Fitness Backpacking Workout and Tips Volume 1

You want to stay fit and you want it bad. For this reason you visited this site for fitnessbackpackers. In this post I will explain the most important strategies for working out while backpacking. I will end this post with a sample fitness work-out. If you are more interested in staying fit with activities you can read my post How To Stay Healthy While Traveling (1).

1. Use the compound exercises.

In situations in which you are pressed for time, for example when travelling, it is important to stick with the compound exercises. When performing the compound lifts you will train your whole body. These kind of lifts will offer a greater stimulus to your muscles. Think about doing squats instead of leg extensions, which exercise will stress your body the most? I will give you the answer, the squat of course, putting a big load on your back that the whole body must support will cause more growth on the rest of your body than just doing leg extensions. When you have little time, it is more efficient to do squats or deadlifts than doing other exercises. At least using these multi-joint movements you will train your whole body. This implies that using compound movement will help against injury prevention, and nobody wants to get injured while backpacking. The stronger our stabilizer muscles are, the more they are comfortable with loaded stress at various angles. In simple words, doing squats will reduce your risk of a pulled or strained muscle when running away from the many stray dogs you will meet when travelling. For these reasons, I advice to include the compound lifts as the foundation of your workout. Furthermore, you will maintain your strength while travelling, which is not unimportant.

2. Use free weights.

In line with the previous post I can advice to use your time well and focus on using free weights instead of machines. When backpacking you will discover that many gyms have crappy machine equipment. Furthermore every gym has other machines and such you can not get used and learn the machines. Using free weights makes it easier to measure your performance over time. A dumbbell is a dumbbell and a barbell is a barbell no matter where you are. In addition free weights will activate more muscles than using machines, the hormonal and neurological response from free weight exercises will recruit more motor units.

3. Make a flexible & simple fitness scheme.

Keep your fitness workout simple. Like I have mentioned earlier, while backpacking you will move through different cities and regions, sometimes with  a good gym, sometimes not. Therefore, focus your workout around the essentials. Additionally, be flexible, sometimes there is a squat rack and sometimes not.

Picture taken by a backpacker of a local fitness backpacking gym

4. Reps & Sets Scheme

What’s your goal? I presume, as a backpacker, you want to maintain as much of your mass and strength as possible. I like to begin my workouts with a strength exercise and corresponding set-rep scheme. This means low volume and high intensity. For the second exercise I will go up in my reps and up again for my third or fourth exercise. In this manner you will hit all the different muscle fibers.

5. Drink enough water

I have been travelling in nations with a super hot and humid climate. You will sweat a lot because of this. To prevent dehydration it is very important do drink enough fluids. I can advise to always bring a bottle of water with you. Protip: mix a sachet of ORS (Oral Dehydration Salt) in your workout bottle of water. This solution will help your body absorb the water.

6. Enjoy your training

Make sure you are enjoying your work-outs while backpacking. You will meet friendly locals and other backpackers with the same interests. Don’t be an antisocial gym rat and mingle with the other folks. Trust me you will not regret, I made the most amazing people in the fitness gym.

7. Sample Fitness Backpacker Work-out

I have developed a workout which you can use while travelling. This workout is suited for the backpacker. In this sample workout I incorporated the lessons I depicted above.
It consists of compound free weight exercises and it’s made flexible.

The lifts in RED are the most important in the workout, try do these all time. Even if you have 15 minutes to work out, you can always do the red ones.

The lifts in Green, are important lifts, try do them.

The lifts in Purple are accessory lifts. Do them only when you have enough time. See them as bonus exercises.

Day 1 Legs + Back

Leg Exercises Sets Reps
Bench Press   3 5
Alternating Split squat  3 8
Dumbbell lunges  3 12
Leg press  3 15
Back Exercises  Sets  Reps
T-bar Row    3 8
Alternating Renegade Row 3 10
Dumbbell shrugs
3 12
Sitting Cable Row    3 12


Day 2 Chest +Back + Abs

Chest Exercises Sets Reps
Bench Press   3 5
Dumbbell Chest Press  3 10
Dumbbell Fly 3 12
Machine Fly 3 15
Back Exercises  Sets  Reps
Pull-ups 3 AMAP (as much as possible)
Barbell Row 3 5
Dumbbell Row 
4 12
Wide Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown 3 12
Ab exercises  Sets  Reps
Planks 3 AMAP
 (Hanging) Leg Raises            3 AMAP
Ab Wheel or with Barbell 3 AMAP
Side Raises for Abs with weights 3 AMAP

Day 3 Legs + Shoulders + Arms

Leg Exercises Sets Reps
Deadlift 3 5
Single Leg Dumbbell Deadlift 3 8
 Shoulder Exercises  Sets  Reps
 Military Press   3 5
 Dumbbell Shoulder Press  3 10
 Side raises     3 12
 Rear raises   3 15
 Arm Exercises
 Sets  Reps
 Bicep Barbell Curl    3 10
 Hammer Dumbbell Curl 3 12
 Reverse Barbell Curl  3 12
 Close Grip Bench Press 3 8
 Tricep Pushdowns (Rope or Bar) 3 8
 Tricep Overhead Extensions 3 12
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