How to adapt an exercise to change up your workout routine
Posted on October 23rd, 2013
There are a number of ways to adapt any exercise so that it becomes easier, harder or offers a new focus. Understanding how to vary an exercise allows you to evolve your workout routine as you improve or mix things up when you are feeling stale. It is impossible to create a finite list of exercises, but you can create an infinite list by having a basic understanding of how to modify individual exercises,
One simple way to change an exercise is to increase or reduce the degree of support. By providing extra support, the exercise will become easier to execute. If for example, you were trying to learn how to squat, you could hold onto a rail for support. Even standing with your feet wider apart would increase your ‘base of support’, which makes it easier to balance. Alternatively, you could reduce the level of support by standing with your feet closer together, standing on something unstable such as a bosu ball or even standing on one leg. For one simple exercise, you have now created options to reduce or increase the demand, and have created a number of different ‘squat’ variations.
Another way to vary the demand of an exercise is to change your body position. Simple physics allows you to alter the effort required to perform an exercise. Let’s take another simple exercise, the sit up, and offer changes in body position to increase or decrease the intensity. Try holding your arms out in front of you as you sit up, this should reduce the intensity of the exercise. Simply by placing your hands behind your head, you increase the intensity because your weight shifts backwards and your stomach has to lift against more resistance. By holding your arms straight over your head, the demand increases again. You have not added any additional weight, but by changing your body position, you have increased the resistance!
Lets look at the ‘V-Sit’ exercise and show you how to adapt it to suit your level. This exercise focuses on your stomach, hip flexors, thighs and back. How to perform a basic V-Sit. Sit on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lean back slightly so that your torso and your upper thighs form a “V” shape. As you lean back, the focus is to maintain a straight back and open chest. You want to prevent rounding through your spine. Here are some ideas on how to adapt the ‘V Sit’ exercise using the simple principles described above.
V Sit I
Making it easier…
- Support: Hold onto the back of your thighs for extra support and place your feet on the ground to provide extra support.
- Body Position: Bend your knees to reduce the load.
V Sit II
- Support: Let go of the back of your thighs to reduce support. Take your feet off the ground to reduce support.
- Body Position: Keep your hands down by your sides to reduce the load. Bending your knees will also help reduce the load on your hip flexors as you lift your feet off the floor.
V Sit III
Increasing difficulty further…
- Support: Very little support. You could sit on a wobble board to further decrease support.
- Body Position: Hold your hands out away from your body to increase the load. Straightening your legs will increase the resistance even further.
By simply adjusting your body position or the degree of support, you have created 3 variations of the same exercise. You could add many more options, for example, holding your hands over your head, straightening your legs or lifting one leg or one arm at a time, thus creating a new challenge entirely.
You can always adjust the exercise intensity through varying reps, sets, resistance, rest and tempo. Varying the actual exercise however allows you to create an entirely new challenge. There are many other ways to adapt a single exercise. Obviously, it depends on what your goals are as to what you would aim to change. You may choose to simplify an exercise so as to focus on a single muscle and increase the intensity to alter the demand for example.