[Editor's Note: This week's Big Picture column features the first appearance of Todd Bumgardner, MS, CSCS, a new contributing writer here at ProSource. Todd is co-founder of Beyond Strength Performance, a provider of expert personal and online training services. He has a MS in Exercise Science from California University of Pennsylvania. Welcome aboard, Todd!]
Traveling during a heavy strength training phase is never ideal. Sometimes, however, it's inevitable. A vacation, or work, renders you a bodybuilding vagabond. Miles away from your favorite barbells, you're left with a crappy hotel gym--or only your bodyweight. What seems like a dire situation is, in truth, an opportunity to maintain strength
in fresh ways.
Don't Get Pigeon Holed
It's often that time away from the gym limits our training thought process. We get pigeon holed by our iron attachment--by our comfort zone constructed with squat racks, benches, barbells and rubber flooring. But traveling puts us outside that safe home filled with iron. Combating what's uncomfortable, while also making progress away from the gym requires a few sound travel training strategies.
Travel Strength Strategies
Sprint. For some, it's tough to think of sprinting as a strength exercise. Short distance sprints, however, are great for building and maintaining lower-body strength. This is especially true of hill sprints. Overcoming the grade of the hill requires significantly stronger muscular contractions than flat land, but both are great for maintaining leg strength.
Sprint for ten to thirty yards with complete rest between sprints. Complete sets of five to ten sprints. If it's been a while since you've sprinted, don't start off sprinting at maximum intensity and keep your total number of sprints per session under twenty.
Jump. Adaptations to strength and power training are similar--they're each mainly neurological. Exercises like broad jumps and vertical jumps will reinforce lower-body strength adaptations by training for a neurological effect. Hit between four and ten sets of three to eight reps--depending on your additional training volume.
Train for Tension. Structure of bodyweight training is a conundrum for most lifters. Left to our own devices, we end up assaulting our bodies with an unnecessary amount of reps. As a result, our bodyweight strength sessions train for the wrong effect--conditioning rather than strength. To avoid turning your travel bodyweight training into conditioning, train to build, and maintain, tension in basic exercises.
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Isometrics and eccentric quasi-isometrics (EQI) are great for meeting this end. Pick a movement from each category: upper-body push, upper-body pull, squat variation and lunge variation. Train each movement with isometrics by holding the bottom, or top, position for as long as you can with good form. Repeat for four to eight sets.
To use EQI training, train the entire range of motion of the movement while pausing in three to four spots as you move from the top position to the bottom position. Again, repeat for four to eight sets. During isometric training, and EQI training, be sure to actively contract muscles through the entirety of your sets.
Focus on Unilateral Training. If you manage to find a gym in your hotel, you'll likely also find dumbbells. Problem is they most likely range from five to fifty pounds. For most dedicated strength aficionados, this is hardly enough weight to elicit a training effect. That is, unless, you focus on unilateral training. Sure, dumbbell unilateral training isn't going to have the strength effect that heavy barbell training does--but we have to make the best of the situation.
Pick your favorite barbell strength exercises and do them unilaterally, with one dumbbell. Focus on time under tension with the heaviest dumbbell you can find--utilizing at least a two second eccentric phase and a two second concentric phase. For lower-body exercises--bump up the time under tension. Work to a rate of perceived exertion of eight--or two reps shy of failure.
Move like an Animal. Alright, before you call the authorities and send me on a speedy trip to the loony bin--hear me out. When you've nothing but your bodyweight to train with, primal movement patterns are great for maintaining strength. Besides--they offer a great opportunity to infuse training with fun and build strength through ranges of motion that traditional strength movements don't require.
During one of your travel workout sessions, start or finish your training day by moving like an animal. Take time to do some bear crawls, crab walks or gorilla walks. Take a walk, find a tree and climb it a few times.
By the way, it should go without saying that travel time is no time to leave home without your normal daily supplements. The road offers far too many temptations in the form of empty calories and poor eating choices. A scoop of MyoZene
or NytroWhey Ultra Elite
in a shaker cup
is a great thing to have on hand when your flight is delayed and the airport bar or fast food franchise is calling out to you. Likewise, a travel container of ProSource Creatine
or a daily pill pack loaded up with BCAAs
or Glutamine Caps
is a great way to maintain peak anabolism on the run.
Travel training isn't a strength death sentence--it's an opportunity. It's a chance to use training different training methods and build strength with a fresh perspective. Travel with the above strategies and you'll maintain your strength away from the gym and have fun in the process.