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The Best Summer Holiday Workouts

Summer holiday workouts can either be a lot of fun or a crushing bore. I’ve experienced both, so in an effort to give you a bit of an insight into how and why I might mix things up whilst training on my summer holiday we will have a little look into each workout that I put in over the duration. Bear in mind that as always with specific workouts no one way is best, some things are done on a whim just because I feel like it or haven’t don’t a movement for a while, and in many ways it’s all down to how one feels on a given day. I’ll explain the rationale for each day, because in a way I think that’s a bit more instructive than just drily listing a workout that has no context.

Summer Holiday Workouts 1

After an extra day off training you’d think I was raring to hit the gym, but the heat here in Marbella has taken a bit of energy from me and the air conditioning in the ludicrously expensive gym (140 euros for a fortnight) is as effective as Gordon Brown’s budget balancing.

The plan was to train legs, but I knew that I wasn’t about to set any personal bests or lift really heavy weights. My thoughts on the best way to approach training whilst on holiday can be pretty much summed up as “have some fun” and “do something different”. However, I have half a mind on growing a bit of muscle over the next 10 days, at least that way I can trick myself into justifying the wasteful extra calories I plan on consuming!

I’m a firm believer in that what we eat sets us up for the day, and in a way, this also governs the workouts we do. I trained immediately after breakfast which wasn’t ideal but just the way it goes when you have someone meeting you at the gym and a young family to entertain, and boy what a breakfast it was. A 4 egg omelet; 3 bread buns with smoked salmon and brie; a large bowl of fresh walnuts, pistachios, and raisins; 2 blueberry yogurts; 2 glasses of fresh orange juice; 2 jugs of the best coffee I’ve had in years; a bowl of prunes; a bowl of cherries; 2 croissants and 2 chocolate croissants”.

I am relaying this litany of gluttony not just as a personal confession of excess, but because I know that many of you are also tempted to “go for it” on vacation. Especially when you’ve already paid for it as part of your hotel room rate! I’ve debated with myself as to whether a feast at night or in the morning is the best option, and whereas I think a sensible big meal is better later at night (for sleep, relaxation, and not setting up bad habits and blood sugar fluctuations for the rest of the day), I think the digestive implications (think terrible heartburn) of gluttony before bed means that I prefer a HUGE breakfast when on holiday. And lets be realistic here – if you are anything like me you are not thinking about eating on the clock when on holiday, and don’t always know when / where the next meal will come from, so a big blow out at the start of the day takes the edge off chasing food for the rest of the day. My own dietary habits when on holiday and in the baking sun tend to be to breakfast like a King and then just pick at food for the rest of the day – think of it as front loading calories with a 2-3K start to the day! Of course this is usually for the first few days and then one grows bored of feeling lethargic and heaven forbid would you believe that I actually start to crave a meat and nuts breakfast!

My first summer holiday workout fell on a legs day. Bearing in mind that shooting for record-breaking performances isn’t really the ideal thing, and that I wanted to recuperate after a higher volume period of training back home in London, it was a bit of a play day where we did the following:

A: Seated Toe Presses – 4 sets of 30-40 reps

60 secs rest.

B: Single Legged Calf Raises – 4 sets of 20 reps, final set switching to 2 legs and partial reps.

60 secs rest.

Kicking things off with calves may run counter to what some people will say (always start with the larger bodyparts first), but in this case 1) I know that if I tried to finish a holiday workout off with calves after quads I’d just skip it, and 2) my full stomach thanked me for the settling in period provided by the relatively easy and comfortable calf training.

C1: Single Legged Seated Leg Curls – 4 sets of 10 repetitions

Why single legged? Because the technogym machine did not have a heavy enough stack for a bilateral movement.

No rest.

C2: Leg Extensions – 4 sets of 20 repetitions using slow concentrics (3030 tempo)

60-90secs rest.

D: Leg Press – 4 sets of 25 repetitions – pyramiding the weight up to the full stack for a very heavy last set. The first sets were lighter and we used continuous tension and slower concentrics, the last set was rest paused in order to hit the full 25 reps.

2-3 minutes rest

E: Bodyweight Squats – 1 set of 100 repetitions (with as few pauses as possible, I think I got it in 2 mini sets).

All in all this wasn’t a killer workout, but it was enough to get plenty of blood flowing, and if given sufficient calories definitely enough for a bit of muscle growth if coming off a period of high volume training.

The machines I used, as well as the machines that I will use, are not necessarily personal favourites – I am training in a pretty average Southern European gym – technogym equipment (not my favourite) and a smattering of free weights.

Summer Holiday Workouts 2

Another gargantuan breakfast meant that today’s “summer holiday workout” needed to start a bit slower and more gently than would ever happen at home.

One of the nice things, and in fact the essential tool to keep learning and re-learning as a professional Personal Trainer, is that although I love my training and nutrition I am also a normal person who isn’t really interested in living like a robot. So the occasional (or frequent) digression from a rock solid plan is always an opportunity to learn something new, or be reminded of an old lesson that may have slipped my mind. One thing I know that I knew but hadn’t been reinforced for some considerable time was the disadvantages of training on a full stomach. Sometimes its kind of nice to trick yourself into thinking that by loading up on carbs you will have massively glycogen fuelled workouts with pumps that blow your muscles up to ten times their regular size! And whilst this is true, especially when in the super compensation/rebound phase of switching from low carbs to high carbs, what certainly is not true is that filling your fat stomach up prior to training will give you better blood flow/pump for the muscles! What in fact happens is that your digestion is still working over time and you get less of a pump, not more. So for me, the key lesson here for you remember is that if you fancy a carb fest, and want to use that to your advantage with training, have the carbs the night before not just a few hours preceding your session. Today I was loaded up on carbs, but was still in holiday mode and stuffed myself so much that the pump really was a bit poor. I knew this is what would happen, but it’s amazing how after all these years even I can fool myself into thinking what I’d like to be the case (free eating without consequences) rather than what is really about to happen (full stomach impairing training performance).

