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This article was published on September 30, 2011

Nerd Fitness: The 20-minute hotel workout

Nerd Fitness: The 20-minute hotel workout
Steve Kamb
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Steve Kamb

Steve Kamb is the rebel leader of, a blog and community dedicated to helping nerds, average Joes, and desk jockeys level up Steve Kamb is the rebel leader of, a blog and community dedicated to helping nerds, average Joes, and desk jockeys level up their lives. You can follow him on Twitter and be a fan on Facebook.

This is the next installment in a new series on The Next Web, in partnership with Steve Kamb from Nerd Fitness. Guides to staying healthy, without giving up your geek lifestyle.

During a road trip last year, I spent a night at a hotel in Richmond, Virginia. I hadn’t exercised in a few days, and had no desire to go find out if they had a gym on site…so I made up my own workout while IN the hotel room, using nothing but myself and the room’s furniture.

In just 20 minutes I had warmed up, exercised my entire body, and stretched out afterward. Now, although I did this in a hotel room, it doesn’t mean it won’t work in other places, like your own bedroom for example. I just know it works in a hotel because I did it. So there.

Whenever I create a workout, I always aim for a complete full body routine that will build muscle, burn fat, and exercise the heart.  These types of workouts burn more calories than simple cardio too (booooo to boring cardio!).

I focus on 4 types of exercises:

  • Legs: working both the front and back of your legs
  • Push: chest, shoulders, triceps
  • Pull:  back, biceps, forearms
  • Core: abs and lower back

This means that you can work out almost every muscle in your body with just four exercises simplicity for the win!

Unfortunately, I was the only person on my trip, and I wasn’t going to ask the maid: “Hey, can you come and videotape me in my hotel room?”. So, I wasn’t able to put together a video IN the hotel room of me doing these exercises (the videos are of me doing them in a park, but you get the point).

Always start with a warm-up, as this gets your core temperature up and muscles loose:

25 jumping jacks, 15 body weight squats, 10 push-ups, 10 lunges (each leg), 10 hip raises, 25 jumping jacks.

Do one exercise right after another – this should take you probably 3-4 minutes.

After that, move into your workout – set your watch/laptop for 15 minutes and then do as many full circuits as possible in that time frame, using PERFECT FORM for each repetition. I’ve split the workout into three levels – beginners should start at level 1 until they feel comfortable enough to advance to levels 2 and 3.

Do each exercise, one after another, without stopping if possible. If you need to stop between exercises or even in the middle of the set, go for it. Just remember you’re trying to complete as many circuits as possible within the 15 minutes without compromising your form.

Advance to the more challenging exercises at your own pace, and if some exercises are too difficult, or it’s too many reps, adjust them to fit your experience level – just make sure you are getting stronger and challenging yourself with each additional hotel stay. For example, if you can only do 5 incline push ups…aim for six when do the workout next time. So, here it is!


20  Body Weight Squats: You don’t need a chair like in video, that’s just if you need help

15  Incline Push Ups: Feet on floor, hands on edge of bed or desk

10  One-Arm Luggage Rows: Each arm, use your suit case as your weight

10  Reverse Crunches


25  Overhead Squats

20  Push Ups

10  Inverted Rows: Using the desk in your hotel room…just don’t break it!

15  Reverse Crunches


25  Jumping Squats

20  Decline Push ups: Feet up on bed or desk chair

10  Inverted Rows (with feet elevated onto desk chair)

15  Reverse Crunches

After your workout (you should be sweating like crazy if you did it right), ALWAYS remember to stretch. Pick four or five of the exercises listed under “stretching” in my how-to videos section over on my Nerd Fitness website for a good full body stretch.

T-Rex Arms and The Fitness Buster

I’m currently typing this article with T-Rex arms. “WTF are T-Rex arms”, you ask?

T-Rex arms show up after you manage to push yourself a little bit too hard with certain exercises in a workout, and in return your biceps and forearms are so tight that you can’t even straighten out your arms for a few days. So you have to walk around like a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

That’s me right now.  It’s painful as hell, and I look ridiculous.  But I’m still glad it happened.

Here’s why.

One day last year, on a drive from New York City to Boston, MA, I swung through Norwich, Connecticut, to meet up with Shawn Guiney, a gym owner who happened to read my Nerd Fitness blog and wanted to know if I was interested in coming in for a workout.

Considering I had had a little bit too much fun in NYC, and planned on going out with friends in Boston the following two days, I figured I might as well kick my ass in the gym to help balance things out.

I arrived at Shawn’s gym in Norwich and immediately felt like I had stepped onto the set of a Rocky movie shoot: old wooden floors, brick walls, high vaulted ceilings – this gym had some SERIOUS old-school character. Shawn asked how hard I wanted to push myself, and I said “give me everything you got.” He told me that he had a crossfit-style workout set up for his advanced members that day, if I felt up to the challenge. I hadn’t been taking care of myself lately a recent crossfit experience had almost made me puke my brains out, so I don’t really remember why I thought this was a good idea.

Oh well, screw it.

After a warm-up (3 minutes of jumping rope, 100 jumping jacks, mountain climbers and a lot of hip mobility work), this is the workout (called “Angie” in Crossfit land) I went through:

  • 100 pull ups
  • 100 push ups
  • 100 sit ups
  • 100 squats

Yikes. I had to complete each exercise before moving onto the next one. I probably did 30 dead-hang pull ups (split across a few sets) before my arms refused to work anymore, so then I moved onto band-assisted pull ups, and then chair-assisted pull ups. Needless to say, by rep #100 my arms were COOKED. After that, I moved onto push ups (which normally wouldn’t have been an issue, except they came after 100 pull ups), then situps and squats.

Overall, I think it took me around 30 minutes or so, not a great time, but we did quite a bit of talking in between sets and I wasn’t too concerned with setting a new course record. After working out, I sat down with Shawn and talked about his training philosophy, experience in training, passions, etc.

I could tell these things within 10 minutes of talking with Shawn:

  • He’s exactly like me and has a very similar training style and philosophy.
  • He has years and years of experience and an incredible passion for helping people get in shape.
  • He knows his stuff.
  • His clients are all over the board in terms of age/experience, but he treats each of them with personalized attention.

So, although I definitely bit off more than I could chew and pushed myself too hard, I’m so incredibly glad I got a chance to stop and work out with Shawn.

He’s a guy who is doing what he loves, and is doing a really good job at it.

Keep Pushing

Just because it’s cold and snowy doesn’t mean you can slack off – hard work in the winter will pay tremendous dividends come next summer. Get stronger, get faster, do one more rep, finish one second sooner…always be improving.

What kind of workouts are you doing these days? Did the workout above make sense? Do you have any questions?

Let me know in the comments below.

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