Top 10: Exercise Swaps
Are you so regimented in your workout routine that if someone is using the equipment you need, you’ll sit around and wait for it? Well, I used to be one of those people, and would sometimes wait 10 or 15 minutes for another to finish up my workout. But not anymore…
Whether you’re waiting for the power rack or leg press, or there’s a shortage of benches because the gym is crowded, there’s always alternative exercises you can perform that will help you achieve the same results. So for this week’s Top 10 I’m going to give you ten different – yet equally effective – exercises to try when you need to re-route your workout.
Instead of waiting around, use this as an opportunity to try something new! Here we go…
1. Bench Press – Walk into any gym, and this is one of the most popular exercises of all – which means you may have to wait for a bench. But instead of standing around, why not try a favorite of mine – Swiss Ball Dumbbell Chest Press. The dumbbells will provide a greater range of motion, and using the ball as the bench, you’ll have to form a bridge. So you’ll also challenge your core, glutes, balance and stability.
2. Deadlifts – I love deadlifts and used to perform them in the power rack. But if the rack isn’t available, try the under utilized Cable Deadlift. Affix a rope handle to a low pulley and straddle it, with your back to the weight stack. Step out a bit and reach down to grab the rope handles. Assume the deadlift posture and stand up – remembering to squeeze the glutes.
3. Medicine Ball Chops – Chops are a great exercise for dynamic warm-ups and to work the core. But If for some reason you can’t use a medicine ball, try a Resistance Band Chop. Since the band stretches and the resistance increases through the range, it’ll be a nice change and new stimulus for your body. Just attach the band at any point, either high, mid, or low and chop away!
4. Leg Press – I’ll confess – back in my bodybuilder days, I used this machine for up to 45 minutes, and I piled on the weight. I was definitely lifting my ego for sure. A great alternative to the leg press believe it or not, are Reverse Lunges using a step. Will you load up with hundreds of pounds? No, but so what? Reverse lunges target the glutes, hamstrings and calves, and unlike lying down in a leg sled, you’ll also train your core, lower back, and arms (if you use dumbbells). Truthfully, I mostly skip the leg press these days.
5. Lat Pull Down – This is another wildly popular exercise and one that’s very effective. But there are other great alternatives too. In fact, I prefer Single Arm Dumbbell Rows to the bar variety. They allow a greater range of motion and also have more variety – one legged, on a bench, or using a Swiss ball. If you want to be sure you’re using correct form, check out my How To Perform A Dumbbell Row Video.
6. Treadmill – Every gym has a cardio section that’s always packed – all the time. People routinely plug in to warm-up, or as a way to get their cardio in. Yet you see few people jumping rope, doing jumping jacks, running in place, or even trying burpees. Next time you hit the gym, forget the equipment and get unplugged. Try using your body with old school exercises to burn calories and increase your fitness.
7. Glute Blaster – I know women still love to use this machine and it’s in virtually every gym. Why? Because as the name implies it targets the rear and who doesn’t want a rounder, shapelier butt? But if the Blaster is being used, try Kettlebell Hip Drives. Yes, this kettlebell exercise targets the glutes big time, especially if you focus on the squeeze at the end of he movement. Try it, I bet you’ll thank me!
8. Cable Crossovers – Many people finish off a chest workout with cable work, but sometimes it’s just too crowded. But instead of substituting dumbbell flyes (most do), grab a set of resistance bands and perform your cable flyes, but with a band! I actually prefer using the bands – I like the way the resistance feels and it has a constant pull.
9. Abs – So lets say the stretching area is full, and you don’t have space to lay down for abs. No problem, try some T-Plank Reach Unders. Jackie Warner, who I recently wrote about here on the site, uses these in her ab routines and they’re awesome. In a hand plank position, perform a T-Square, but when you return back to the start, don’t put your hand back on the ground. Instead, reach under your body and try to touch your opposite armpit. It challenges the core, abs, shoulders, and the entire body!
10. Hyperextension – I’m always saying how important low back training is – especially with so many people emphasizing their ab work. But while the hyperextension is a great low back exercise, usually there’s only one in each gym. So instead try Bird Dogs. I demonstrated these in my recent Top 10: Mat Exercises video, and in addition to being terrific for the low back, they also target the glutes and shoulders. Now that’s what I call exercise efficiency!
Of course these are just a few suggestions for substitutions. There are literally hundreds of exercises that you can perform in a given workout. The point is for you to change up your routine and use movements that you ordinarily wouldn’t try. Sometimes, the best thing that can happen to your workout is when your “stand by” equipment is being used.
But what do you think? What other exercises would you swap out? Do you normally wait, or move on to another exercise? Let me know your thoughts and who knows, maybe I’ll put together a follow up piece with 10 more Exercise Swaps…
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