3 Tips for Effective Hotel Workouts

Article length: 700 words

Reading time: 3-6 minutes

I don't travel much, but this past week I was in Miami for 5 days coaching athletes at a CrossFit competition. We had athletes compete everyday intermittently from 8am to 7pm, so my time was limited to get my own workouts in. Luckily for me the hotel I stayed had plenty of good equipment, but I still had to get creative to get good workouts in. Below are three big tips I think everyone can benefit from to maximize their training while traveling and some sample workouts I performed. Enjoy! 

1) Focus on Compound Movements

When you’re limited on time, focus on exercises that will hit the most muscle groups possible. Most hotel gyms don’t have heavy DB’s or barbell bench setups, vertical pressing works well because of lighter weight. Single-arm DB OHP and any pull-up variation are great. These two exercises will hit delts, triceps, lats, biceps and forearms.  Exercises like tricep pushdowns and bicep curls are fun if you’re just trying to get a pump, but to maximize muscle stimulation and calorie expenditure, go compound. 

My recent hotel strength workout
A1) Body weight pull-ups. 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps
A2) Single-arm DB OHP. 4 sets of 8 reps (adding weight reach round)
Rest 2 minutes


2) Mix up the Stimulus

If you’re limited on equipment and are forced to do the same exercises (bike, row, run) you can stay engaged by switching up the stimulus. For example, one day focus on steady aerobic work such as the aerobic threshold workouts from Aerobic Capacity. If you’re not a consistent runner don’t be afraid to scale down the overall volume of these workouts. The first month I was doing Aerobic Capacity runs I cut the volume in half and still got in good workouts. The next day focus on high-intensity intervals, such as 3 sets of 400m run @ 80% with 3 minute rest between sets.

Last weekends cardio work
Friday - Active recovery
5 rounds
250m row (easy pace)
5 air squats
5 pullups
1 minute of mobility of choice.

Saturday - Aerobic work
*My paces noted for reference, not goals. Performed on treadmill.
10 min easy jog (5mph)
1 min walk
2 sets of 6 min run w/2 min rest between rounds (6.5mph)
2 sets of 4 min run w/1 min rest between rounds (7mph)
2 sets of 2 min run w/30 sec rest between rounds (7.5mph)
2 sets of 1 min run w/10 sec rest between rounds (8mph)

Sunday - Interval training
3 sets of 500m row @ 80/85/90% with 3 minute rest between sets. Each round got faster. (1:46/1:43/1:38)


3) Strength Train with Upper Body, Conditioning with Lower Body 

Odds are the hotel gym will have limited lower body strength training equipment. Squats, deadlifts, leg presses and Olympic lifts aren’t likely an option. For this reason I’d recommend saving your lower body for conditioning work. Lunges, goblet squats, jumping squats and glute bridges are good options to do in a circuit fashion or timed. Ab work is also easily meshed in. 

The hotel gym should have heavy enough DB’s to do some compound upper body work, even if it needs to be 10+ reps to be challenging enough. I’d recommend picking 3 upper body lifts, a push, a pull and a concentration movement. Lastly, if the hotel gym has no weights at all, even the most advanced athletes could get a good stimulus from a few rounds of 20 pushups +10 pullups. 

Exercise examples

Pushes - DB OHP, push-ups, DB bench presses

Pulls - Pull-ups, DB row, lat pulldown, TRX row

Concentration movements - DB lateral raise, DB curl, tricep pushdowns 

Sample lower body conditioning piece:

A1) Goblet squats x 15 reps

A2) Glute bridges x 15 reps

A3) Body weight front plank x 20 - 60 secs

Rest 1 min

B1) Lunges x 20 total steps

B2) Jumping squats x 10 reps

B3) Side plank x 15 - 30 secs on both sides

Rest 1 min. Start again at A1. Repeat for 4 total rounds.

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Minimum Effective Dose

Article length: 1,000 words

Reading time: 3-6 minutes

Take home: Most of us are not looking to break world-records and if someone told us we could obtain the same amount of results with 25% less effort, we'd listen. Use the concept of minimum effective dose to maximize your fitness work to results ratio. 

