Have you ever attended a group fitness class and found it difficult to keep up with the group? Everyone else seems to make the exercises look so easy, but when you try to emulate what they're doing, you quickly discover that looks can be deceiving.
Many fitness instructors will recommend modifying certain exercises for those who have difficulty performing the movements, but we want to do the "real thing," not some variation of the exercise, right? Well, you might want to take a second look at using workout modifications; they're not a bad thing at all, and can actually boost your overall progress. Read on to discover why it's perfectly OK to use modifications in your workouts.
1. Modifications are a great stepping stone for building your strength.
All of us have to start exactly where we are. We can't worry too much about what physical movements we can't do yet, but instead we need to focus on what we can do. Yeah, you might not be able to perform a full burpee at the moment, but you can maybe put your knees on the floor during the push-up part, and that will give you enough leverage to complete the full movement.
As your body becomes more accustomed to each element of the exercise through practice, your muscles will increase in strength, and eventually you'll be able to try your hand at keeping your legs straight. No matter which exercise you're trying to master, remember that each modification you implement can function as a stepping stone, building up your body to eventually perform the full movement.
2. Modifications give you an opportunity to master your form.
What good is performing the full version of an exercise if your form is all wrong? Many people cheat on their form during exercises just for the sake of checking it off their list, but this is actually a very unproductive thing to do. Performing an exercise with incorrect form will essentially undermine what you're trying to accomplish, and can even lead to injuries if you're not careful.
Modifying an exercise will give you the ability to focus on maintaining good form, which will carry over into performing the full version of the movement when the time comes. For example, if you're having trouble performing an unassisted pull-up, it's better for you to use a pull-up band until you can fully understand the mechanics of the movement and refine your form.
3. Modifications can help you avoid injuries.
We hinted at this above, but it bears repeating: Modifying an exercise is sometimes necessary in order for you to avoid injuries. This is especially true if you suffer from joint pain, back pain or have any kind of mobility problems. Simply put, there are some exercises that your body is just not ready for yet.
Modifying your exercises will prevent you from trying to go too far too fast, which can increase your risk of sustaining or aggravating an injury. Just remember to be patient and use workout modifications in a steady, gradual manner, and you can quite literally save yourself from getting into a world of hurt.
Some Simple Modifications to Common Exercises
- Perform crunches instead of sit-ups. With crunches, you will only come up about half of the distance that you would when performing a regular sit-up, but you can compensate for this by never fully allowing your head to rest on the floor between reps. This will keep the tension on your ab muscles at all times, instead of providing those muscles with a little relief at the peak and bottom of the movement (such as with regular sit-ups).
- Modify a regular straight-legged push-up by keeping your knees on the floor. Keep in mind that with a modified push-up, your knees should act as a fulcrum, which means that your shins and feet should remain off the floor at all times.
- As an alternative to using a pull-up band, you can try what are known as negative pull-ups: Jump up (or use a stool) and grab the pull-up bar with elbows bent at a 90-degree angle (or as close to 90 degrees as possible), then do your best to slowly lower yourself down in a controlled manner. This will help you build your strength to eventually perform the entire movement.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to modify exercises without compromising their effectiveness. Using modifications will help you develop your strength and stamina, and can prepare your body for more demanding exercises as time goes on.