Travelers endure a lot — from arduous hikes to long hours in the car, your body can take quite a beating. And when your way of life requires such tough endeavors, it’s important to keep your body primed and ready for whatever the day might bring.
But it can sometimes feel impossible to get a good workout in when you’re on the go — it’s unlikely you’ll run into a gym or even have room for more than just your own body.
That’s just the thing, though: You don’t need any equipment to rev up your metabolism and build strength. None. Not even one dumbbell.
As a personal trainer and CrossFit L-1 coach, I designed these nine zero-equipment workouts for every traveler in a pinch for space or time. Using nothing but your own bodyweight, these workouts will keep you strong, conditioned, and ready for an adventure.
Editor’s Note: For a full description of movements, see the exercise glossary at the end of the article.
Upper-body workouts you can do anywhere
Rock climbing, hang gliding, zip lining, surfing…nearly every outdoor activity requires upper-body strength, endurance, and agility. These no-equipment upper-body workouts work your chest, back, shoulders, and arms so you can confidently scramble up the next cliff you encounter.
Workout 1: Chest, triceps, and shoulders strength workout
If you’re looking for a nice upper-body pump, this workout will do the trick. Comprised of supersets and trisets, it’ll challenge your strength and muscular endurance in your chest, triceps, and shoulders.
Complete the following once:
- Superset, 3 rounds: 10 push-ups and 10 plank shoulder taps
- Superset, 3 rounds: 10 single-leg tricep dips (right) and 10 single-leg tricep dips (left)
- Triset, 3 rounds: 5 burpees, 5 V-ups, and 5 Superman punches
- Triset, 3 rounds: 5 pilates presses, 5 downward dog push-ups, and 30-second high plank
Don’t rest between movements within supersets or trisets — wait until you’ve completed the set. Then rest 60 to 90 seconds between sets. For example, don’t rest between the push-ups and plank shoulder taps, but rest before starting the superset over.
Workout 2: Back and shoulders AMRAP
This workout targets the upper back, lower back, and shoulders to train your pulling muscles — the ones you need to get into a tree or up and over a barrier.
In 20 minutes, complete as many rounds as possible of the following circuit:
- 10 scapular push-ups
- 15 Supermans
- 20 arm circles
- 15 Superman “Ts” (lying reverse fly)
- 10 body saws
Workout 3: Total upper-body EMOM
This workout includes built-in rest, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s easy. A popular workout scheme in CrossFit, an EMOM involves performing a specific number of reps within one minute and resting for the remainder of that minute. EMOMs can comprise multiple movements or have just one. To really work your upper body, this EMOM includes three movements.
EMOM for 21 minutes (7 rounds):
- Minute 1: 20 climber push-ups (also called plank up-downs)
- Minute 2: 20 forearm planks to dolphin pose
- Minute 3: 30 seconds of Supermans (go for max reps)
How to do this workout: Place your phone or timer somewhere you can easily see it. Set it for 21 minutes and press start. From 0:00-1:00, do the 20 climber push-ups. When you finish, rest until 1:00. From 1:00-2:00, do the forearm plank to dolphin pose. Rest until 3:00, and then start the Supermans. When you finish the Supermans, rest until 4:00 and then repeat until you get to 21:00.
Lower-body workouts you can do anywhere
There are few things travelers need more than strong, conditioned legs. If your favorite activities include hiking, swimming, running, climbing, cycling, skiing, surfing, or simply walking, you know just how important your legs are. These three bodyweight-only leg circuits will challenge your quads, hamstrings, and glutes while opening up your hip joints.
Workout 4: Quad killer
As the name implies, this workout targets your quadriceps, although you’ll feel the burn throughout your entire lower body. Don’t forget to stretch your quads and hip flexors after this one.
Complete the following for time (as fast as possible):
- 50 air squats
- 20 jump squats
- 50 alternating lunges
- 20 alternating jump lunges
- 50 cossack squats
- 20 tuck jumps
If you have extra time on your hands, repeat this workout once or twice to train your endurance.
Workout 5: Hip and glute circuit
Perfect for building flexibility and stability, this workout will challenge your range of motion and strengthen all of the stabilizer muscles throughout your lower body.
Complete the circuit 3-5 times:
- 10 lying hip abductions (5 each side)
- 20 single-leg glute bridges (10 each side)
- 30 sumo squats
- 40 prone hamstring curls (20 each side)
- 50-second glute bridge hold
Pro tip: Focus on the contraction and time under tension during this workout, rather than speed: Quality movement wins this workout. This is especially true for movements like the prone hamstring curls and hip abductions.
