The Best Hotel Room Workout To Maintain Your Gains

The Best Hotel Room Workout To Maintain Your Gains

clock-circular-outlinePosted 2 May 2024

Vacation is a time of year we all look forward to. But if you’ve put in months of hard graft at the gym, the thought of losing all that progress in a few weeks can be a little unsettling.

Sure, many gyms offer drop-in sessions, or if you’re splashing out on staying somewhere fancy, you may be lucky enough to have a fully kitted-out hotel gym, making it easy to continue the same gym program you follow back home. But if this isn’t the case, then you’re going to have to get a little more creative...

Don’t panic: There is a way to maintain those gains you’ve worked so hard to build – all from the space of your hotel room.

Between isometric holds, unilateral exercises, and focusing on mind-muscle connection, we’re going to show some tips and tricks to maintain your gains. Confused, much? Nope, we didn’t just make up all those phrases, but we will go over what each of them means and give you the best bodyweight exercises to build an effective hotel room workout.

Workout on the go, wherever you are with hundreds of workouts on The Gymshark Training App. (We love the At Home plan for no equipment, strength-building workouts whilst we’re traveling!)


Have you got your travel outfit sorted? Well, you should: Discover how to travel in comfort and style in our airport outfit ideas.

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Should You Workout On Vacation?

A well-debated question… At the end of the day, every strength athlete approaches their vacation differently and how much you choose to workout, or not workout, will likely depend on what you are training for, where you are going, and how long you are going for.

How Long Does It Take To Lose Muscle?

It takes around 3 weeks to see a decline in muscle size and strength, so if you’re only taking a short break then luckily your gains shouldn’t take much of a hit [1]. Some lifters like to use a short break as a period of deload, reducing training demand to give the body time to rest and recover to improve performance when they return [2]. This might involve using bodyweight exercises that mimic movements or the muscles activated in your normal workout routine, providing stimulus to the muscles but with less intensity. Others like to take holiday as a full training ‘rest’ period, and instead focus on holiday activities as their exercise: hiking, diving, snowboarding – or even getting lost exploring the city for hours!

If you’re going on a longer trip, you may be tempted to scope out the nearest gym to continue your workout routine from home. Whilst this would probably be the safest option to ensure you lose as little gains as possible, finding a gym or fitting in a whole gym workout isn’t always possible – or strictly necessary. We’re going to share some bodyweight exercises to help maintain your gains on holiday, without a gym. Stay with us for the ultimate hotel room workout.

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Maintain Your Gains: The Best Bodyweight Exercises To Build A Hotel Room Workout

Lifting heavy might come out top when it comes to building muscle size and strength, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only method, especially when it comes to maintaining gains that have already been made.

Research has proven that doing any type of strength/resistance training (including bodyweight exercises) a couple of times a week can help protect lean muscle mass [3].

Here are our top picks of bodyweight exercises you can use to create a hotel room workout to maintain your gains:

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Lower Body Hotel Room Workout Exercises

Wall Sits

Wall sits (or wall squats hold) look like a very simple exercise – until you come to do them. That’s when you realize that something that looks easy, is actually pretty tough!

Working the quads, glutes, and calves, wall sits are an isometric exercise, meaning they hold the muscle in a contracted position to build muscle endurance and stability and even lower blood pressure [4, 5]. You might not be loading your muscles under a great load when doing wall sits, but you are increasing the muscle’s time under tension (TUT) which is proven to boost muscle growth. It’s a win-win recipe for leg gains if you ask us [6].

How To Do Wall Sits:

  1. Stand with your back against the wall, feet 1-2 feet in front of you in a squat stance (just outside of hips, toes pointing forward or slightly out).

  2. Brace your core and bend your legs, moving your back down the wall until your thighs are parallel to the floor, knees at 90 degrees.

  3. Hold this position (beginners: 20 seconds, intermediate: 45 seconds, advanced: 60 seconds+), keeping your back, glutes, and head flat against the wall. Make sure your knees don’t cave in but stay in line with your toes. Keep your arms by your side, or clasped in front of your chest.

  4. When the time is up, return to standing by driving through your heels and extending your legs.

Wall Sit Variations: The obvious way to make a wall sit harder, is to hold it for longer. But you can challenge your lower body even more by doing a single leg wall sit, following exactly the same steps as above, but extending one leg out in front of you when you are at the bottom of the squat. This will work your legs unilaterally, challenging the leg muscles even more!

Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian split squat is one of our favorite exercises, working the quads and glutes (and a little of the hamstrings), unilaterally.

Again, this movement isn’t easy, requiring good balance to resist wobbling around! To make things easier, choose a stable surface to elevate your back leg – a chair would be our preference, but propping it up on the bed too could work.

How To Do Bulgarian Split Squats:

  1. Stand perpendicular to a flat bench (or box), 2-4 feet out from it, depending on your leg length. Hinge forward to pick up the dumbbells (if opting to use them), holding one in each hand, arms fully extended by your side.

  2. Take one leg back, resting the tops of your shoelaces on the bench top. Brace your core, keep your chest proud, and squeeze your shoulder blades together to stabilize yourself. Keep your eyes focused on a spot ahead of you.

  3. Lower yourself down, bending the front leg, aiming to get the back knee close to the ground, but not touching it. In the bottom position, your front leg should be bent at a 90-degree angle, quad parallel to the floor, knee in line with toe. Keep your chest up and core braced throughout.

  4. Pause, then reverse the movement, pushing through your front foot and squeezing your glutes to drive yourself back to the starting position, straightening the front leg but not locking it out at the top.

  5. Repeat for the desired rep range, then swap legs.

To Make Things Harder: If you’re lucky enough to have access to a hotel gym, then you can grab a pair of dumbbells to make this exercise harder. If you’re sticking to a hotel room workout, then try adding a pause and a pulse to the bottom of the Bulgarian split squat to make it harder. To do this, pause for a second when your back knee is close to the ground, then come 1/4 of the way up, then pulse back down, before fully extending back to the top.

Glute Bridge Abductor

Let’s just say if you want to keep your peach perky in your lift contour shorts throughout your vacation, then you need to be doing glute bridge abductors. They may be a #FitTok trend, but there’s good reason for it – this simple little exercise will make your booty burn!

They’re very similar to the classic glute bridge, with an added activation at the top. If you have a resistance band in your suitcase, pop it on above your knees for even more glute activation!

How To Do A Glute Bridge Abductor:

  1. Lie on your back with your feet on the floor hip-width apart, knees bent up at 90 degrees. Keep your arms straight by your side.

  2. Drive through your heels to lift your hips off the floor, resting on your shoulders. Squeeze your glutes until your body forms a straight line from chin to knees.

  3. Move your knees out to the side, then back in, squeezing your glutes and making sure your hips stay up as you do so.

  4. Lower your hips back down to the ground, then repeat.

You might also be interested in: The Best At Home Bodyweight Glute Exercises

Slider Hamstring Curls

It wouldn’t be an effective hotel room workout if we didn’t turn our attention to the hamstrings too. Our favourite exercise on the go to work our hammies is slider hamstring curls. These are a great leg curl alternative and an easy adaptation to do your hamstring curls at home.

If possible, you should have two sliders for these on a hard floor, but you can also use a towel.

How To Do Slider Hamstring Curls:

  1. Lay on your back with your legs extended. Place a slider on the floor under each heel.

  2. Keeping your arms flat on the floor extended beside you and your shoulders and head in contact with the floor, slide your heels up towards your butt, bending your knees and extending your hips into the air as your back lifts off the floor (similar to the glute bridge position).

  3. Pause for a second, then return to starting position by sliding your heels back out so your legs are straight, trying not to let your legs, lower back, or butt touch the floor before you begin the next rep.

  4. Repeat.

Level Up: To make slider hamstring curls harder, make it a single leg exercise. Slide both feet in and hold in a bridge position as above. Then, instead of extending both legs out, only extend one leg, keeping the other foot planted on the ground, knee bent and hips up to the sky. This will put the entirety of your work through the single working leg, challenging the hamstrings even more!

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Upper Body Hotel Room Workout Exercises

Isometric Push Up

The push up is a classic bedroom workout exercise, but the isometric push up (or push up to hold), takes things up a notch. Just like the normal push up, the isometric push up works the triceps, chest, shoulders, and core too, but increases TUT for the muscles to challenge them even more (starting to see a pattern here for your hotel room workout?).

Adding an isometric hold to the bottom portion of the push up works to strengthen the muscles at the hardest portion of the push up – the ‘down’ push up position – the sticking point. For most, this is the point where we experience the most muscle fatigue. Holding this bottom position is challenging but will work to increase your push up performance.

How To Do An Isometric Push Up:

  1. Come into a plank position, hands flat on the ground with fingers pointing forward. Wrists should be stacked directly below elbows and shoulders, legs extended, weight through your toes. Squeeze your core to protect your lower back and keep a neutral spine by focusing your eyes on the floor in front of you.

  2. Slowly lower your chest to the floor by bending your elbows. Keep your elbows close to your side, resisting the urge to let them flare out.

  3. Come down until you are hovering just above the ground. Your nose, chest, and belly button should be at the same level in this position.

  4. Hold in the bottom position (beginner: 5-10 seconds, intermediate: 10-20 seconds, advanced: 30 seconds).

  5. Push back up to the starting position, driving through your palms and extending your arms. Repeat for 5-10 reps.

Isometric Push Up Variations: To make things easier, perform an incline isometric push up, placing your hands on a chair or end of the bed. To make things harder, try a decline push up, performing the same steps as above with your feet elevated on a chair or bed.

Tricep Dips

Tricep dips, bench dips, bodyweight dips – whatever you call them, there’s no denying, these are a hotel room workout staple! These will fire up your triceps, but you’ll also get some work in the chest and deltoids too. If you spent time chiseling and toning your arms, tricep dips are a great movement to maintain your arm gains and look good in a tank top all holiday long.

How To Do Tricep Dips:

  1. Sit on the edge of the bed, chair, or stool, placing hands on the edge of the surface just outside of hips.

  2. Extend your legs out in front of you, resting the back of your heels on the floor. Shuffle your hips forward for they are hovering in front of the surface.

  3. Slowly lower your body down by bending your elbows. Elbows should drive back and upper arms stay close to your torso.

  4. Pause when your upper arms are parallel with the floor, elbows at a right angle.

  5. Extend back to the starting position, pushing through your palms to extend your arms. Repeat.

Too Difficult? Bring your feet in closer to the bench so your knees are bent, instead of having your legs extended.

Towel Pull ups

These might sound strange, but bear with us, towel pull ups will work your lats, traps, and rhomboids and challenge your forearm and grip strength a whole lot more than regular pull ups on the rig or assisted pull up machine. All you’ll need is one big bath towel and a door.

Note: If you can’t do bodyweight pull ups, we wouldn’t suggest including these in your hotel room workout just yet! Give the laying towel lat pull down a go instead.

How To Set Up For Towel Pull Ups: This is the tricky part that you’ll need to get right before attempting a towel pull up:

  1. Lay the bath towel out in front of you. Taking one of the shorter sides of the towel, roll it up halfway.

  2. Fold the towel in half across the center, bringing the right edge over to the left edge.

  3. Place the towel lengthways over the top of an open door, so the rolled part sits behind the top of the door (where it will close) and the long, unrolled part hangs over the front of the door.

  4. Shut the door, securing the towel in the top. Tug it to check it is secure and can take your full weight!

How To Do Towel Pull Ups:

  1. Take hold of the edges of the towel in both hands, thumbs on front of the towel pointing up.

  2. Bending your knees to lift your feet off the floor, pull yourself up by pulling down on the towel and bending your elbows.

  3. Pause at the top position, then lower yourself back down, fully extending your arms but keeping your legs bent so your feet don’t touch the ground. Repeat.

Towel Pull Up Variation: You can also perform hotel room workout pull ups by holding onto the top of the door. For these, we suggest draping the towel over the top of an open door to protect your hands, and rolling up another towel and wedging it under the door to stop it from moving. You can then jump up and grip over the top of the door where the towel its and perform your pull ups – just make sure that the door is strong enough first (no one wants a broken door)!

Superman Lat Pull Down

If you can’t do pull ups yet, or you don’t feel confident giving the towel pull up a go, the superman lat pull down is a good way to maintain lat strength on the go, mimicking the movement of a lat pull down machine. Plus, they’ll engage your upper back, shoulders, glutes, hamstrings, and core.

They may not use resistance in the same way as the lat pull down machine, but the key to the superman lat pull down is to focus on mind-muscle connection. This means performing the movement in a slow and controlled manner, visualizing the target muscle group working (in this case, the lats), and squeezing it to create tension [7]. This is particularly effective when training with lighter loads, amplifying muscle activation by as much as 22% [8].

Again, all you need for this hotel room exercise is a towel long enough to grip in both hands just wider than shoulder width.

How To Do A Superman Lat Pull Down:

  1. Lie on your stomach with your arms outstretched in front of you. Engage your lower back, lifting your chest and legs off the ground so that just your stomach and thighs are in contact with the floor.

