Fast and Efficient Travel Workouts for Personal Training Clients

One of my favorite sayings is “Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail”.  However, the key to surviving and thriving on a plan is adaptability.  Can your programming for clients be altered to accommodate the given equipment and time available? Here’s how I developed travel workouts for my clients.

As stated earlier “Adaptability of the Plan” is the key to surviving and thriving.  Clients may come in with injuries, they may come in late, or they may come in under-recovered (due to a poor night’s sleep or they have not adapted to the current workout). Recently, I had a client arrive 30 minutes late for his session. Do you stick to the plan and start with the first series of exercises and get half a workout, or do you “adapt the plan” to the current situation relative to the training goal?   The science is in the plan, and the art is in the adaptability of coaching relative to the current situation. This client wants to lose weight and loves a challenge. To adapt to the goals of the client and the time restraint, I decided to go with a superset protocol I developed while on a cruise ship.

The Fast and Furious Full Body Workout (FFF)

Core Principles:

  • Pick exercises for each of 5 patterns
  • Choose exercises you can do in one location (ideally)
  • Pick the same equipment and ideally the same weight (or try to limit to two items)
  • Keep rest periods as short as possible

Exercise Choice (the exercises):

The goal is to pick exercises to train the total body, therefore you need to pick an exercise that hits each of the following:

  • Upper body push (horizontal or vertical)
  • Upper body pull (horizontal or vertical)
  • Lower body push (squat, lunge or split squat)
  • Lower body pull (hinge, knee flexion may be alternated for consecutive day training)
  • Core (anterior or oblique—posterior core will get stimulated with lower body push and lower body pull).

Exercise Order and Pairings (the flow):

On a cruise ship, it’s busy, and so are most gyms. Choose a very small footprint and ideally, do all your exercises in one spot. Otherwise you run the risk of losing your station when you disappear to the other side of the room. Create a home base, and try to do 3 to 4 of your exercises all there. Also, make sure and use the same tool (including weight) for multiple exercises, starting with the weakest pattern.

Reps (the training effect):

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There is huge room for variance here. It really comes down to four variables: your current strength, training goal, what equipment is available, and the resistance levels of the equipment. Equipment type will dictate exercise choice, reps performed, and even exercise order.  An example of equipment choice dictating exercise selection is if the heaviest dumbbells you have are only 30 pounds, this may be too light for a goblet squat even at 25 reps (you could turn this into 1 ¼ reps), but may be very challenging for 25 reps of Bulgarian split squats.  For the cruise ship workout, I like to use dumbbells, and the rule is to use the same dumbbell for every pattern.  The simplest method is to build reps every day. You can also drop reps, keep the reps the same, or undulate the reps (e.g. 20, 25, 15 or 9, 12, 6). Choose a training effect desired and then pick the reps related to that goal.

Example Reps:

  • High Volume (endurance training effect):
    • Example Reps: day 1- 15 each, day 2- 20 each, day 3- 25 each, day 4 repeat
  • Moderate Volume / Moderate Intensity (hypertrophy training effect):
    • Example Reps: day 1- 6 each, day 2- 9 each, day 3- 12 each
  • Low Volume / High intensity (strength training effect):
    • Example Reps: day 1- 3 reps each; day 2- 5 reps each; day 3- 7 reps each
  • Note on reps: make sure and pick exercises that suit the reps. For example, 3 reps on a goblet squat may not be ideal as your upper body will fatigue first limiting the training effect on the legs.  However 3 reps on a barbell squat is appropriate.
    • If you are looking for a serious conditioning circuit, try doing 4 sets of 5 exercises. 500 reps is a real butt kicker!  Try to beat 30 minutes!

Sets: (Effects Dosage)

Do as many sets as you can based on the time you have. The whole concept behind this is to get a quality workout in a short time. Therefore, the minimum time for this is 15 minutes and the max time is 40 mins. Ideally, you should hit 3 to 5 sets per exercise.


No time for slow eccentrics here (isometric pauses for core are fine), unless the weights are not heavy enough. Ideally, use a natural pace of 2010 (2 eccentric, 0 isometric-eccentric, 1 concentric, 0 eccentric-isometric)


Rest periods between exercises should be limited only to transition time or just enough time to catch a couple breaths (5-15 secs). This leaves little time to change plates or walk too far. Rest periods between circuits should be shorter, but should be enough to keep performance up for each subsequent set.


If you are picking high volume-endurance reps, you can do the same movements every day without changing exercise. Picking lower reps may result in having to change exercises and function (knee flexion for hams vs hip extension) as their will be more tissue damage relative to fiber recruitment and thus needing more time to repair.   If you are picking high reps, you can get by without changing exercises.  Back to back training of this type of program should be limited to 4 to 5 days.

Below are two example travel workouts that will yield two different training effects.


Teach the fast and furious full-body workout for a vacation, for a short training cycle when an athlete has limited training time, to build conditioning/work capacity, or when an athlete/client has limited time that day.

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