Three Rules of Deep Practice

Article length: 1,500 words

Reading time: 5-8 minutes

Take home: Deep practice is about paying attention. Substitute going through the motions with deliberate analyzation and correction of your lifts. 

In "Intro to Myelin - Guide to Deep Practice" you learned how myelin works. Making our synapses faster and therefore movements better. You learned that it's not just about practicing duration, but quality. 

Now we'll break down Daniel Coyles three rules of deep practice and apply them to the barbell sports. 

Three Rules of Deep Practice

Rule 1: Chunk It Up

Rule 2: Repeat It

Rule 3: Learn to Feel It

Intro to Myelin - Guide to Deep Practice

Article length: 1,700 words

Reading time: 5-8 minutes

Take home: Building myelin is how we form movement habits. Use the skills of deep practice to build more myelin and move better. 

My introduction to lifting came from playing basketball. While quickness, jumping high and being tall play major a role, few would argue that basketball isn't a sport dominated by skill. The same can be argued for soccer, baseball, gymnastics or just about any other sport. So why is it that so few think about the skill of lifting? 

Minimums & Maximums

In part one of Autoregulate Better, I introduced the concept of training minimums and maximums. If you haven't first read my work on autoregulation please do so to set the table for this article. 


Minimums and maximums give us a way to train at the apex of the inverted U

Whether it's fluctuations in outside stress, sleep, nutrition, training environment, soreness or a variety of other factors, we can't assume or predict exactly what we'll be capable of each day. 

As much as athletes like to think of themselves as machines, we do not live in a little bubble of eating, sleeping & training. Even professional athletes must concentrate on their families, traveling and endorsements. All of this considered, there are days we won't PR or hit our expected numbers, this is why having minimums are important.

Autoregulate Better Part 2: Muscle Growth for Physique Athletes

In part one, we learned the basics of autoregulation. 

  • Why autoregulation is important
  • How the RPE scale is incorporated
  • Different forms of autoregulation

Now, we'll start to dig - how specifically a strength or physique athlete will use these tools to improve their training.

Although autoregulation should be used by everyone, how it is used differs depending on goals. 

Improving Body composition

Although the popular RPE/RTS style of training is most common among strength athletes, lets not assume physique athletes shouldn't be paying attention. 

Every physique athlete has the same goal - improve body composition. 

Doing so by increasing muscle mass and decreasing body fat.

Clearly, it gets more complicated.

Autoregulate Better Part 1: RPE Scale & Progressions

What Is Autoregulation and Why Should We Do It?

Autoregulation is the adjustment to training in the short-term based on both external and internal responses. 

Here are a few examples of autoregulating volume.

Since the apex of the inverted U represents optimal performance that's the training goal. In order to consistently train around the apex we must realize the dynamic nature of our biology. If we ignore this fact, we risk our training falling below the apex (low stress/boredom) and this will result in under stimulation of our body, which will cause no adaptation. We equally risk reaching beyond the apex (high stress/anxiety) in which our bodies in that given state are not prepared to handle that stressor. 

Autoregulation better allows us to appropriately stimulate our bodies to reach the apex of the performance/arousal inverted U every training session.

Periodization Part 2: 16 week training cycle

In part one, we defined linear, nonlinear and block periodization. We also learned that these types of periodization are rarely used alone, instead a solid training program includes them all. 

In this article we will put those words into practical use. 

Putting it All Together

The main point of this article was to provide foundation knowledge and understand that arguments like "which type of periodization is best" is stupid. It's sort of arguing which is the best exercise to do. Like we only have the option to do one? The answer is...that's a stupid question.

Most programs (at least good ones) are a combination. Yes, linear, non-linear and block periodization.

In my opinion it's best to start on a macroscale and break things down into pieces from there. Since a large population of my readers are interested in powerlifting I will give an example of 4 months of training for a powerlifting competition.

Periodization Part 1: Linear, DUP, Block Definitions

Lately, DUP (daily undulating periodization) has been all the craze. 

I get emails saying I want to be on "the DUP program" and even researchers such as Mike Zourdos has jokingly called this type of periodization "The DUP."