Workout 6: Total lower-body EMOM
The prior two leg workouts focused on one aspect of lower-body strength (anterior and posterior). This EMOM combines both into one tough workout.
EMOM for 16 minutes (4 rounds):
- Minute 1: 40-second wall sit (squat hold if you don’t have a wall)
- Minute 2: 40 seconds of alternating single-leg deadlift hops
- Minute 3: 40-second glute bridge
- Minute 4: 40 seconds of alternating lunges
Repeat until you reach 16 minutes, or complete the workout twice for a half-hour session.
Full-body workouts you can do anywhere
If you’re looking to optimize your efficiency, use full-body circuits to work more muscles in less time. These three no-equipment bodyweight workouts will test all of your body’s strength and endurance in less than 30 minutes.
Workout 7: Cardio blast AMRAP
Combining ballistic movements with core strength, this circuit-style AMRAP is sure to leave you sweaty and proud. Focus on pacing and endurance for this workout — you want to move through the exercises quickly, but you don’t want to burn out halfway through.
In 25 minutes, complete as many rounds as possible of the following:
- 50 high knees
- 50 Russian twists
- 50 tuck jumps
- 50 mountain climbers
Workout 8: 15-minute full-body circuit
Only have a few minutes before heading out on your next adventure? Try this zero-equipment workout of mini-AMRAPs — each 5-minute increment combines one upper-body movement with one lower-body movement for an intense sweat.
Complete the following once, or twice if you have 30 minutes to spare:
- Minutes 1-5: 20 Superman punches and 20 alternating jump lunges
- Minutes 6-10: 20 hand-release push-ups and 20 air squats
- Minutes 11-15: 20 downward dog to cobra and 20 glute bridges
Pro tip: If you’re near a bed or bench, rest your back on the elevated surface for the glute bridges, as this creates a larger range of motion than you can get lying on the floor.
Workout 9: Isometric burn
If you think you have to move nonstop to get in a good workout, you’re wrong. Isometric exercises require you to flex your muscles but not lengthen or contract them — aka, don’t move. This isometric-only bodyweight workout will challenge your muscular endurance with minimal movement (perfect for working out in small spaces).
Complete 5-10 rounds for time, depending on how much time you’ve allotted to workout:
- Single-leg balance (left): 30 seconds
- Single-leg balance (right): 30 seconds
- Wall sit or squat hold: 30 seconds
- Downward dog: 1 minute
- Side plank (left): 30 seconds
- Side plank (right): 30 seconds
- Elbow plank: 1 minute
Try to switch movements with minimal rest, waiting until the end of the circuit to rest 1-3 minutes before starting over.
Mastering the art of bodyweight workouts
Don’t be quick to think that bodyweight-only workouts are ineffective. Quite the opposite is true: High-intensity bodyweight exercise is right on par with other workout modalities, as far as overall fitness gains go. And performing lightweight bench presses is just as effective as doing push-ups. Of course, bodyweight circuits won’t prepare you for Olympic weightlifting, but they will prepare you for hiking, climbing, surfing, and just about any other outdoor activity.
When you’re on the road, sticking to an exercise regimen requires creativity and discipline. If you fall into the same old trap of air squats and push-ups, you’re bound to get bored and start skipping workouts. Keep workouts short, intense, and interesting — then move along with your day to get your next big adventure under your belt.
Air squat: Also known as bodyweight squats, this lower-body exercise targets your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. Tips: Keep your heels flat on the ground and maintain an upright torso.
Alternating lunges: A beginner lower-body exercise that involves stepping forward and pushing your body back to a standing position. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your core engaged. Step one foot forward until both of your knees reach approximately 90 degrees. Pushing through your heel, return to the starting position. Repeat on the other leg.
Arm circles: A simple shoulder exercise. Stand upright with your arms extended to your sides (make a “T” with your body). Make small, medium, or large circles with your arms. You can make forward or backward circles.
Body saws: A variation of the isometric plank that involves small back-and-forth movements. Start in an elbow plank (see “elbow plank”). Keeping your back flat, rock back and forth on your elbows. Rocking forward and returning to the starting position equals one rep.
Burpees: A whole-body strength and conditioning exercise. Start in a standing position. Move into a squat position with your hands on the ground, and then kick your feet back to achieve a high plank position (see “high plank”). Immediately return your feet to the squat position. Remove your hands from the ground and stand up.
