Like many of you, dear readers, I have several exerercises that are on my “Do Not Do” list. This doesn’t mean the exercise is “bad,” it’s just not for you. (in the coaching world we would label you a “contraindicated lifter.” Don’t you feel special?) Anyway, here’s some substitutions for common exercises to remove the “contraindicated” label and make you an…. well, as if you had an Invincibility Star (I don’t know what the grammatical opposite of “contraindicated” is, so we’ll go with just “invincible”)
Ouch-Maker: the Squat
“Squatting hurts my knees.” I hear this a lot and it’s usually not the exercise, it’s the execution that is the source of pain. I wrote about some tips here. If those don’t fix the pain you can try a box squat instead.
1. Ryan expounded upon this a couple weeks ago. By sitting back further, thus keeping your shin more vertical, it shifts your weight into your hips and out of your knees. Also, as you stand, your hamstrings and glutes come in (with less quad activation) which pulls on your knee cap less. In the video, the first two squats are just normal goblet squats to a box, the second two are box squats.
2. This is an obvious tip but, lower the weight!
Ouch-Maker: Side plank
You’re educated readers and know that planking (not the fad) is a safer alternative to crunches in training the midsection. So you diligently do your prone (stomach down) planks and side planks. But those side planks just nag at your supporting shoulder or perhaps your knee. Try an anti-rotation press instead!
1. Stand parallel to either a band or cable collums and squeeze your butt, brace your abs and press your arms straight ahead. Hold for about 2-3 seconds and return. Repeat 8-10 times. This will train the anti-rotation function of the core (inventive name huh?) similar to how a side plank does without the shoulder/knee irritation. (or, in my case, side planks make me very dizzy. Not good when one is trying to balance…)
2. To make it harder you can a) stand further away, b) hold longer, c) narrow your stance, d) take it 1/2 kneeling (one knee down) or tall kneeling (both knees down)… the options are endless!
Ouch-Maker: Forward or Walking Lunge
How you you get a strong and curvy booty? Lunges of course! Walking lunges, however, can be irritating to the front bit of knees (around that patella tendon area). To remedy: reverse lunges!
1. Stepping back places much less decelerative force upon the working leg (deceleration requires more force to control than accelerative). And, stepping backward shifts the burden of deceleration to the posterior chain (hammies and glutes) and we all know that’s always a good thing! In order to ensure that you’re pushing up with your glutes, pretend there’s a bug under your front heel and you need to squash it. Your butt will be very sore.
Oh, my beloved deadlift! However, barbell deadlifting can be tricky for those with back issues or poor mobility somewhere along the chain (thoracic spine, ankles, hips…) Steve wrote a great post of how to pick the best deadlift variation for you. Though, if after trying multiple variations (don’t give up!) and you still have nagging pain somewhere give the single leg RDL some love:
1. Maintain a neutral spine, hinge at your hips (meaning, shove those suckers back) and brace your abs. As you return to the top, crack the walnut between your buttcheeks hard and crush the bug under your heel. Maintain a slight bend in your knee.
2. These are great for several reasons: the single-leg stance will force you to use less weight which applies less stress to the spine (if that’s the issue). The hips have to move back (as they do in a bilateral dead) so you learn the hip-hinge pattern. Single-leg variations also train the imbalances on the right vs left sides so if, perhaps, an issue with your deadlift was an imbalance, these will help bring up any lagging muscle group.
What about exercises that bother you? Any substitutions that you prefer? List any in the comment sections.
As I continually say, you can always find a way to train. You just have to be smart about it.