Yesterday,  I was yammering on about training in non-ideal situation and sleeping on the floor for 2 days.

The biggest area that I hear about crappy conditions from clients / readers is travel as they are subjected to the hotel gym.

I hear ya.

I travel a fair amount and have seen my share of hotel gyms.  Many of them resemble a broom closet with a random “all in none” machine and 3 broken dumbbells (DBs) collecting dust.

Some times you get a nice gym, which was the case in Chicago this past weekend.   They had a nice variety of machines (yes, I do use them at times) and DBs up to 100 lbs.


Here are my top 3 ways to use your hotel gym and still make progress.

1) More DB Work 
Even the most crap-tastic rat motel gym will usually have a couple DBs.  Take this time to do some new exercises that you have not done in some time.

Here are 3 ways to maximize them:
a) If the DBs are light, go for higher reps, even up to 20-30 reps.

b) Instead of alternating DBs, for example, in DB curls (doing your left arm, then your right, then back to your left), move them at the same time. Move to standing up for added stabilization work or do them by sitting on the end of a bench (no back support).

c) Use a different hand/arm position.  If you always do bench press with your arms out to the side, have your upper arms just brush your torso.

If you always row with your hand in a neutral position, use a pronated grip (elbow out) or even a ..gasp…. supinated grip (palm up) – just pull through your elbow.

Boom! Instant variety and mad gainZ.

2) Change the Diameter

One of my favorite pieces of equipment that I travel with is fat grips.   They are modular grips that fit over the DBs to increase the diameter from around 1 inch to about 2 inches for the blue ones and over 3 inches for the orange ones (fat grips extreme).

Lifting a thicker bar /DB is awesome work and has a high transfer to your other lifts in my experience.

It also makes a lighter load feel / perform like a heavier load.  The blue ones are just fine if you have not done any thick bar work.  The orange ones (extremes) can be added later if you are goal is more grip related or you already have the blue ones.

I currently just travel with the orange ones as they can make even 55 lb DBs for rows feel heavy enough that 10 reps is around my max.   It will roughly drop the load in about half (although that will vary).

Since my current goals are more grip strength related, this works perfectly for me.

Even if your goals are not grip related, nobody has ever complained that their grip was too strong.   For many clients I have worked with, adding grip strength has made a massive difference.  Hat tip to my good friend Adam Glass for all the info there.

3) Run The Machines

Dr. Lonnie Lowery and I did that this past weekend in Chicago after doing some incline DB presses and DB rows with the fat grip extremes.   We hit up the random machines that the hotel gym had to offer.   We started at one end and did 1 exercise to almost failure on each of the 8 machines.   It only took 20 minutes, and we were done.  Total gym time was 45 minutes.


Use travel as a way to add some variety to your training with the 3 tips above.

Dr Mike