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When You Can’t Do an Exercise – How to Substitute Exercises

How to Substitute Exercises

While following a workout plan, you may find that a particular exercise isn’t working for you and you may need to learn how to substitute exercises in order to make the program more suitable to your personal needs.

You may not have the right equipment, the exercise is causing you discomfort, it’s too easy, too difficult, or you have an injury that you need to workaround.

If this is the case, don’t feel like you must give up on the entire workout. You just may need to substitute exercises with something else that’s similar that you CAN do. 

I Don’t Have the Right Equipment

Girl doing a biceps curl with the cable machine

When working out from home, you may not be able to exactly replicate the workout as you may not have all the equipment needed. It’s important to note that there are many ways to work around this.

If it’s a dumbbell or barbell type of exercise, try utilizing things that are around to use as weights instead!

Fill up some water bottles with sand, beans, or rocks! Depending on the size, you can create some decently heavy weights, weighing between 2-10 pounds!

Another option is to do the same with a milk jug, or extra-large water bottle. 


Another thing you can do is simply just substitute the exercise for another that’s similar in nature. For example, if the program calls for a Leg Press, you would simply want to choose a different lower body exercise to replace it with, such as a squat. 

In order to create a similar burn in your muscles, you will likely have to perform more reps (or time) than what’s recommended, so just continue to repeat for as many reps as it takes for the muscle to feel tired.


>> 11 Body Weight Exercises to Try From Home


With the LYB workouts, we make substituting exercises easy for our members. Simply just click on the exercise name within the workout and you will be taken to that exercises’ main page where you will see a list of related exercises that you can easily substitute exercises with.

How to  Substitute Exercises with Love Your Bod Fitness
The LYB exercise database has over 800+ different exercises to help you easily modify your workouts when needed.

Another few things you can easily do from home to modify are:

  • Use a ball, chair, floor, or coffee table for bench exercises
  • Buy a set of exercise bands to replicate dumbbell exercises 
  • Do more sets or more reps when your weights aren’t heavy enough to make an exercise difficult
  • Do fewer sets and/or less reps when your weights are too heavy for an exercise.
  • Any exercise performed with a medicine ball can usually also be performed with a dumbbell instead.
  • Kettlebell exercises often times can be replaced with a dumbbell 

The Exercise Causes Discomfort

Lizard Hops Exercise Love Your Bod Fitness

It’s important to listen to your body when it’s sending you signals of pain and discomfort. Pain or discomfort from an exercise can be caused by several different factors. If you don’t have any preexisting injuries which are causing the discomfort, make sure you spend some time ensuring you have the correct form and technique.  Sometimes your positioning may be slightly off and by making a few simple adjustments you should find that the discomfort is alleviated.

Another reason you may feel discomfort is that you have tight muscles that aren’t allowing you to perform the exercise correctly. If this is the case, be sure to prioritize a proper warm-up and spend some time on improving your flexibility.


>> Ready to Try A No-Equipment Home Workout? Click Here.


Lastly, if you are still experiencing discomfort with an exercise, try swapping it for another one of the same muscle group instead. It just may not be the right exercise for you at this moment in time. Keep trying different ones until you find one that works for you – if the discomfort persists, be sure to see a health care professional who can properly assess you.

The last thing to note, it’s very common for many people to experience discomfort in their wrists from planking type of exercises. It’s possible that you may need to work on your wrist flexibility, but you can also try performing plank exercises from your elbows instead. 

The Exercise is Too Easy

Wall Angels Exercise

With all exercises, there are progressions to make the exercise more difficult. For example, you could start by doing push-ups with your hands on a bench first, then work your way to being able to perform them on the floor from your knees, eventually from your toes, and then finally with your feet raised on a bench. Feel free to upgrade any exercise to one that is more difficult. You could also increase the amount of weight being used, or increase your amount of reps.


The Exercise is Too Difficult

Single Leg Ball Tucks Exercise

All exercises can be scaled back. If you are finding that an exercise is too difficult you can try decreasing the amount of weight you are using, lower the number of reps or time, or try a similar exercise that is slightly easier. For example, if you cannot perform a full push-up as the workout calls for, you can perform a modified push-up from your knees instead. 


>> Want to try something a bit more intense? Click Here.


Working Around an Injury

Ball Alternating Chest Press Exercise

Remember to always follow the advice of your health care practitioner who is seeing you through your recovery so that you know what movements are and are not allowed. Once you know what is to be avoided, you can then manipulate your programs by skipping these movements entirely or substituting them for the ones your health care practitioner may have recommended. Another option would be to simply work on other areas until you are fully healed. For example, if you recently injured your knee, you could focus on upper body and core exercise in the meantime.

Remember that with LYB, you got options my friend!  We want you to make these workouts your own so don’t forget that we have over 800+ exercises in our exercise video library to help you modify any workout to make it work for YOU!


Don’t forget, we’re adding new workouts all the time, and our members always have unlimited access to all of them.   Join Now for less than 30 cents a day!

With Love Your Bod we have 250+ Fun & Challenging Workouts, Meal Plan Guides, 100’s of Healthy Recipes, Access to an 800+ Video Exercise Library, AND tons of ebooks and tools to help you have a better relationship with yourself AND your body!! 

Want to jump-start your fitness? Join our FREE 30-Day Workout Challenge. No Equipment Needed


By: Micaela Whitworth, Certified Master Trainer & Fitness Nutritionist