Body

Strength Training Programs I Use to Stay Fit at Home and Abroad

Booty by Bret (BBB) & MAPS Anywhere by Mind Pump — get and stay fit anywhere in the world!

Travel: a great excuse to mix up your workouts!

Last month I traveled through Japan to see the Cherry Blossoms with my husband for 3 weeks, which provided a nice little disruption to my typical weekly workout routine.

For me, travel is never an excuse to neglect my health. In fact, because there are so many variables with my food and because traveling, even when it’s fun, can be inherently stressful, I always try to maintain some form of exercise routine when I’m away from home. It’s a good way to impose some routine on an otherwise rather unstructured period of time, which is often when we fall out of our good habits and lose progress. It also makes it so much easier to come home and get right back to your normal routine if you somewhat stick to it when you’re away.

Since I tried a new exercise program during this particular trip, I thought a post my typical programming along with this new training program might be helpful, to provide some ideas about how to stay fit anywhere you may find yourself, at home or while traveling anywhere around the world!

My Typical Training at Home: Some Context

For the past year or so, I’ve added strength training to my previously mostly-cardio-centric exercise regimen, and loved the results! The past 8 months in particular, I’ve used the Booty by Bret (BBB) strength training programming from Bret Contreras and have really enjoyed learning and improving my compound lifts, particularly the rush of setting a new personal record (PR) on moves like hip thrusts and deadlifts! It’s been incredibly refreshing to focus on skill development instead of purely being motivated by aesthetics or a number on the scale.

Hip Thrusts, Single-Leg RDLs and Chin-ups are 3 of my favorite moves!

A little bit about Bret & Booty by Bret (BBB)

I found Bret through Instagram and was quickly able to pick up on the fact that he was actually providing valuable educational content, particularly for women fairly new to strength training like me. Bret, AKA the “glute guy”, has a Ph.D. and is the world’s foremost expert on glute training, and is the creator of the hip thrust, which is quickly becoming a go-to compound lift rivaling the popularity of the squat and deadlift. After a few months of trying lifting on my own, I decided to invest in his Booty by Bret (BBB) strength training programming (more information on price and what you get later in this post) and have absolutely loved it! I even got to train in person with Bret and his “glute squad” when I visited San Diego last summer, and I found out that this fellow former teacher (maybe that’s why I liked him so much? 🤔 It’s definitely part of why his instruction is so effective!) is the same thoughtful, kind individual in person as he appears to be online.

Can you spot me being intimidated AF in the back row? 🤣 ALL of these women were incredibly kind and welcoming, despite my awkwardness!

Working out in Japan: Planning Ahead

While I love my BBB programming, I knew I would need to plan ahead for a change in my lifting routine during our trip. When we booked our flights for our trip to Japan, I knew I was unlikely to have access to a gym or weights for much, if any, of our travel. Hotels in Japan rarely have workout rooms, and gyms are generally only available for local members. While it’s occasionally possible to find a community “sports center” with a day pass, the process of going to a gym is very involved in Japan, usually involving a tour, paperwork, a confusing rate and method of payment, and much changing of shoes.

The shoes I paid 200 yen (~$2) to rent at the Sports Center I found to work out at in Ikebukuro — one of the only workouts w/weights from my month in Japan!

So, instead of worrying or hoping for gyms to magically appear (side note: even if and when you find a gym in Japan, they are heavy on cardio equipment; if you can find weights, they will generally be dumbbells only and max out around 25kg, so lifting heavy is typically hard to do), I decided to take matters into my own hands and research training programs I could do anywhere with very little equipment or even just bodyweight. That whole failing to plan is planning to fail thing is real! I wasn’t willing to just wing it and hope for the best, and neither should you.

