Imagine being home for two months straight.
You have yourself on a dedicated workout plan and seeing excellent results when you look in the mirror. You’ve also improved your strength in the bench press and squat by over twenty pounds. You feel ecstatic!
Then your happiness starts to go away. The world comes crashing down on you because you find out that there’s a five day business trip you must go on.
“I guess I can kiss my muscles goodbye!”
That is the mindset of most people when they travel. They fear that when they go on their business trips they will have to start all over once they get back.
Do you currently have that same problem?
When travel is a frequent part of your life it becomes very easy to make up excuses for not getting in shape at all. Those traveling excuses starts a viscous cycle of either being fit and healthy or just being miserable and unhealthy.
To those who care about getting stronger, long trips feel like a death sentence to their progress.
I don’t want you to feel that way anymore! I’m here to help you with some tips on how to keep those muscles strong during long business trips.
What Is Strength?
Let’s make sure you first understand what strength is. Too many people get strength and hypertrophy (muscle building) confused. When talking about pure strength you are talking about the most weight you can lift for a certain amount of reps.
The term 1RM is short for one rep max. A 1RM is the max amount of weight you can lift for one rep. Besides 1RM, you’ll also see 3RM or 5RM. Those are just short for your 3 rep max or 5 rep max.
When testing your strength you don’t always have to figure out your exact one rep max by only lifting super maximum heavy weight. It is much safer to choose a slightly lighter weight that you feel you can do for 3-10 reps before reaching failure.
When following that route, you can use a simple One Rep Max calculator to estimate your 1 rep max.
Here’s a great one rep max calculator
Types of Strength
There are two types of strength: Absolute strength and relative strength. Absolute strength would be the greatest amount you can lift at one time aka One Rep Max.
Relative strength is the maximum force a person is able to exert in relation to his or her body weight. If doing math it would look like this:
Relative Strength = absolute strength / bodyweight
It’s important to know the difference because as your body weight increases or decreases, you relative strength should get better not worse. If your relative strength gets worse, then you probably have too much weight (most likely fat) on your body.
Make Sure You Rest
Because of the high demand strength workouts take on the body, you need to make sure you get plenty of rest between sets. Resting anywhere between 2 – 5 minutes is good when lifting close to your maximum strength numbers.
The number of reps for strength should ideally be between 4-6 reps at an intensity that’s 70-90% of your One Rep Max.
What Are You Really Trying To Do?
Now that you know what strength really is, you now need to ask yourself if your goal is really to keep your strength, keep your muscles or just maintain your fitness progress?
It all comes down to reversibility. Reversibility simply states that your muscle will go away at half the rate it was gained.
Let’s say that you were consistently weightlifting in the gym for three months and gained 1 inch on your biceps. You then had to go on a trip in which you had absolutely no way to workout for three straight months.
How much would your muscle shrink after the trip was over?
Reversibility states that the muscle goes away at half the rate it was gained. So if it took 3 months to gain 1 inch, in 3 months you will only lose 1/2 inch.
Remember that’s IF YOU DID ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!
How does that make you feel?
It’s not as bad as you thought, is it?
But remember that was for muscle size, what about strength?
It’s inevitable that if you take fa few weeks off from lifting heavy, that you will not immediately be able to lift those same heavy weights immediately. It will take a few sessions before you get back to those numbers.
If you did absolutely nothing, then yes you would be starting at ground zero. But that’s not what you are going to do from this point on!
What To Do While Traveling
Remember that something is always better than nothing. Even though strength and hypertrophy taps into two different energy systems, focusing on hypertrophy can still allow you to keep your muscle size while on long business trips.
When lifting for hypertrophy the plan is to increase the muscle size not necessarily the strength. It’s all about isolating the muscles and letting the muscle do the work in a controlled fashion. When lifting for strength your goal is simply to get that weight moving by any means necessary. The weight used during hypertrophy doesn’t matter as much.
When stuck in hotel gyms, this can be a good thing. You don’t have to worry about not having those big barbell weights because you’re going to be focusing on perfecting your technique.
While taking things slowly and focusing on your technique you’ll start discovering imbalances. Doing unilateral movements will help you identify weak points while you’re traveling. This will help out when you get back to your normal strength routine.
Now if you’re lucky enough to find a gym near your hotel, by all means go for it! If that gym has the equipment you need to do a strength focused workout, then do it!
Just be sure to set realistic expectations. If you know you will have a busy work schedule and that your diet might be slightly off then normal, go into the situation with the mentality that your job is to maintain your current strength level.
If you can come back from your trip in the same condition (or better) than you started. That’s a MAJOR WIN!!
Strength training is not a sprint, it’s a marathon! You have to think about the long term not just the short.
For those who cannot find a good gym near your hotel, I encourage you to embrace hypertrophy training so you can keep your muscle size. You will not be pushing big weights, but remember the principle of reversibility.
By doing some activity, your body will not be losing muscle or strength as fast as it would if you would be doing nothing.
Remember something is always better than nothing!
Stay strong my friends!
Hypertrophy training = Make Muscles Bigger
Typical Hypertrophy Setup
- Sets: 3-5
- Reps 8-12
- Short Rest (20 – 90 secs)
- 70-80% of One Rep Max
Strength Training = Make Muscles Do More Work
Typical Strength Setup
- Sets: 2-5
- Reps 1-5
- Long Rest (2 – 3 mins)
- 80-95% of One Rep Max