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Exercise Swaps for Similar Results

Different Move, Same Results

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Workout routines from DVDs and magazines can be super helpful when it comes to reaching your fitness goals. But what do you do when you can't do the suggested moves or don't have access to the right equipment? We asked the experts to suggest some alternative (but just as effective) exercises to use when equipment, strength, or injury limits you. Because "I don't have a Swiss ball" is no excuse to skip your workout!

Related: Get more expert tips and tricks with SHAPE's free iPad app. Access exclusive fat-blasting workouts, meal plans, and more!

Instead of: Pull-Ups Do: Lat Pull-Overs

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The lats are the primary muscles used in pull-ups, so pull-overs are a great household substitution, says Rick Richey, a master instructor for the National Academy of Sports Medicine and owner of R2Fitness in New York City.

How to do it: Lie on your back with a household weight in your hands (laundry detergent, the actual laundry, carry-on luggage, etc.) and hold it above your chest. Keeping your arms straight, slowly lower your arms back over your head as if you are going to place the weight down. Pull the weight back over your chest, making sure to engage your lats the entire time.

Instead of: Swiss Ball Crunches Do: Pillow Crunches

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"The major use of the stability ball in crunches is not so much the stability demands but the range of motion (ROM) that you get in the crunch," Richey says. "On the floor, you can only extend your back so far before you are lying flat and you need to crunch again. The ball allows the back to extend more, but if you don't have a ball at home you can simply increase your ROM by putting a pillow under your lower back, thus increasing the demands of the crunch."

Experiment with various pillow sizes to find the right one for your back (try starting with a smaller throw pillow first).

Instead of: A Cable Machine Use: Resistance Bands

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Anchor a resistance band at the same point as the cable is positioned in any particular exercise. For example, for a chest cable fly, anchor your band around a doorknob and perform the exercise as you normally would with the cable.

No resistance bands handy either? Make your own weight by filling half of a gallon milk carton or standard paint can with water (tape the top with duct tape for perfect closure), recommends Jay Cardiello, SHAPE fitness editor-at-large and founder of the JCORE Accelerated Body Transformation System. You can use the jug for a variety of different cable moves such as rows, chops, curls, and press downs, Cardiello says.

Instead of: A Medicine Ball Use: A Heavy Pillow or Sandbag

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For moves like chops, rotations, or twists, a sandbag (or even simply a weighted bag—try loading up that old purse in the closet) works as a great substitution for a weighted med ball.

Ready to do some med ball slams? Grab a down pillow, stand in a squat position, and slam it into the ground just as you would with a medicine ball. Repeat as many times as possible in 30 seconds, Cardiello says.

Instead of: Plyometric Moves Do: Negative "Jumps"

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A number of things can foil your plyometrics workout—injury and downstairs neighbors are the most common. But don't let that prevent you from incorporating explosive power moves into your training plan.

"If jumping is a no-no, a great way to practice plyometric exercises is to do negative jumps," Richey says. "A negative jump is a rapid lowering—as if your are going to jump, then stand up slowly and repeat. For example, instead of a squat jump, quickly squat down as if you were about to power off the floor, and then slowly stand back up. The rapid deceleration can help prep the body for future plyometric demands."


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