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5 Modified Moves to Switch Up Your Strength Training

New Moves, Same Muscles

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If you just can't stand a certain exercise in your strength-training plan, don't have the equipment it requires, or just want to have a little control over which moves you do in the weight room, good news: You can make tweaks to your plan on your own, so long as you swap apples to apples, so to speak. In fact, a new study in The Journal of Strength and Conditiong Research found that muscle activation during these two moves is actually identical. (Find out the differences between a narrow grip bench press and a wide grip bench press.)

There are of course many other exercise “pairs” that work the same or similar muscle groups and are essentially interchangeable, explains Joel Sanders, performance coach at EXOS. (Check out these Important Muscles Women Ignore.) Sanders paired five swappable moves, modeled by Lacey Henderson, American Paralympic Long Jump Record Holder who trains at EXOS (and, when done together, make up a killer total body workout). “These pairs include one more 'loaded' strength movement (meaning it uses weights) and one that works the same muscles but uses less equipment,” explains Sanders.

If you are aiming to get stronger, do 6-10 reps of each move (with the heaviest weights you can stand, adding weight to any bodyweight movements or placing a medicine ball between your knees for knee raise.) If you are looking to expend calories and keep your heart rate elevated, aim for 8-12 reps and keep the weights lighter/body-weight, says Sanders. Move from one move to the next with little to no rest. Rest two minutes, then repeat the circuit for a total of three cycles.  

Photo: Corbis Images

Option A: Shoulder Press

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A Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells at shoulder height, palms facing away from you to start.

B Press the dumbbells straight overhead, pause, then slowly lower them back to start. That's one rep.

Photo: EXOS

Option B: TRX Handstand Pushup

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A With hands on ground directly under shoulders, place left foot in TRX, then right, to start.

B Walk your hands back while you bring your legs up until your feet are above your head. Slowly reverse the movement to return to start. That's one rep.

Photo: EXOS

Option A: Bent-Over Row

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A Stand hinged over at the waist holding a dumbbell in each hand to start.

B Slide your shoulder blades back and then drive your elbows toward the ceiling, pulling the weights up to the sides of your rib cage. Lower the weights back down to the starting position. That's one rep.

Photo: EXOS

Option B: Horizontal Body Row

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A Secure a barbell in the squat rack about 3 to 4 feet above the floor. Get underneath the bar and grab it with a shoulder-width overhand grip, so you’re hanging at arm’s length from the bar with legs straight in front of you to start.

B Pull your chest to the bar. Pause, then lower yourself back down to the starting position. That's one rep.

Photo: EXOS

Option A: Back Squat

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A Load a barbell with desired weight (or use an empty bar to start) and hold it behind your back near the top of your shoulders to start.

B Initiating movement with hips, squat back and down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Return to standing position by pushing through the hips. That's one rep.

Photo: EXOS

Option B: Single Leg Squat

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A Stand in front of a bench with weight on left leg, right foot raised slightly off the ground.

B Initiating movement with hips, squat back and down on left leg until the glutes touch the bench. Return to standing position using only the leg. That’s one rep. Repeat for prescribed number of repetitions, then switch legs.

Photo: EXOS

Option A: Single Leg Romanian Deadlift

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A Stand on left foot while holding a barbell with an overhand grip just wider than shoulder width to start.

B Hinge over at the hips, lowering the bar as the right leg lifts straight out behind you. Return to standing position by contracting your hamstrings and glutes. That's one rep. Repeat for prescribed number of repetitions and then switch legs.

Photo: EXOS

Option B: Single Leg Glute Bridge

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A Sit in front of a bench with shoulders and arms resting on the bench, knees bent, and feet on the floor to start. Lift right foot off of the floor.

B Continue raising right foot and leg upwards as you fire your glutes to bridge hips to sky so weight is supported only by left heel and shoulders. Pause, then return to starting position. That’s one rep. Repeat for prescribed number of repetitions, then switch legs.

Photo: EXOS

Option A: Physioball Knee Tuck

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A Get in a pushup position with hands on floor and shins on the ball to start.

B Pull knees to chest until toes are on top of the ball. Return to start position. That’s one rep.

Photo: EXOS

Option B: Hanging Knee Raise

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A Jump or use a step or box to grasp pull-up bar with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width, feet dangling, to start.

B Use your core to pull your knees up to your chest. Pause, then slowly lower back to start. That’s one rep.

Photo: EXOS

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