A Little Bit about Mind Pump and MAPS Anywhere

Enter MAPS Anywhere, a program developed by the guys over at Mind Pump! In case you’re wondering, “MAPS” is short for Muscular Adaptation Programming System and all MAPS programs are expertly programmed to drive adaptation in a smarter-not-necessarily-harder way by three of the fitness industry’s top trainers (Sal, Adam, and Justin), who together boast a combined experience of over 55 years! Doug is the man behind the scenes marketing all of their great content and putting together their delightful Mind Pump Podcast. I’ve been listening for about a year, since starting to lift more seriously, and found Mind Pump in general through Juli Bauer of PaleOMG, another fitness-and-health-minded individual I recommend you check out.

Over the past several months, I have picked up on and appreciated the Mind Pump quality over quantity approach to strength training, along with their drive to bring character and integrity to an industry often lacking in both. They also love high quality research, good books and self-development, and they interview many of the smartest people in the health and fitness world on their show, so of course I love listening to them chat on every episode as I nod along and learn new and interesting tidbits. I also knew from their podcast ads that they have created several high-quality strength training MAPS programs that cycle on and off of sale, including MAPS Anywhere, but was bummed to find out that it was not currently on sale. Happy shoutout to Ann, who fielded my email asking for a discount and honored my request with a 50% off coupon! That’s the sign of great customer service and confidence that someone will find value in your product and come back for more!

Image courtesy of https://fitfluential.com/how-to-do-a-turkish-get-up/

Preview Your Programming!

I spent the day before our flight previewing the MAPS Anywhere programming, including the detailed instructional videos and cues for each of the moves, and the calendar blueprint for the month. I strongly suggest taking the time to preview the programming, as there are likely some moves that will be new to you (for example, the delightfully complex turkish getup; example video later in this post). I decided to also use some of the BBB supplemental glute workouts; so, I packed a couple of resistance bands and my glute loop, and we were off!

After a hella-long 24 hours of travel, we arrived at our AirBnB in Osaka, Japan and happily unpacked and showered. By the way, is there anything worse than the way you smell after 24 hours of intercontinental travel?

There is not.

Anywho, after feeling a little less like death post-shower, I got out my glute loop and got the blood flowing which immediately helped me feel less sore and gross after so much sitting, and then we went out to explore, barely making it to 8 PM before the jet lag kicked in.

MAPS Anywhere: Two Types of Workouts

Fast forward to the next morning about 4 AM when jet lag struck again and I was up for the day. I pulled out MAPS Anywhere and got started on my first foundational workout. MAPS Anywhere has 2 phases. During weeks 1 and 2 the focus of the programming is stabilization, establishing good form, and improving mobility. Then, in weeks 3 and 4, phase 2 focuses on building strength and defining muscle. In addition to its two phases of programming, MAPS Anywhere is comprised of two types of workouts:

#1: Foundational workouts

  • Complete 2x/week with (at least) 1 rest day in-between workouts
  • Complete 6–8 exercises one after the other (in a circuit) to fatigue, repeat the whole circuit for 1–3 rounds.
  • Complete phase 1 workouts week 1&2
  • Move on to phase 2 workouts for weeks 3&4 (note: bump up from 1–3 circuit rounds curcuits to 3–5 circuit rounds in phase 2)

NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) goal: Aim to hit 8–15k steps per day. Luckily it’s super easy to get a lot of steps in while traveling in Japan between walking to and from trains, hotels, AirBnBs, and sightseeing. (note: bump up from 8–15k steps to 15–25k in phase 2)

The beautiful spring weather provided plenty of opportunities for walks with our friends — hitting my NEAT goal was a cinch!

#2: AMP Workouts

  • Complete 2–3x/week (on different days than the Foundational Workouts)
  • You pick 4–6 exercises from a long list of possibilities. Complete 2–4 sets per exercise, to fatigue, before moving on to the next move (not a circuit)
  • There are 3 types of AMP workouts: AMP 1 is a strength hypertrophy workout (lots of banded moves to add resistance), Workout, AMP 2 is a strength conditioning workout (some explosive movements like jump squats and burpees), and AMP 3 is a strength tension workout (go for perfect form here, and move through each movement with tension to increase intensity). The AMP workout exercises that you pick from are organized by the 3 categories above, but each category contains push, pull, lower body, core, and full body movements, and the goal is to pick at least one of each type of movement to include each day.
  • Same NEAT goal as above.