Climber push-ups (plank up-downs): Begin in a high plank. Lower your right elbow to the ground, followed by the left. Push your right arm back to the extended position, followed by the left. One rep is complete when you move from high plank to elbow plank back to high plank.
Cossack squats: A squat variation that challenges single-leg strength and flexibility. Stand in a wide sumo stance. Slowly shift your weight to the right leg, simultaneously lifting your left toes off the ground. Descend as far as you can while keeping your torso upright. Shift your weight back to the middle, and then complete a rep on the left leg.
Downward dog: One of the most recognized yoga poses, also called downward-facing dog. Start with your hands and knees on the floor, with your knees directly below your hips and hands slightly in front of your shoulders. Extend your knees to lift your torso away from the floor. Try to reach your heels to the ground. Your body should resemble an “A” or an upside-down “V.”
Downward dog push-ups: A variation of the push-up that isolates the shoulders rather than the chest. Move into the downward dog position. From there, bend your arms to lower your head to the ground. Gently tap your head to the ground, and then press back up into downward dog. That completes one rep.
Downward dog to cobra: An extension of downward dog. Move into downward dog and hold the position for 1-2 seconds. Then, let your hips sink into a plank position while simultaneously lowering your chest to the ground. Move forward so the tops of your feet touch the ground, and arch your back by pulling your shoulder blades down. In the final position, you should feel a stretch in your abdominal muscles and hip flexors.
Elbow plank: The traditional variation of the plank. Start face down on the floor, resting on your forearms. Push your knees off the floor to engage your abdominal muscles. Support your body weight on your elbows and toes, maintaining a flat back.
Elbow plank to dolphin pose: Start in the elbow plank. From there, push your hips up and back until your body resembles an upside-down “V.” Stay on your elbows the entire time. Complete one rep by returning to the elbow plank position.
Glute bridges (hip thrusters): A beginner lower-body exercise that targets the glutes and hamstrings. Lie on the floor with your knees up and feet flat. Squeeze your glutes and hamstrings to push your hips up as far as you can, then lower your hips back to the ground to complete the rep.
Glute bridge hold: Similar to glute bridges, but instead of lowering your hips back to the ground, remain in the bridge position for an isometric contraction.
Hand-release push-ups: A variation of the traditional push-up (see “push-ups”) that involves lowering your body completely to the ground, quickly removing your hands from the floor, and then pushing back up to the high plank position.
High plank: An isometric core exercise. Start with your hands and knees on the ground. Lift your knees off the ground to support your body weight with only your hands and toes. Keep your spine neutral and core tight.
High knees: A cardiovascular exercise that mimics running. From a standing position, drive your right knee up as high as you can (try to reach your belly button). Lower your right leg back to the floor while simultaneously driving your left knee up. You’ll be off the ground completely for a split second. Stay on the balls of your feet the entire time.
Hip abduction: A lower-body exercise that targets the hip abductors. Lie on your side on the ground, with your legs stacked. Support your head with your arm. Using your outer leg muscles and glutes, lift your leg until you feel a squeeze in your outer glute muscles. Lower your leg to complete the rep.
Jump squats: A plyometric variation of the air squat (see “air squat”). Complete an air squat, but instead of simply returning to the standing position, leap out of the bottom position to get airborne.
Jump lunges: A plyometric version of alternating lunges (see “alternating lunges”). Lunge forward with your right foot, but instead of stepping back, jump into the air and bring your right foot back, simultaneously bringing your left foot forward. You should land with your left foot in the forward position. Continue alternating in this manner.
Mountain climbers: A full-body exercise that builds strength and endurance. Start in the high plank position. Pull your right knee into your chest. Then switch, returning your right foot to the floor and pulling your left foot to your knee. Keeping your hips down, alternate knees as fast as you can.
Plank shoulder taps: Start in the high plank position (see “high plank”). Lift your right arm off the ground to tap your left shoulder. Replace your hand to the ground, and then lift your left arm off the ground to touch your right shoulder. Repeat.
Pilates press: A variation of the traditional push-up (see “push-up”) that involves a return to the standing position after each press. Start by standing with your feet touching. Roll your body downward and touch the floor in front of your feet. Walk your hands out until you are in the high plank position. From there, complete a push-up. Then, walk your hands back to your feet and stand up.
Prone hamstring curls: An isolation exercise for the hamstrings. Lie face down with your legs extended. You can prop your torso up on your — forearms or extend your arms overhead — whichever is more comfortable. Slowly squeeze your hamstrings to lift your lower leg off the ground. Try to touch your heels to your butt without lifting your knees off the ground. Lower your feet back to the ground to complete one rep.
