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Strength Training Exercises for Travel

Strength training exercises for travel part 2 As a traveler/ writer/ webmaster/ father, I know that I cannot devote hours each day to doing strength training exercises, nor can I carry around a set of weights while on the road, and, while I would love to cultivate the countenance of a muscle bound mutant, I [...]

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Strength training exercises for travel part 2

As a traveler/ writer/ webmaster/ father, I know that I cannot devote hours each day to doing strength training exercises, nor can I carry around a set of weights while on the road, and, while I would love to cultivate the countenance of a muscle bound mutant, I must settle for doing a half hour to 45 minutes of strength exercises with resistance bands each day. I found that doing these exercises are enough to superimpose a sense of fitness upon the often long days of travel writing, web construction, and magazine editing that sometimes leave me feeling more plant than human.

Though the time that I put towards physical training is often intense — moving from one exercise to another to another in quick succession. I have a lot that I want to do in my days, and being in a hotel room grunting, huffing, and puffing, stimulating my muscles and working out is just one of them. A half hour to 45 minutes a day is what I invest towards strength training, the rest of my exercises are more applied towards traveling itself: hiking, walking, climbing, and biking.

This page shows the exercises that I now do using resistance bands, go to Exercises for travel part 1 for suggestions on how to do strength training with a backpack full of water jugs.

Video of some of the upper body exercises that I do while traveling

Exercises for travel in photos and descriptions

See video above for a live demonstration of these exercises. I also do various other exercises as I travel, but they tend to be more or less based off of the ones that follow.

Push ups

I often start my upper body exercise routine with a set of push ups. I wrap the bands around my shoulders and then go at it.

Doing push ups with resistance bands

Bicep curls

To do bicep curls I put one end of the resistance band under my foot and then pull the other end up with one arm, concentrating on the bicep.

Doing one arm bicep curls with a resistance band

Back flies

I take the band and hold it straight out in front of me and the pull it between my arms like a Muslim does with dough for noodles. I try to pinch my shoulder blades together while doing this. This exercise is good for the back and shoulders.

Back flies with resistance bands

Deltoid exercises

To exercise your outer deltoids (shoulders) stand with the resistance band in front of you as in this picture:

Start out with the band like this first

Then pull your arms up and out to the side keeping your elbows nearly locked so that you feel your shoulders doing the work.

Pull the band up and out to the side exercising your shoulders

Other calisthenics

Apart from doing strength exercises with resistance bands, I put various other calisthenics like sit ups, crunches, dips, and pull ups into my routine. See the video above for about these exercises.

Specs of exercise routine

There are many different routines that you can do with these exercises. With the resistance bands, I often try to max out at 10 or 12 repetitions per set, and when I can do more than this I add more resistance (another band or a thicker one). With calisthenics where I do not apply additional resistance, I do as many reps as I possibly can. I often do each set of exercises three or four times throughout a routine, rotating between them in succession.

Rotate muscle groups through exercise routine

To optimize my time during an exercise routine I make sure that I rotate through exercises for various muscle groups in continuous succession. So I start with an exercise for the chest and triceps and then move on to one for the biceps and then go to an exercise for the back and then one for the abdominals . . . In this way, I allow one muscle group to rest while stimulating another, and I greatly decrease my down time between exercises. Any time spent not exercising during a strength training routine is basically wasted time, as it is possible to come up with a strategy that allows you to go between various exercises without pause, and to have your muscles rested enough to respond each time. Using this extreme rotation method I am able to complete roughly 40 separated sets of exercises in a period of well under one hour.

The benefit of resistance bands for travel exercise

Part of successfully sticking to an exercise routine is found in keeping it simple. Strength training does not get any simpler than doing calisthenics with resistance bands. I use do do my exercises using a backpack full of water jugs as a mechanism for resistance, but I found that I stuck to my routine with less vigilance then, as I would discard my water jugs each time I would leave a place (no, I am not going to carry all kinds of empty water jugs around the world with me) and it would take me a little time once arriving in a new destination to acquire a new set of exercise “gear.” When it comes to exercising when traveling, the simpler your set up the better. Now I just reach into my backpack, grab my bands, and I am ready to go.

These resistance bands are cheap — generally under $5 almost anywhere in the world — they are lightweight, compactable, and extremely portable. I have not yet to find better exercise equipment for travel.


I grew up with a muscle man in my home. He was my father. I learned the value of physical fitness from him, ethics which I have found to last through the years and over mountains, across seas, and through the great expanses of the planet. I have combined many of his lessons in terms of physical fitness within the parameters of world travel, and have developed a routine that I can do just about everywhere.

Sometimes in travel you are very active — climbing, hiking, exploring with your own body as the vehicle — and sometimes you find that you are just sitting around drinking beer, being on the computer, being served in restaurants, or riding along idly on long bus trips. A few months of sitting on the beach can allow the body to lose the level of fitness that it needs for the more vigorous times of travel. In point, feeling out of shape in the mountains can make some of the most amazing moments in travel feel miserable. The physical fitness while traveling series is about developing strategies that lend a high level of athletic ability to all aspects of travel — whether you spend your days strolling around cities or are biking across continents.

Be sure to visit the other articles in this travel fitness series.

Additional resources:
Wilderness sports conditioning- An excellent website about physically preparing for outdoor sports.

Buy exercise resistance bands through Amazon


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Filed under: Health, Travel Tips

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3722 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

2 comments… add one

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  • Robin Reifel June 9, 2011, 12:07 pm

    Bands! Brilliant!! I use 2L water bottles but that’s not much & it always takes me a day or two to get them which means I easily fall out of the routine. Thanks for the great tip!

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    • Wade Shepard June 9, 2011, 6:50 pm

      Thanks Robin,

      Yeah, those bands are excellent. Clutch for traveling.

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