Foundational Workouts: My Impressions

The kinds of moves you can expect in MAPS Anywhere Foundational Workouts include familiar bodyweight basics that are well-known to most people, such as bodyweight squats, single leg hip thrusts/glute bridges, and push-ups:

Unexpected highlight this month: My pushup form improved greatly!!

As theMAPS Anywhere programming progresses, however, you’ll get some experience with either less-common or lesser-known movement patterns such as prone cobra or perfect windmills which will challenge and improve your mobility and range of motion.

It was easy to perform these moves, along with others like side planks and dips almost anywhere (hence the name of the program), whether I was in a park outdoors or an AirBnB with or Hotel room or gym.

Side Planks, Dips, and Push-ups: Bodyweight moves I can ALWAYS stand to re-visit and improve upon!

You’ll even learn and master the complex, somewhat tricky, but totally wonderful full-body Turkish Get-Up exercise:

I knew that to make a bodyweight workout count it is all about the intensity you apply and quality of form, not quantity (although, quantity is also a component of MAPS Anywhere, given that these workouts are programmed as “to fatigue”, to make up for the lack of additional weights you’re adding).

I focused on maintaining perfect form throughout the full range of motion for each move and sure enough by the end of round 1, my heart rate was elevated and blood was pumping. Each round my form improved as I learned and mastered the movement patterns, and by the end of the workout, I felt great. Not at all the same “burn” as a HIIT workout or a run, but, that’s part of what I liked about it, especially for a travel workout. It was nice not to have incredibly soaked and stinky workout clothes to deal with afterwards, for one thing. And for another, the focus on form really felt a lot like a strength training workout does and the increased reps to fatigue seemed to compensate for the lack of additional weight.

I also noticed I was able to form a stronger mind-body connection and connect with the specific muscles each move targeted. Personally, I feel like my body had been craving a change-up in routine anyway, so this comes at a perfect time. I was not worried about losing my strength, either, because these workouts were not easy.You absolutely get out of them what you put in. I put in focus and intensity and felt amazing afterward! As I repeated these workouts for the next two weeks, my foundation of strength solidified and ready to push to the second strength phase!

AMP Workouts: Adding Variety and Intensity

In a typical week of MAPS Anywhere, the training calendar is laid out as follows:

  • Day 1: AMP workout #1 (Strength Hypertrophy)
  • Day 2: Foundational workout #1
  • Day 3: AMP workout #2 (Strength Conditioning)
  • Day 4: Foundational workout #2
  • Day 5: AMP workout #3 (Strength Tension)
  • Day 6–7: Rest days

(+ steps to meet your NEAT goal daily)

Every other day, between the foundational workouts, you perform an “AMP” workout. AMP workouts, as you might guess, are designed to amplify your results by focusing on building dynamic strength in different ways, and defining your muscles by applying hypertrophy, conditioning, and tension (continuous contraction of the muscle throughout the move).

AMP workouts are closer to what I’m used to with BBB (not a circuit; perform an exercise for 2–3 sets, before moving on to the next; 4–6 moves total). Since the 3 categories had 25–30 possible moves to pick from each, I contacted Ann again to ask if I should pick 4–6 moves to stick with over the course of the first 2 weeks and then switch it up for the last 2 weeks of the month, but she suggested to instead just gear AMP workouts toward moves that felt in line with my goals or how my body was feeling that day.

