Have you ever had to change the way you do an exercise because no matter how hard you try, you just can’t do it the way your instructor does? Feeling the burn is great, but feeling a lot of pain is not! That’s where modifying exercises comes into play. By making slight changes to the way you work out, you can keep your body from injury while still improving your health and fitness levels.
If you feel like you’re cheating, or out of sync with the rest of the people in your class – don’t! Everyone has had to modify their workout at some time, even your super-fit instructor (just ask them). Some people have physical issues to work around, such as carpal tunnel, sports injuries, weak knees, etc. But that doesn’t need to hold you back. In fact, when it comes to helping your body get better, stronger and fitter without injuring yourself, modifying exercises is the way to go.
Modifying builds strength: At some point, everyone struggled with doing a push-up, or a pullup, or a burpee. But they got stronger by starting with modified versions and building up their strength. All you need to do is start with as much of the exercise you can do now. Then continue to work at that exercise until you can move on to the next variation, then the next, and so on.
Modifying protects you from injury: If you jumped took a year off from working out and became a total couch potato, then decided to participate in a Spartan marathon, what do you think would happen? Injuries galore, that’s what.
And that’s more of what modifying exercises is about. Preparing your body by focusing on form and slowly building up to harder versions of exercises so that you can avoid injuries that can happen when you try to do exercises your body isn’t ready for yet.
OK, now you know why it’s good to modify. Let’s talk about how to adjust some common exercises to fit your body’s needs:
Start by doing push-ups with your hands on a raised surface such as a step, table or a countertop. Then move to kneeling push-ups, balancing on your knees instead of your toes. Make sure to really focus on your form and soon you can move to full push-ups.
Planks, like push-ups, can tend to cause stress or pain in the shoulders and lower back. A good way to adjust is to move to your knees. Just like with push-ups, focus on form and challenging yourself to holding your plank for longer times each time.
Squats can be hard on knees and lower back. The first step to modify is to ditch any weights you are using. Start by not squatting down any further than feels comfortable. Try using a stability ball and place it between your lower back and the wall. Lean against the ball, which will keep the pressure off your knees, and hold the squat for as long as you can.
Modified Mountain Climbers
One way to modify mountain climbers is to use gliders (or even paper plates if you’re home and have a slick floor to work out on.) Instead of jumping your feet back and forth you can slide them. You can also modify by just going slower, or not jumping as much, simply stepping your feet back and forth. Go slowly and focus on your form, then build up.
Relieve pressure from knees by doing stationary lunges, or backward lunges. For stationary, start with your right foot forward and anchor your left foot in place. Bend your right knee to lower into a lunge, then raise up to start position. After finishing your reps, switch sides. For backward lunges, simply step back with your legs instead of forward. It’s easier on your knees and you still get a great workout.
There are a million more ways to modify exercises, so when in doubt slow it down, use less weight, or talk to your instructor or fitness coach. They can help you figure out the best way for your body. And never hesitate to modify, just keep working at it, building up day to day, and in the end you’ll be a better athlete because of it.