I remember the time well…I was staying in a flash hotel on the Gold Coast where one of the hot selling points to me was the “commercial gym” that was onsite. “That would save looking for a gym” or so I thought.
So of course straight after check-in I went to check it out. Though we were there for relaxation, I still wanted to get my workouts in. But when I found the gym, I thought they may have sold me “magic beans”.
Granted, the gear was top quality… But I don’t class a single dumbbell tree with weights from 1-10kg, a couple ab crunch gizmo’s on the floor and a treadmill as a commercial gym!
What to do?
I admit back then, I hot footed to the closest ‘real gym’ I could find, but now I can honestly say that today I’d just stick with the hotel’s offer and see what I could come up with.
It always ends up a good change of pace, challenges me mentally and it lets me obtain a solid workout (and more times than not, I learn something new too), even when you only have bare minimums.
We are spoilt today...You can sign up to a 24/7 gym, usually on a promo with zero joining fee, and have access to every piece of equipment you could possibly need in 10 minutes flat.
And when you have so many options and so much availability, it is easy to become a little lazy. Not in a physical effort sense; training hard on the latest machines is still training hard. But it almost makes it too easy...Sit down, push, jobs done.
That’s why training with the bare minimums from time to time can be good for you, and not just physically.
It can force you to think, to start to really establish why you are doing certain exercises again, aligned to your goal, with your strong purpose and reason why.
For example, the latest chest machine at the gym, what’s the go with that? Well, you just sit down and place your hands here and push.
Better yet, let’s sit to the side and squeeze one arm at a time, because that’s what I saw on that Instagram video
But... when you only have 10kg dumbbells and you want smash chest, it takes a little extra planning.
What can I do?
What you can do with those dumbbells is everything that you could perform in the gym with heavier weights. The trick is finding ways to make them more effective.
You could manipulate the lighter load by volume...That means you could do more reps with the lighter weights than the heavier weights you would routinely use at the gym.
For example, say for an incline dumbbell press you can do the 30kg dumbbells for 10 reps.
Here, you might “flip it” and try to do the 10’s for 30 reps in a nice, slow and controlled manner.
You might do this for your whole workout by determining what the total load output would be for a conventional session. For example, you might discover you lift 4500kg in a regular session, so with your 2x10’s, you would be aiming to perform 225 reps.
The good thing about this is that it becomes a completely new workout experience and you are not able to compare 30x10 with 10x10 (it’s not the same).
Another way you could mix things up is by changing the order of exercise, and isolation movements (to pre-fatigue) before compound movements.
Here, you could perform a set of high incline flys to failure, and then immediately move into an incline press movement with no rest.
Or you may perform unilateral (1 limb at a time) movements before bi-lateral (2 limbs at a time) movements.
A great example here could be to perform a set of alternating lunges (split squats) immediately before performing a set of dumbbell squats.
Did you also forget…
Yes, your light dumbbells are one option but what about body weight movements?
You may perform exercises such as feet elevated push ups to failure and then drop down into regular push ups. Once you have failed both sets, to immediately move into a flat dumbbell press, floor press or dumbbell flys.
If you were able to perform chin ups or pull ups, you may perform a set of them to failure (try pull ups to failure and then change grip to chin ups to failure), and immediately moving to a bent over dumbbell row (performed both arms at the same time).
And don’t forget body weight squats!
You may perform a repetition target of say 30 reps and then immediately perform dumbbell squats, or try a 1 minute AMRAP (as many reps as possible) of body weight squats and then move to weighted squats, where you could take the weight and hold it to your chest and then aim to blast ½ the reps you achieved with your bodyweight in the full minute, for just 30 seconds.
The moral of the story is that there is ALWAYS something you can do!
Don't worry, I hear you... Will all this work do anything, if I am using less weight? Sure!
And you will stimulate a heck of a lot more than if you were sitting on your backside surfing your favourite website too. A change could be as good as a holiday, and it is only a short-term change due to circumstances of being away from home.
Training can be pretty stressful business for most of us, striving for the next PB, eying off the next competition…
When it is always business, we can sometimes miss the sheer joy the weight room can bring. So have fun with this and embrace the challenge!