The AMP workouts kick things up a notch and often incorporate bands or explosive movements:

Banded Straight Arm Pull-downs, Banded Seated Rows
Jump Squats and Mountain Climbers to spike your heart rate for strength conditioning

I created this workout log to track my moves/reps, but then promptly forgot to pack it, so I did as suggested and for AMP workouts just decided based on how I felt each day which moves to do, which was actually great for travel, constantly transferring locations, carrying around a backpack all day, and randomly waking up with various aches and pains from crappy hotel beds and the like. For me, the limiting factor was often access to equipment (or even something like a bar to hang my resistance band over for leveage), or lack of space in tiny Japanese hotel rooms. This is when it was really nice to have a long list of potential moves to pick from — I never got bored because I could add variety to each AMP workout, and I was always able to find moves I could complete that were possible, even given my limitations and then do the exercises I chose to fatigue, as prescribed.

Some of my AMP days, I subbed a BBB glute circuit in instead, just depending on what I felt like doing, and how my body was feeling. But mostly, I stuck with the Maps Anywhere programming because it was obviously working well.

Rest Days

One thing I struggled with a little during the month was feeling like I wasn’t sure when to take rest days. I think perhaps because you aren’t experiencing much progressive overload when completing bodyweight workouts, even if performing exercises to fatigue, your body recovers more quickly. So, each day I’d feel ready to work out again.

I did notice, however, that when I went a full 7 days one week without a rest day I started to feel a bit run down and have less energy; sure enough, when I took a rest day or two, I was right back at full steam!

Program Value: Maps Anywhere compared with BBB

I think MAPS Anywhere is a good value for the money, though I find it hard to compare to BBB. They aren’t necessarily providing the same thing, so comparing them isn’t really the point, but, for anyone curious I’ll outline what I paid for each program and what I get for that money. You can decide for yourself which is more valuable and serves your current goals more!

Booty By Bret: What you Pay and What you Get

With BBB, I am provided with 4 weeks of new programming each month at the rate of $30/month. Each month Bret sends out new videos, detailed descriptions of each lift in writing along with workout logs to record your progress, and form cues plus progressions plus modification on the new moves. The programming includes 3 main strength workouts (similar to the AMP workouts in that they are not a circuit and usually include 6 moves in various rep ranges, always including at least 2–3 compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, or hip thrusts) and 2 additional supplemental glute circuits (simialr in structure to the foundational workouts in that you complete 6 moves one after the other in a circuit, then complete the circuit for 1-2 more rounds). I can also ask for form checks via a Booty by Bret Facebook group Bret has created, which his trainers moderate. That group also provides a lot of positive motivation from a like-minded community of fitness-minded women.

So, overall, for BBB you pay/get:

  • $30/month (monthly charge; the content changes each month, but you’re able to download and keep the logs and descriptions and ask for the videos to be e-mailed to you, so, for all intents and purposes, lifetime access).
  • 5 new workouts / month (3 full body workouts with 6 moves completed for 2–3 sets each; 2 supplemental glute circuits)
  • Detailed workout descriptions, videos with form cues, modifications and progressions, and workout logs provided through a private website/portal.
  • Booty by Bret Facebook group for form checks and community

MAPS Anywhere: What you Pay and What you Get

With MAPS Anywhere, I paid $50 (Note: the normal price $99 but when I emailed they provided me with a coupon code) for 4 weeks of programming, a calendar blueprint, detailed program overview, and individual videos of each move (male and female versions), with written cues in the videos. I have lifetime access to this information, but it is a one-time, pre-packaged, 30-day program. While it has enough variety that I could probably repeat it every so often, it would not be the kind of thing you’d want to follow for more than a month at a time (but neither is any program). That said, it probably is the kind of thing that anyone could benefit from cycling into their programming 1–2 times per year to re-establish their foundational strength, good form, and better mobility through basic, mostly bodyweight, movement.

For me, MAPS Anywhere was just the right solution, at just the right time, for just the right purpose. My specific needs included:

  • a break from my usual routine to give my body a rest while maintaining my fitness and strength
  • the ability to exercise anywhere, with little to no equipment.