  2. Take hold of a large, rolled-up towel lengthways with both hands in a wide grip position.

  3. Create tension on the towel by pulling it apart. As you do so, bring it down towards your chest, driving your elbows back and together, squeezing your lats.

  4. Pause, then slowly extend your arms back out to the starting position. Repeat.

Just stepped off a long haul-flight? Superman lat pull downs strengthen the erector spinae muscles that play an important role in maintaining good posture and preventing a hunched posture.

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How To Program Your Hotel Room Workout

There are a number of ways you can program your hotel room workout. It may be based on keep similarity to the way you program your workouts at home, or it may be based on time efficiency and enjoyment.

  • Training Split: If you usually split your training into an upper/lower body day split, you may wish to perform the lower body exercises on one day, and the upper body ones on another day. Or, you may wish to take a full-body approach by doing the upper and lower body exercises in one hotel room workout session.

  • Circuit: You can take a circuit format for the exercises, performing 15-20 reps on one exercise before moving into the next, in a ‘circuit’ format for 3-5 rounds.

  • Superset: You could take a more traditional strength training approach by supersetting the exercises (performing two exercises back-to-back and only resting once you have completed both). This might see you pair wall sits with glute bridge abductors or isometric push ups with tricep dips.

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Tips For Maximizing The Effectiveness Of Your Hotel Room Workout

  • Work in a higher rep range (15-20 reps+), or close to failure. This will ensure your muscles are still challenged even when only using bodyweight exercises in your hotel room workout.

  • Use modifications to make the exercises harder e.g. performing them unilaterally, slowing the movement down, or adding a ‘pause’.

  • To take your bodyweight exercises up a notch, add a resistance band and try our

    Best Resistance Band Arm Exercises.

  • Alongside your bodyweight strength workout, use this time to work on your weaknesses that you neglect during your normal routine, for example, working on

    Squat Mobility Exercises to improve your squat form when you return to the gym.

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Other Ways To Maintain Muscle Mass Whilst On Holiday

Exercising isn’t the only way to maintain strength and muscle mass – yes, we’re talking about nutrition, which is arguably just as important.

That being said, we wouldn’t blame you for taking every opportunity to eat ice cream or try a new local dish (that’s what we like doing on our vacation, anyway), but if we were consciously training to maintain our gains we might pay attention to the following:

Maintain Your Calorie Intake

If you’re doing lots of walking, swimming, skiing, or any increase in activity, you need to make sure you are fuelling your body. Decreasing your calorie intake whilst increasing your expenditure causes weight loss. Unfortunately, this doesn’t just lead to fat loss, but muscle loss too. On the flip side, increasing your calorie intake can lead to fat gain, affecting body composition. However, it takes an extra 3500 calories to gain one pound of body weight – so whilst overeating can lead to weight gain, it wont happen overnight [9]. If you do feel ‘heavier’ or ‘bloated’ in the short term, this is usually down to increased water weight, rather than actually ‘putting on’ weight.

Eat Adequate Protein

Protein is the building block of our muscles. Studies have proven the success of increased protein intake alongside resistance training in building strength and muscle mass, but something perhaps even more interesting is that increasing protein intake has been found to help preserve muscle mass during periods of negative energy balance [10, 11]. Just because you aren’t following your regular resistance training gym program, eating enough protein will help preserve your gains.

Depending on where you’re going, it might be easy to get enough protein into your meals. If you’re unsure, you may want to pack some protein bars to snack on in between meals, or some protein powder. If you are packing protein powder, try to buy a small bag so you can take it in the sealed, original packaging, otherwise make sure empty some into a resealable bag in your suitcase – not hand luggage! Find out how much protein you should be eating.

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Jet, Set, Go!

It can be tempting to call it quits on your training when you’re jetting off somewhere new. And don’t get us wrong: We’re totally here for a break and some time off! But if you are traveling for longer periods or want to keep in shape whilst away without spending hours in a hotel gym, then this hotel room workout could be for you. Minimal equipment, fairly quick to do, and will prevent you from losing your hard-earned gains.

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WRITTEN BY: Alex Kirkup-Lee

Alex is an inhouse Content Writer for Gymshark’s Health & Conditioning categories. A qualified Personal Trainer, CrossFit Level 1 and Functional Fitness Coach, Alex is experienced in training clients from a range of sporting backgrounds. With a passion for functional training, her favorite workout is anything that includes deadlifts, rowing, or wallballs.

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Alex Kirkup-LeeBy Alex Kirkup-Lee

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