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January 2019

Modifying Your Workout

Whether you are new to exercise or you’ve been going to the gym for years, you’ve probably discovered that exercise is not a “one size fits all” situation. While a particular exercise may offer just the right intensity for one person, it may be painful or exhausting for another. That’s where fitness modifications can come in handy.

Man and woman in running clothes, running in the snow

Knowing when and how to modify your workouts is key to keeping yourself safely and efficiently on track toward your fitness goals. Modifications aren’t anything to be embarrassed about—tailoring certain exercise moves to your abilities can give you time to build strength and flexibility so that, eventually, you’ll be able to take that move to the next level. Modifications are also helpful if you have an injury, arthritis, or another condition that causes pain or limits your movements. Exercise modifications can allow you to continue to exercise but protect you from hurting yourself more.

For example, if you don’t feel comfortable jumping, replace jumping jacks with step touches while you move your arms up and down. Or when performing mountain climbers, try using an exercise bench for support instead of the floor.

Here are some other common ways to modify your workout:

  • Planks. If it is uncomfortable for you to bear weight on your hands and wrists, try dropping down to your forearms. In a side plank, you can again bear weight on your forearm—and lower your bottom knee to the ground for extra support.

  • Push-ups. Instead of performing push-ups from a full plank position, drop your knees to the ground. If being on your knees is painful, try doing push-ups standing against a wall.

  • Squats. If your knees hurt, try achieving only partial range of motion in a quarter squat instead of a full squat.

  • Yoga. Use props such as blocks, straps, or folded blankets to make your yoga practice more comfortable.

  • Running. Take a shorter stride or run on surfaces softer than pavement to reduce the load on your knees.


Online Medical Reviewer: Gonnella, Joseph, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 10/29/2018
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