets.
The following exercises form the core of the traveler's bodyweight workout program. Many other variations and modifications are possible.
The push-up is a classic bodyweight exercise, and it demonstrates clearly the principle of bodyweight resistance training. While facing the floor and propped up on hands and toes, push the body to and from the floor.
One "up-and-down" is one push-up repetition. Don't go too fast or too slow. Keep the head and neck steady. Do as many as you can in one minute; rest, then try again. Rest your knees on the ground (assisted pushup) if you find the exercise difficult when you first start out.
The squat without weights may seem easy, but once you get up to the 15-rep mark it can take a toll on the knees, upper legs and butt until you build some condition. The squat develops legs and butt muscles and, over time, may strengthen knee joints. However, be cautious with this exercise if you have an existing knee injury or feel knee pain at any stage in the workout.
The lunge is a fundamental bodyweight exercise. Done in sets of eight or more (each leg), lunges provide strength, balance and flexibility training. You can see how to perform the lunge in the example of a weighted lunge.
Options include a variety of arm positions - at the sides, straight out in front, raised at each side, crossed at the chest or straight up overhead. For example, the arms raised at the sides provides better balance and stability than arms crossed at the chest.
Options include the backward lunge and the 45-degree angle side lunge.
Crunches are a popular exercise for strengthening the abdominal muscles. Many different types of crunches are possible.
- Standard crunch, in which the shoulders are raised off the floor while you contract the abs.
- Reverse crunch, in which the legs and knees are raised off the floor while you contract the abs.
- Combo crunch, which is a combination of both of the above.
- Bicycle crunch, which includes all of the above and you peddle your legs in the air.
Dips are performed with a chair or bench. You push up from a chair with arms behind and legs out front. For bench dips, you can start out with the knees bent at about 90 degrees and your feet more or less flat on the floor. As you get stronger, dip with your feet stretched out in front, balancing on your heels.
The Wall Squat
Stand against a wall and slowly bend the knees while supporting your back with the wall. Hold the position with thighs parallel to the floor for 10 seconds, then return to the standing position.
The Wall Push
Stand facing a solid wall, raise the arms to shoulder height and push hard against the wall for 10 seconds. Move one foot to the rear for balance and force. Relax and repeat three times. This is an "isometric" exercise where the muscles don't shorten or lengthen.
The plank exercise has you on the floor, facing down, balancing on your elbows and toes. That's it. You hold that position for as long as you can, rest, then do it again. If you can hold the plank for 2-3 minutes, you are doing fine.
The Chair Stand
Sit on a chair that is braced against a wall. Sit and stand 10 times then rest. Do three sets.
These bodyweight exercises will build good strength in a fitness program. You can use most of them at just about any time and any place. For complete fitness, add some running or fast walking or even interval training as well.