How To Stay Strong Living Off The Grid or on The Road

Guest Post by Pascal Dornier

You need to take care of your physical fitness, even when a gym is far away or too expensive. A good base of strength and muscle makes you more resilient against injuries and staves off bone and muscle loss in old age. I also find a strong, muscular body of either gender more attractive. Don’t worry, you won’t look like a bodybuilder any time soon.

“Chop wood, carry water” – everyday life off the grid can be physically demanding and a workout in itself. The proverbial “farm boy strength” is built by a lifetime of lifting and carrying heavy things. If you don’t have this foundation, some targeted strength work can help.

Whatever you do, it takes consistent training, nutrition, and recovery to get good results.


You can train your heart, lungs, and endurance through cardio exercise. Many people like jogging or running, but my knees object to it, and it takes too much time for my taste.

If you don’t live too far out, keep your noble family steed hobbled on the driveway, and ride a bike for routine errands. I commute by bike when weather and my inner sloth permit. I get about 25 minutes of exercise, but it only takes me about 10 minutes longer than by car. Time-efficient,
and good for the environment and your wallet.

Weight training

Training with weights is effective, but a good home gym is not cheap and takes up space for weights, a squat rack, and a bench. When you are on the road, it is not practical to carry hundreds of pounds of weights with you. Changing weight plates on typical adjustable barbells and dumbbells can be tedious and time-consuming.


Training with your own bodyweight does not require much equipment. You can do push-ups and air squats on the floor, pull-ups and chin-ups from a rafter or playground equipment, inverted rows under a sturdy table, dips on two sturdy chairs etc. To find out more, read the book “Convict Conditioning” by Paul “Coach” Wade. Keep in mind that this is not the easiest form of training – these exercises will uncover your weaknesses without mercy. It can be difficult to progress, and the legs rarely get challenged as much as the upper body.

Resistance bands

Training with resistance bands is a good alternative:

  • Bands are affordable and lightweight.
  • Training with bands is eerily quiet.
  • There is no momentum and less stabilization needed, making it safe and joint-friendly.
  • Most exercises can be set up quickly, allowing for time-efficient training.
  • Wide bands can challenge even strong athletes.

Most training bands are made of latex rubber, usually 41” long when not stretched. They come in different widths (1/4” to 4”) and thicknesses (mostly 4.5 mm, sometimes 6.5 mm). The wider and thicker the band, the more force will be needed to stretch it. Bands give variable resistance – not so much at first, more as you stretch them. Different bands can be combined to progress the load in small steps.

Give bands a try. Beware, you might develop a latex fetish…

Example training program

Look at my web page for more details and exercise videos.

Day 1 – Upper body and arms:

  • Pull-up / chin-up or inverted row
  • Seated row
  • Chest press / press-around
  • Triceps pushdowns
  • Biceps curls
  • Abdominal exercise, for example crunches, leg raises or ab roller

Day 2 – Legs and shoulders:

  • Zercher squat or single leg press
  • Stiff-legged deadlift
  • Calf raises
  • Band pull-apart or high row
  • Band overhead press
  • Band lateral raises

Day 3 – Active rest.

How to train with bands

Do the first set or two of each exercise with a lighter band. This lets your muscles warm up and prepare for what is to come.

Use bands that allow a reasonable range of motion (from extension to contraction)
for 12 to 20 repetitions. If you can do more reps with a full range of motion, it is time for more rubber. Add a narrow band or use a wider band.

When you cannot pull the band to full contraction, try to hold the limit position for a second on each repetition. These isometric contractions help build strength.

Respect the power of latex !

A slingshot uses a small rubber band to turn pebbles into dangerous projectiles. Imagine how a strong band could smack you when it snaps.

  • Don’t run bands over sharp corners.
  • Don’t knot bands, except for simple girth hitches.
  • Don’t overstretch bands in whole or in part. Don’t go much beyond 2x the relaxed length.
  • Don’t store bands in direct sunlight.
  • Just because bands can slink like a limp noodle, doesn’t mean that you may move like one. Proper bracing and body position are important to protect your back and joints.
  • Don’t let the band slip. I prefer training barefoot.

Shopping list

Get a complete set of resistance bands (1/4” narrow to wide) from a reputable supplier like Elitefts, Rubberbanditz, Serious Steel or Undersun. For more predictable resistance, don’t mix bands from different suppliers.

The following items are optional, but helpful:

  • A large mat or carpet to protect the bands and your feet.
  • Some sort of pull-up bar, suitable rafter etc.
  • Suitable handles make it easier to hold the bands.
  • A standard EZ curl bar makes biceps curls and Zercher squats more comfortable.
  • A foot plate (build yourself or buy) can avoid stress on your ankles.
  • An ab roller is a nice gadget to train your midsection.

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