Few situations are as frustrating as have the perfect workout plan derailed by a crummy hotel gym and baby weights.
Luckily, even if your hotel gym resembles a broom closet with a mirror and a few dumbbells you can still get a great workout.
To build strength, size, and athleticism, you must train heavy and explosively. Doing so helps your body recruit more muscle fibers which in turn, allows you to “fatigue” and grow those muscle fibers.
Luckily, even when heavy weights aren’t available, you can still “turn on” more muscle fibers with lighter weights done explosively.
In the short term, explosive exercises activate high-threshold motor units (HTMUs), which means you recruit and use more of your muscle.
No, you won’t feel a crazy burn or pump from explosive lifting, but that doesn’t mean they don’t work! — but that doesn’t mean they’re not effective. Explosive exercises work by making everything you do next much more effective.
Before your next upper body workout, try clapping push ups or a medicine ball slam for three sets of 5 with 60 seconds rest in between.
Before you train your lower body, try three sets of 5 squat jumps or broad jumps.
In both cases, you’ll recruit more muscle fibers for a more productive workout because you can fatigue more muscle fibers, making your workouts more effective.
Over time, training with more explosive exercises will help you maintain and improve youth athleticism without pulverizing your body with heavy weights. Suffice to say; if you want to build a body that performs and looks great without getting pulling a hamstring every time you play a backyard football game, you need to train explosively.
Set a timer and work against the clock rather than counting reps. It sounds weird, but there are some powerful benefits.
When you’re fatigued, you’ll need to maintain your focus on the quality of each rep rather than finishing the set in a certain number of reps. This keeps you mentally engaged in your workouts and boosts your mind-muscle connection–an essential component of building up lagging muscle groups.
Even better, timed sets focus on two underrated factors for muscle growth: tension and metabolic stress. By keeping your muscles under constant tension, like avoiding the lockout on a bench press, you create more muscle damage while producing by-products of muscle contractions (such as lactic acid) – which creates metabolic stress.
Long duration sets between 45-60 seconds work wonders for building muscle. No, you won’t be able to lift as heavy, but by maximizing tension in your muscles and controlling each rep, you’ll set off a plethora of muscle-building mechanisms to help you make progress even when you’re short on equipment.
The next time you train, set a timer for 60 seconds. Perform as a rhythmic set, controlling each rep for the full 60 minutes while staying just shy of lockout. Keep the weight light–you’ll be shocked at how difficult it is. Rest 60-90 seconds and repeat for two sets.
Pause At Your Weak Points
When it comes to building muscle, heavy weight isn’t always the answer. To the contrary, your ability to make lightweight feel heavy by maximizing tension in your muscles is critical.
Case in point, a bench press. If you shorten your bench press or bounce the barbell off your chest you’re not training your chest; you’re letting your shoulders and triceps dominate.
A better option?
Slow down your reps and pause at weak points. When you pause at your weak points, you’re forced to stabilize your body at the weakest positions.
The pause also eliminates one huge compensation factor: elastic energy stored in your ligaments. To overcome the pause, you must generate pure strength.
Over time, this will help you improve your strength and create more tension within your muscles.
Here’s an example using a pre-set pause:
Pause at the “bottom” of your lifts while keeping tension on your muscles. In a dumbbell bench press pause with the dumbbells outside your chest for 1-2 seconds before pressing up. You’ll attack the weakest part of your lifts while increasing the duration of each set, which increases the total time under tension for your muscles.
The average hotel gym has a few janky dumbbells, and if you’re lucky, a machine or two squeezed into a room the size of a broom closet.
Efficiency is the name of the game, and you’ll need to do more with less to increase training density. The best method to doing more with less is to squeeze more work over a shorter time frame with metabolic circuits.
Metabolic circuits combine a plethora of exercises into one large set.
This increases metabolic stress, helping you burn more calories and build mass. According to this study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, metabolic stress is one of the primary mechanisms of hypertrophy.
When you’re short on time or equipment, create total-body metabolic circuits to challenge yourself.
Pick a push, pull, lower body exercise, and core exercise. Let’s say: Push-up, pull-up, goblet squat, and plank. Perform four sets of 12 reps for each exercise and hold your plank for 30-60 seconds. Keep rest time between exercises to a minimum.
Making More Muscle Out Of Less
Training won’t always be ideal, especially if you’re traveling and stuck in a subpar hotel gym. But that’s no reason to take a break. Chase progress, not perfection. Using the training methods above you’ll be able to maximize the tools you do have for time efficient and productive muscle building workouts.
Follow Eric and get tons of awesome fitness advice on his Instagram at Bach Performance.
More From Eric Bach On BroBible: