The 15-Minute Strength and Muscle Building Hotel Room Workout For Weekend Warriors

Need a quick workout to help gain strength, build muscle and improve your fitness? We've got you covered with 3 different levels
By Dean Phillips
Evidence Based

You want to stay in shape (or improve it) whilst you’re on the road.

But the problem is most hotel gyms suck. You can expect a few treadmills, a rack of weights that don’t go beyond 10kg and a load of guys wearing tank tops that show their nipples. 

It’s not pleasant. 

And if you’re stuck at home, then you likely have even less equipment to turn to.

But training consistency, especially early on, is the best thing you can do for results long-term.

Most hotel workouts out there aren’t designed for guys that want to maximise muscle growth and strength. 

They’re also not typically designed for busy guys on the road.

Instead, they’re usually for guys who are obsessed with training, and are trying to lose weight.

That’s why I decided to do something different. 

If you want to improve your cardiovascular endurance, build muscle and lose fat then what I’m going to give you today is sure to get you pumped (literally).

What equipment will you need to do a hotel room workout?

This is a workout that can be done with any old items you can find around a hotel (or home) and your bodyweight

That’s all you need.

If you’d like to take it up a notch, I’d recommend getting a resistance band or two (here's the the one I recommend).

Instead of just giving you any old program, I wanted to give you one based on a few proven principles…

The 3 principles this program needed to be an effective hotel workout:

This is a program backed by science to be an effective workout when it comes to giving the body much needed stimulus, increasing movement and help wake up your nervous system.

It’s also better than just laying in the hotel bed all day.

Here’s what you’ll get from this hotel workout program:

1. Build a more functional body

You’ll build strength and endurance that translates more into the real world (study). Imagine moving easier, carrying shopping being a breeze, throwing a ball with more power (not me though, I still suck at throwing).

How does this work to improve functionality?

This is where something called 'closed-chain (CKC) vs. open-chain kinetic (OCK) movements' comes into play.

In open kinetic chain exercises, the segment furthest away from the body — known as the distal aspect, usually the hand or foot — is free and not fixed to an object.

In a closed chain exercise, it is fixed, or stationary.

This means most bodyweight movements lend themselves to being closed-kinetic movements - like a pull-up where you're pulling your body through the air.

An open kinetic chain movement is where your body is stationary and you're moving an object instead of you - like a lat-pulldown machine where you're pulling a weight towards you and your body is stationary.

Performance (and strength) has been shown to be greatly improved with CKC vs OKC (study). They’ve also been shown to increase joint stability and improve movement patterns (source).

CKC typically recruits multiple joiners and multi-joint axes, which has been proven time and time again to be effective at increasing muscle growth, strength and fat-loss vs single-joint movements (study, study, study)

2. Challenge your muscles and cardiovascular system

Bodyweight movements, are generally much harder than most realise:

You’ve got to balance yourself, you feel movements a lot more and you’ve got to practise coordination more vs weight training.

You just need to look at gymnastics to see that they can be effective (although they’re on the extreme side of results and practise a lot more frequently than most).

Not all bodyweight workouts challenge the cardiovascular system, just like they don’t all challenge your muscles, or strength.

To challenge your strength and muscles you need a form of progressive overload, or movements/reps that are challenging vs what you’ve done in the past.

To challenge your cardio, you want to keep rest to a minimum, (which will keep the time of a workout short) and focus on super setting body parts, to make this happen.

3. Circuiting between body-parts to maximise time. 

This is known as super setting.

Super setting is when you do one movement, followed by another movement (typically a different body part to each other).

I still recommend doing some form of sprinting/steady state cardio, as studies show it’s still much more effective at improving your cardio vs super setting alone (study, study).

However, the benefits to super setting go beyond cardio, but have also been shown to increase muscle growth (study).

A 2010 (study) showed that super setting can be effective at maximising time (and work capacity), whilst keeping strength consistent, meaning there’s very little downside.

They can even make you stronger, as contracting antagonistic muscle groups can help enhance motor unit recruitment. (Source)

I designed this workout to be done anywhere and in a short time period.

I get what it’s like to be stuck for ideas, when you’re short on time, or if you’re away enjoying some sunshine.

The Hotel Workout Details

This program is built around a full body split.

If you’re someone who has a few items lying around the house, then you’re in for a treat, if not, you’ve covered too…

This way if you can’t do a movement, or even find it a bit boring for your level of fitness (jeez, smarty pants) then you’ll be able to find alternatives that will challenge you to get results too.

Start with a warm-up

Although this workout isn’t lifting heavy weights or putting your body under tremendous stress, it still requires a warm-up to get the most out of it.

What does a warm-up let you do?

  • You’ll get stronger as you’ll be able to activate your nervous system
  • Less chance of injury
  • Get your heart rate up which increased blood flow around the body

All great stuff that we want, if we want to maximise our strength for a workout program (study, study).

Here’s a warm-up I recommend:

  • Thoracic Bridge
  • Squat to Push-up
  • Hip Airplane
  • Spiderman Lunge with Hip Lift and Reach

Once the warm up is out the way, you’re ready to get going with the main part of the workout

Different levels based on where you are in your fitness journey

This workout program has been split into 3 different groups.

This way no matter who you are, and how long you’ve been training, you’ll find an effective workout that can help you improve your strength, muscle and power below.

Level 1 - You’re just getting started

Level 2 - You’ve been training for 6+ months

Level 3 - 1+ year and a solid amount of strength and muscle under your belt

Let’s get started:

Level 1 - workout program

CircuitPhaseMovementRepsBody SectionNotes
W1Warm UpThoracic Bridge10Core
W2Warm UpSquat to Push-up10Chest, Legs, Core
W3Warm UpHip Airplane10Legs
W4Warm UpSpiderman Lunge with Hip Lift and Reach10Legs
A1Core WorkoutIncline Push Up15Chest
A2Core Workout2-Arm Row15BackUse jugs of water, a suitcase or backpack full of items
B1Core WorkoutBodyweight Squat8Legs
B2Core WorkoutMilitary Press8ShouldersUse jugs of water, a suitcase or backpack full of items
C1Core WorkoutPlank8 BreathsAbs
C2Core WorkoutTriceps—Tricep Dips on Couch EdgeAMRAPTriceps

Level 2 - workout program

Circuit + MovementMovementRepsBody SectionNotes
W1 Warm UpThoracic Bridge10Core
W2 Warm UpSquat to Push-up10Chest, Legs, Core
W3 Warm UpHip Airplane10Legs
W4 Warm UpSpiderman Lunge with Hip Lift and Reach10Legs
A1 Core WorkoutPush Up15Chest
A2 Core Workout1-Arm Row15BackUse jugs of water, a suitcase or backpack full of items
B1 Core WorkoutBodyweight Squat8Legs
B2 Core WorkoutHandstand Press8ShouldersDo negatives if needed
C1 Core WorkoutPlank8 BreathsAbs
C2 Core WorkoutTriceps—Tricep Dips on Couch EdgeAMRAPTriceps

Level 3 - workout program

Circuit + MovementMovementRepsBody SectionNotes
W1 Warm UpThoracic Bridge10Core
W2 Warm UpSquat to Push-up10Chest, Legs, Core
W3 Warm UpHip Airplane10Legs
W4 Warm UpSpiderman Lunge with Hip Lift and Reach10Legs
A1 Core WorkoutDecline Push Up15Chest
A2 Core Workout1-Arm Row15BackUse jugs of water, a suitcase or backpack full of items
B1 Core WorkoutBodyweight Squat8Legs
B2 Core WorkoutMilitary Press8ShouldersUse jugs of water, a suitcase or backpack full of items
C1 Core WorkoutPlank8 BreathsAbs
C2 Core WorkoutTriceps—Tricep Dips on Couch EdgeAMRAPTriceps

Things you should know to make the most out of the program

This is a simple program to follow, yet depending on the level you choose, can be tweaked to be harder or easier too.

If you’re finding it too easy, but find the level up movements out of comfort zone here’s what you can do:

  • Shorten the rest in-between movements and circuits. This will make the movements harder, but limit recovery (and likely strength and power)
  • Increase the amount of sets (more on this below)
  • Up your weight. This is a tough one, as you’re likely just using items you find around the hotel/house, but you’ve got a few options

How long should your workout be?

This is where things get interesting.

As this program is modula, it allows you to customise it to fit your needs.

If you only have 15 minutes on the clock (not including the warm-up) then you’ll want to do 1-round (set) of everything.

If you’ve got 25+ minutes then I’d recommend 2 sets and go up from there.

The maximum you’ll want to do is 4 sets/rounds though, especially if you’re a beginner. Sure you won’t do a tonne of damage (as it’s not 1-to-1 with lifting weights) but when it comes to building muscle, faster recovery is important.

The Superhuman Lab Summary

If you’re on the road and in need of an effective workout, I really believe this will make a big difference.

You can do this workout 3/week for however long you can’t do a weight program, and progress with the different workouts if needed.

Most importantly though, have fun.

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