You had a pleasant flight, got settled in your hotel, explored the area a bit, and had a good night's sleep. Then, you decided to have a workout the following day, so you walked down to your hotel gym.
But as you walked into the training facility, you could not help but feel sheer disappointment. There were barely any weights or machines, and the dumbbells were only up to 22 lbs (10 kilograms). Your training enthusiasm deflated instantly, and you found yourself thinking, "What am I supposed to do with this?"
Does it mean you will have bad workouts in most hotel gyms? It does not have to, but you need the right tactics. Let's discuss what these are.
What you can do in almost any Hotel Gym
At first glance, a bad gym means you are in for a dull workout because it would be impossible to create the necessary challenge to keep progressing. Fortunately, that does not have to be the case because it all starts with your mindset.
First, start positively and tell yourself, "Okay, this might not be the best gym, but I am here and will do everything I can to have a good workout." Even if you can not max out on the bench press or do a few good sets of lat pulldowns on a high-quality machine, a sub-par workout is far better than not doing anything. You do not want the lack of equipment or the light weights to keep you from having a productive session.
The great thing about fitness is that you can adjust the variables in multiple ways to make the best of a bad situation. We will go over specific tactics in the next section. For instance, check out this article by Men's Journal. It outlines six excellent gym activities you can do, even with lighter weights, to train most major muscle groups and see some good results.
With that in mind, let us review some effective ways to have challenging workouts if you are limited on equipment or weight.
How to have a good Hotel Gym Workout, when you don't have heavy Weights or enough Equipment
1. Do more Repetitions
The simplest thing you can do to challenge yourself with lighter weights is to do more repetitions. For example, instead of doing 5 to 15 repetitions on most exercises, do 25, 30, or even 50 if necessary.
Now, you are probably thinking that high-rep training is not as useful. However, research suggests that light and heavy training can lead to similar muscle growth so long as we push ourselves close enough to failure.
In other words, doing high-rep push-up sets and moderate-rep bench presses can lead to similar chest growth if we put enough effort into our training. All of this has to do with one fundamental truth: Your muscles understand stress. So long as you challenge yourself, you will see positive results even with lighter weights. And hey, doing that many reps is great for aerobic conditioning.
2. Rest less between Sets
Aside from doing more repetitions, keep the challenge high by resting less between sets. For example, if you usually rest for two minutes, cut that time in half and see how long you can last.
You can challenge yourself surprisingly well even with light weights if you push yourself hard. Plus, doing so can help you finish your workout quicker by doing more work in less time.
The only thing to be mindful of is your technique. Shorter rest periods can lead to greater muscle fatigue, affecting movement mechanics. Beware of the potential risk, and always prioritize proper form over the number of reps you are doing.
3. Do more challenging Exercises
As we start training and gain experience, we find our favorite exercises and stick with them. There is not anything necessarily wrong with that. So long as the movements challenge you, train the right muscles and help you progress, do them.
But when you are at a hotel gym, and the heaviest available weights barely challenge you, consider doing more difficult exercises. For example, if you usually do barbell back squats, but your hotel gym does not even have a squat rack, do Bulgarian split squats with dumbbells instead. If those are too easy, do single-leg squats.
The same applies to all sorts of other movements. If one can not challenge you much, find a way to increase the difficulty. Other ideas include:
- Do repetitions more slowly
- Add a pause to each repetition
- Do dropsets
- Do supersets
4. Use a good Fitness App
Putting everything together can be tricky. Between finding new exercises and creating an effective routine, it is easy to get overwhelmed and not enjoy your trip to the fullest.
Because of that, we recommend using a good fitness app, such as Fitbod, or Alpha Progression. With these, you can take your fitness with you and put together fantastic workouts in a couple of minutes. Plus, you can make changes to your workouts on the go, depending on what weights you have at your disposal.
These fitness apps offer an extensive library of exercises, ranging from challenging bodyweight routines to complex calisthenics and bodybuilding workouts. You can explore and get inspired by the vast selection and receive step-by-step instructions, including high-quality videos on how to perform them correctly. It is like having a virtual personal trainer at your fingertips.
For example, here's what you should do to use Fitbod:
- Download the app and make an account.
- Set goals (e.g., build muscle).
- Mark what equipment you have available (if any)
- Define how long you would like your workouts to be.
- Select your training experience.
- Pick a training split (optional, e.g., upper/lower or push/pull/legs)
The app will generate a training plan based on the above criteria, and all you have to do is do the work as outlined. However, you can still make changes. For instance, if an exercise bothers your shoulders or knees, you can easily swap it for another.
5. Use Resistance Bands
Resistance bands are long pieces of rubber you can use to perform a wide range of effective exercises, warm up your muscles, and do mobility work.
One option is to use bands for gym-based exercises like bicep curls, lat pulldowns, and lateral raises. Alternatively, you can use bands to make certain bodyweight exercises easier or more challenging.
For example, take a looped resistance band, wrap it over a pull-up bar, and let it hang like a noose. Next, place your feet inside the loop, grab the pull-up bar, and perform band-assisted pull-ups or chin-ups. The thicker the band is, the more support it provides and the easier it is to do reps. In contrast, a thinner band would mean you get less support. Either option will be an excellent alternative to lat pulldowns if the hotel gym you're training at does not have that machine.
In contrast to pull-ups, you can use a resistance band to make push-ups more challenging. For example, place a looped band behind your back, wrap it over your hands, and get down on the floor to do push-ups. Having a band behind your back would make push-ups more challenging in case the bodyweight version feels too easy.
The great thing about resistance bands is that you can take them on the road. Most resistance band sets come in a small bag you can take with you to any hotel gym. Check out our ultimate guide to resistance bands.
Tips for finding a Hotel Gym with enough Weights
Another straightforward way to have better workouts is to ensure the facilities you visit have everything you need. Unfortunately, this is not always possible because not all destinations have great hotel gyms. However, doing some research ahead of time can be valuable.
One option is to research your travel destination, see the available hotels, and see if they have hotel gyms. It is not the worst way to go about it, and it can still be a good way to get an idea of what the available training facilities are.
However, that approach can take more time than necessary. Plus, even if you put in extra effort to read reviews, understand that you might still be at risk. According to reports, up to a fifth of all reviews on websites like Booking.com or Tripadvisor are illegitimate or bought.
A better strategy is using a tool that quickly provides all that information. GymFactor is our all-in-one advisor tool that makes it easy to see what training facilities are available and how other people have rated their stay.
Some of the leading things GymFactor considers when rating hotel gyms include the following:
- Available equipment
- The facility's maintenance
- The number of available weights
The tool looks at everything that matters to users to provide the best results and suggestions for your travels. For example, if a gym has plenty of free weights but scores poorly in cleanliness and maintenance, the tool will not give it the best rating or recommend it over other facilities.
In summary, do not let a less-than-ideal hotel gym stop you from getting a good workout. By adopting the right mindset and strategies, you can still achieve positive results, even with limited equipment or lighter weights. Some effective tactics include doing more reps, taking shorter breaks between sets, trying more challenging exercises, and using a quality fitness app.
Remember, progress in fitness comes from regularly challenging your muscles. So, keep going despite the lack of equipment or weights. Instead, embrace the challenge and focus on pushing yourself to your limits. Use these tips to have a successful workout no matter where you are, whether at home or away. Happy training!