Here was today’s summer holiday workout that was aimed more at blood flow, but that was less than successful due to my own greed:

A: Technogym Machine Flyes – 3 sets of 10-15 reps, triple drop set on last set.

60 secs rest.

B: Technogym Seated Chest Press (a nice movement as this also draws the hands together at the top of the movement) – 3 sets of 12-15 reps, triple drop set on last set.

75 secs rest.

C: Shallow Incline Dumbell Press – 3 sets of 10-15 reps, triple drop set on last set.

60 secs rest.

D1: Reverse Cable Curls

No rest.

D2: Triceps Pushdowns

No rest.

D3: Underhand Cable Curls

No rest.

D4: Overhead Rope Extensions

60 secs rest/3 sets of each exercise for 10-15 reps.

E1: Technogym Seated Biceps Curl – 2 sets of 20 reps with tripe drop set on both

No rest.

E2: Laying Triceps Extensions with Dumbells – 2 sets of 15-20 reps

60 secs rest.

Summer Holiday Workouts 3:

A: Technogym Overhead Pulldown – 3 sets of 10-15 reps

This is quite a cool machine that I’ve never used before. The handles come together at the top of the movement and open out at the bottom, allowing for a really full and hard contraction right in the belly of the latissimus dorsi muscles.

75 secs rest.

B: Technogym Machine Row – 3 sets of 10-15 reps

Similar to the technogym pulldown, this machine allows you to start narrow at the top of the movement (thereby maximizing the stretch on the lats) and opens you up at the point of peak contraction, allowing for a really nice and hard contraction of the upper back muscles.

C1: Wide grip Pulldowns to the front – 3 sets of 10reps

No rest.

C2: Bent Over Rows with dumbells – 3 sets of 10 reps

75-90 seconds rest.

D1: Standing Lateral Raises – 5 sets of 20 reps

No rest.

D2: Chest Supported Rear Laterals w/internal rotation – 5 sets of 10-15 reps

No rest.

D3: Scott Press – 5 sets of 10 reps

60-90 secs rest.

Summer Holiday Workouts 4:

One week of relatively easy, straightforward summer holiday workouts is enough so now it’s time to step things up a bit. To understand my thinking, I’m still very much in “vacation mode” so the idea of lifting heavy weights isn’t all that appealing, and I am also obviously being pretty loose with my diet. Both factors lend themselves to me stepping up the repetition count and just whacking out as much volume as possible in as short a space of time as possible – I’ll burn a ton of calories, maybe get a bit of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, and keep my cardiovascular fitness levels high.

Now I know that if I set out an ill-formed summer holiday workout plan in my head once the going starts to get really tough I’ll start to cut corners and compromise. So the easiest thing for me in these circumstances is to have a repetition goal and not stop until I hit that very clear target. This week we will be shooting for 1000 reps per workout!

A1: Seated Technogym Toe Presses

A2: Bodyweight Calf Raises

5 supersets of 25 reps each (250 reps).

B1: Seated Leg Curls

B2: Cable Pull Throughs

5 supersets of 15 reps each (400 reps total).

C: Leg Extensions – 4 sets of 50 reps (600 reps total).

D: Leg Press

The idea here was to go for 4 sets of 50 reps, but I ended up doing just 2 (rest paused) sets of 100 reps. To say I was in pieces by this stage is a classic understatement. (800 reps total).

E: Bodyweight Squats

3 sets to hit 200 total reps (1000 reps total).

Total workout length – 65 minutes.

Summer Holiday Workouts 5:

Perhaps my favourite session so far, another 1000 rep beast of a session but now that I am not overstuffing my belly I am just getting all “swole” every time I touch a weight, so the sarcoplasmic hypertrophy training is clearly a useful strategy. Today’s workout is all about light weights (relatively speaking), stretching and squeezing as hard as possible, and swelling up the muscle tissue to maximum capacity. To get an idea of how glycogen loaded I am now, my bodyweight has climbed from a flat 112kg to a full 118.5kg over the last 10 days. I’ve definitely put a little bit of fat on, but most of this is fluid in the muscle and to a lesser extent under the skin.

A1: Technogym Chest Press

A2: Technogym Chest Flyes

5 sets of 20 reps with 60 secs rest between supersets/going from a compound to isolation is a bit counterintuitive (we call in “post exhaust” training) as the more traditional pre-exhaust tends to make more logical sense. However, going from the heavier compound movement (that will activate more high threshold motor units) into the “lighter” isolation work can theoretically allow for “more” stimulation on the isolation set due to the activation promoted by the compound set.

(200 reps total).

B1: 45 degree incline dumbbell press (with stretch – elbows flared back as far as possible at the bottom of the movement, with hands externally rotated, upper arm and hands internally rotated as much as possible at the top of the movement).

B2: Floor Presses with dumbells pushed together (push the dumbells together throughout the movement so that they stay over your sternum the whole time. This will make you contract the pecs as hard as possible throughout the set and you’ll be screaming for mercy before you are even halfway through!).

5 sets of 20 reps with 60 secs rest between supersets.

(400 reps total).

C!: Incline Dumbell Curls

C2: Incline Triceps Presses

C3: Reverse EZ Curls

C4: French Presses

5 sets of 20 reps with 60-120 secs rest between supersets.

(800 reps total).

D1: Seated Overhead Cable Curls

D2: Overhead Rope Extensions

5 sets of 20 reps with 30 secs rest between supersets.

(1000 reps total!!).

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