I found out beginners have a very limited understanding of periodization, even though it's a critical part of exercise programming. Much more than the best type of bicep curl or whether you should squat high bar or low bar. 

This article will briefly discuss the three main types of periodization, examples of each and why they aren't mutually exclusive. 

Enroll In Gym Etiquette 101

Enroll In Gym Etiquette 101

When we enter the gym we're all lifters. Regardless of our goals, we're excited to crush our training for the next few hours, but before we do so there are some ground rules. 

In any setting we have to learn what is socially acceptable. 

Don't yell at the television in Applebee's. Do yell at the television in your local pub when the playoffs are on. 

I often joke that every gym member should have to take a gym etiquette class prior to stepping into the weight room...ok so it's not a joke. They really should. 

2014: When Training Equipment Suddenly Becomes A Must

Over the past few years there has been a resurgence in barbell popularity. Maybe I'm just naive and bias, but I don't remember olympic lifting and powerlifting being so cool when I was growing up. By no means are these sports on par with football, baseball, volleyball, etc. but they're climbing again. [1], [2]

More people in the barbell sports is a great thing. This is what I love! Getting people, bigger, faster, stronger - and at any cost.

Why Slow Cardio Sucks

Walk into any gym, and you’re bound to see a battle for treadmills, ellipticals and other conventional cardio equipment, while dumbbells, kettlebells and barbells are collecting dust. Often, the pinnacle of one’s fitness level is their one-mile time and not their five rep max squat.

We’ve been programmed to think aerobic exercise is king, but is this true? Slow and steady does not win this race.

The Truth About Your Abs

When it comes to aesthetics, the six pack is the Bentley of our physiques. No one really needs it, but, honestly, who doesn’t want a six pack? Despite this desire, it’s a rare site. But here’s how you can join that exclusive group.

One of the most troubling issues I see daily as a personal trainer is the lack of success of people around me. I don’t mean this in a disrespectful way. For the most part, I see hard-working people chasing their goals. It’s a lack of knowledge, rather than effort.

Cardio That Doesn't Suck

Oh, the drudgery of hamster wheel cardio. If you’ve been struggling to exercise consistently, don’t be afraid to try something you haven’t done before.

If you enjoy exercising, but can’t stand the monotonous nature of running or being on an elliptical, then you aren’t alone. Exercising should be an enjoyable, uplifting activity, not a mind-numbing torture experience. Luckily, there are other ways to obtain fitness than repetitive workouts.

Balancing Body Image

In our quest to become healthier, our first actions are typically to eat better and exercise more. These two pillars of health are no secret to anyone, but what’s missing?

Health is not black and white – context must always be considered. Our health levels are not a sum of different activities where you lose a point for eating cake and gain point for running a mile.

The psychological aspect of health is every bit as important as the physiological aspect. How we feel about our own appearance is just as relevant as how others see us. It may seem like the guy running around campus with a six-pack is the epitome of health, but his self-image may be that of someone who can never be lean enough. Maybe he feels guilty for eating pizza the night before. Maybe running, to him, is actually a punishment.

What Exercise Can Do For You

No one is surprised that exercise is a major component of looking and feeling great. If you are, welcome to earth.

Exercise can help you lose belly fat, add muscle to your arms or even build better glutes, but the benefits don’t stop with the physical.

What are often overlooked are the psychological benefits exercise can have. Personally, I feel these benefits I’ve obtained from exercise supersede anything physical. Benefiting from your workout doesn’t end when you exit the gym doors. Actually, it’s just begun.

Should women lift weights?

A woman enters a weight room and sees manly sweat, big muscles and protruding veins. Not exactly the look she wants to see in the mirror. Culturally, this creates the idea that lifting weights is only for men looking to build muscle, but is this true?

The primary concern with females and lifting is the idea that they will look similar to their male counterparts. What they’re looking for is a “slim and toned” look.

First, women do not posses the hardware to build muscle like men. Hormonally, women are built to carry more fat and less muscle. Assuming the woman isn’t on any anabolic drugs, she will not obtain a “bulky look” from lifting weights. If anything, a bulky physique in a woman is result of fat tissue, primarily from overeating.