Push-ups: A traditional upper-body exercise for the chest, triceps, and core. Start in the high plank position (see “high plank”). Keeping your elbows tucked close to your body, lower your entire body nearly to the ground: Your body should hover a couple of centimeters above the ground. Without letting your core fall, push your body back to the high plank position.
Russian twists: A core exercise that utilizes all of the ab muscles. Sit on the floor with your knees up and feet flat. Lean back slightly and lift your feet off the ground. Rotate your core to touch both hands to the floor on your right, then to your left. That completes one rep. Continue alternating.
Scapular push-ups: A variation of the push-up that targets the shoulders and upper back (mainly the scapular muscles). Set up in the high plank position (see “high plank”). Without bending your elbows or dropping your hips, pinch your shoulder blades together so that your chest drops slightly. The range of motion is small: You will not lower your body to the ground. Protract your shoulder blades to tuck your chest in and create a slight dome-shaped curve in your upper back.
Single-leg balance: An isometric exercise that builds stability and balance. From standing, descend into a quarter squat (push your hips back and bend your knees slightly). Lift one leg off the ground so that you are balancing on the other. Hold this position.
Single-leg deadlift hops: A deadlift variant that challenges single-leg stability and power. To start, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lift one foot off the ground. Standing on one leg, push your hips back and bend your knees slightly. The lifted leg should extend behind your body, and you should feel a stretch in the hamstring of your base leg. Use your hamstrings and glutes to pull your torso back up, and hop into the air as you extend your hips.
Single-leg glute bridge: Single-leg variation of the glute bridge. Lie on the floor with your knees up and feet flat. Instead of using both legs to drive your hips up, extend one leg so that your foot does not touch the ground. Use the other leg to push your hips up. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
Single-leg tricep dips: A bodyweight exercise to strengthen the triceps. Start by sitting on the floor with your palms flat on the ground behind your torso. Bend your knees so that your feet rest flat on the ground. Lift one leg off the ground and extend your arms so that your hips also leave the ground. Without bending your hips, lower your body back to the ground (bend only at your elbows to target the triceps). Push back up to complete one rep. Switch the lifted leg every 5 to 10 reps.
Side plank: A variation of the elbow plank that targets the obliques. Lie on your side with your legs stacked over one another. Prop your torso up on your elbow. To get into the plank position, lift your hips and legs off the ground, supporting your weight on your forearm and the side of your foot.
Sumo squat: A wide-stance variation of the air squat (see “air squat”). Stand with your feet wider than your shoulders and with your toes pointed out slightly. Descend until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your chest up, eyes forward, and heels flat on the ground.
Supermans: A full-body exercise that targets the upper back and glutes. To begin, lie face down on the ground or exercise mat. Extend your arms above your head and make sure the tops of your feet touch the floor. Simultaneously, lift your arms, chest, and legs 4 to 5 inches off the ground. Squeeze your glutes and back muscles. Lower your chest, arms, and legs back to the ground to complete one rep.
Superman punches: A variation of the Superman that works the shoulders. Lie face down and assume the Superman position. With your chest raised, pull your elbows down to your sides and then press them back overhead. This should mimic an overhead shoulder press. Each rep is completed when you pull your elbows down and then extend them. For this exercise, you can leave your legs on the ground. Lift them for an extra challenge.
Superman “Ts”: A variation of the Superman that works the upper back. Lie face down and assume the Superman position, except extend your arms to your sides instead of overhead (make a “T” with your body). With your chest raised, squeeze your shoulder blades together to lift your arms off the ground.
Squat hold: Isometric variation of the squat; alternative to the wall sit. Descend into the bottom of the air squat (see “air squat”) and hold that bottom position. Make sure to keep your chest up and eyes forward. Keep your heels on the ground.
Tuck jumps: A ballistic exercise that elicits a cardiovascular response. From standing, jump as high as you can, simultaneously pulling your knees to your chest. Think of doing a cannonball. The rep is completed when you land.
V-ups: A challenging core exercise; also known as the jackknife or pike crunch. Start by lying on your back with your legs extended and arms stretched out overhead. Lift your legs and torso at the same time (flexing at the hips) and try to touch your toes. Return to the lying position to complete the rep.
Wall sit: An isometric exercise that challenges the legs and core. Find a wall or other sturdy object that can support your weight. Press your back and shoulders flat against the wall and descend into a squat. Hold the position, using your legs to support your body.
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