Travel Workouts with No Lower Body Work

I am here in the Smoky Mountains, enjoying a long overdue vacation at my parent’s cabin with my husband and his siblings. The scenery is gorgeous, and as you can see from the picture of the driveway if I want to get out of breath by walking, all I have to do is go up and down the driveway a few times…shoot,


just once it’s so steep at the bottom! My current physical state is somewhat frustrating and limiting, and altogether new to me, though not new to lots of people.  I have been suffering from a mysterious hip pain for the last year and have been to several physical therapists, massage therapists, chiropractors, and even an orthopedic surgeon to find what was going  on.

What my latest physical therapist has found is that I have a pelvic asymetry; meaning that my pelvis was tilted in three different directions: the left side was higher than the right, one side was farther in front than the other and the entire pelvis had an anterior tilt.  This condition is actually really common among women, according to this therapist, but my situation is compounded by the fact that I am hypermobile in most of my joints (not double jointed, but hypermobile, meaning too flexible) and my lifestyle is an extremely physically active one.  He believes these things are causing the problem.

Once the therapist put the pelvis back “in” to proper alignment, I have been in therapy to train my muscles to hold me “in”.  I’ve also not been allowed to 1) cross my legs 2) spread my legs 3) squat 4) do any kind of one-legged training or balance work 5) do plyometrics 6) go running.  So I’ve been pretty limited in what I can do; basically, I can ride a recumbent bike and go walking.  I can’t even demonstrate exercises to my clients!

So, now that I’m in the mountains, with no gym, how can I stay active?  Well, beyond the walking and hiking we plan to be doing, I have my resistance bands and that’s it.  Knowing that I’m on vacation and don’t have any desire to do a long workout, what kind of workout can I do that is

A) effective and
B) keeps me physical therapist (and my hips) happy?

The exercises:

  • Pushups
  • Band resisted shoulder presses
  • Dead Bugs
  • Planks
  • Bridges (with and without kickouts)
  • Bicep Curls
  • Overhead Tricep Extensions
  • Rows or Lat Pull Downs

There are several ways to structure this workout depending on the amount of days you want to do it.  You can cycle through all of them once or twice with no stopping in between, or you can break them up into movement patterns: vertical push/pull, or horizontal push/pull.  You will notice that there are some lower body movements in here namely the bridges, planks and dead bugs and for those people not able to move their legs at all these motions can be left out.  However, since these are exercises I am doing in physical therapy and they serve the purpose to strengthen my deep core muscles to hold me “in” while giving me a good overall upper body workout. The glutes are targeted in the bridges, and the glutes are considered part of the core.

So how I might set this up:

Warmup: Static Chest Press, Lat Stretch, Arm Circles, Wall Slides

  • Pushups (incline, flat, decline, narrow, etc) 12 reps or to failure
  • Band Resisted Rows (this works with JC Travel Bands) 12-15 reps at a 1 back, 2 hold 4 negative tempo
  • Dead Bugs 30 seconds hold superset with 15 glute bridges (with or without kickouts), repeat once
  • Prone Iso-Holds or Planks (Iso Holds done at 124 tempo are MUCH harder!) 12-20
  • Band Bicep curl to Band Resisted Shoulder Press to Overhead Tricep Extension (due to instability in my shoulders I would leave out the tricep extensions – they get hit in the pushups anyway) 12-15 each done slowly
  • Lat Pull downs 12-15  with a 124 tempo
  • End with one last round of pushups to failure.
  • Repeat if you want to.  All reps should have been done with no rest in between

As you can see, when you go slowly things are more difficult and you can get away with doing only one set.  In fact, I’d encourage it, because even if you’re in the middle of a different workout back home, if you’re limited to just upper body, going back to slow rep work will challenge you in a new way. Then go take a hike, walk, swim or whatever, but get out and enjoy your vacation!

This post was written 11 years ago as you can see, and I’ve learned a lot since then!  This was when I was a brand new trainer and while this workout would still be a good choice, I’d like to make some notes:

  1. That physical therapist did not help me. I did everything he said and got no better.  Also, what the heck he meant by “keeping me “in” I have no idea. The hip pain remains 11 years later.
  2. I would bring some different equipment: glute bands, a TRX or suspension trainer and maybe a foam roller or massage gun. You can see all of them in this article
  3. I might focus more on the glutes and rotator cuff instead of pushups.  Now this article mentioned I couldn’t spread my legs/externally rotate at the hip, so if that’s your situation, banded abduction wouldn’t be good.  But I can definitely  recommend my book, which has more appropriate workouts in the back: short/backstage corrective workouts and also a full workout you can do with or without a gym on tour.

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