Given the specificity of my goal, paying $50 for MAPS Anywhere ($20 more than I pay for 1 month of BBB programming) was fair, although at its normal price point of $99, it needs its bonus content(see below) to make up the difference in value, in my opinion. That said, the MAPS Anywhere program content, is high quality, engaging, effective, and challenging (even for the experienced lifting enthusiast) and very well-produced and delivered. I had no trouble accessing the website, videos with form cues, or workout calendar and supplemental documents, even from the very rural countryside of Japan!

Maps Anywhere Bonuses

There are a few bonuses that come with MAPS Anywhere that help make it even more worth its price that I should mention (even if I was unable to make use of them on this trip due to space and logistical constraints while traveling, I hope to use them in the future!).

  • Bonus #1: you get free access to MAPS Prime when you purchase MAPS Anywhere. MAPS Prime is a supplemental program that the MindPump guys designed to, well, prime you for your workouts. According to the MindPump Guys:

MAPS Prime is a program designed to noticeably amplify the benefits and results of your existing workouts through mobility training and exercises. It acts as your Pre/Intra/Post workout supplement by customizing mobility sessions to your own body and teaching you how to implement them into your current workout routine. Before you get started, you will be given 3 tests based off the PRIME COMPASS. The PRIME COMPASS drives your body into three zones — WALL TEST, WINDMILL TEST, and SQUAT TEST. Each zone consists of a simple/Fail test that will guide you on how to customize and use MAPS Prime for your greatest benefit. By “priming” your body, your results will be dramatically more noticeable.

MAPS Prime can theoretically can be attached to any strength training routine in order to improve your outcomes.

  • Bonus #2: MAPS Anywhere includes a bonus mod with 28 more suspension training moves and accompanying videos with cues (i.e. TRX). While I personally don’t own a suspension trainer or have room in my 19-liter backpack for one, if you don’t travel so light this could really be a way to boost the intensity of your MAPS Anywhere workout by adding a lot more tension and resistance to certain moves by changing the angles and emphasis of the movement than you can provide with bodyweight alone.

So, overall, for MAPS Anywhere you pay / get:

  • $99 (1-time charge; life-time access; note: I paid $50 with a coupon code and the Mind Pump guys are usually selling at least one of their programs at this rate / you could also try emailing to request a discount like I did!)
  • 7 — ish workouts(4 full body foundational workouts with 6–8 moves completed as a circuit; 3 full-body AMP workouts with 4–6 moves completed for 2–4 sets each; not a circuit)
  • Bonuses: MAPS Prime & Bonus Suspension /TRX training Mod
  • 4 total weeks of programming; however the AMP workouts are custom / self-created, so you could mix them up indefinitely to provide yourself with extended programming or you could revisit MAPS Anywhere multiple times throughout the year between other programming.
  • Detailed videos of each move (over 100 easy to follow videos with both male and female examples and written cues within each video), a detailed workout blueprint and calendar, provided through a private website/portal).
  • Mind Pump Podcast and I believe there is an online forum of some kind for people who use Mind Pump products, though I have not yet figured out how to access it, for community interaction.

Conclusions

For me, MAPS Anywhere was a great way to try out the Mind Pump products; as expected from their Podcast, it was a high-quality program that worked well for me! BBB continues to hold a special place in my heart, because it was one of my first “real” introductions to heavy lifting, and is tailored for women. The Booty by Bret Facebook group is full of positive women building each other up, something you don’t see a lot of on the internet, particuarly in the health and fitness arena. I have loved using both sets of programming, and hope to continue using both into the future! I know I will revisit MAPS Anywhere, probably in August when we move to Japan for a year as an easy go-to, set program to follow, that I am familiar with, while I scope out access to fitness centers in our area. If and when I have access to weights again, I will either be back to lifting with BBB or maybe try out another MAPS fitness product like MAPS Anabolic, MAPS Performance, or MAPS Aesthetic.

No matter where you find yourself — at home or abroad — there’s no excuse to forget your fitness! Keep working hard, setting and reaching new goals, and you’ll thank yourself later! 💪




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