I’ve been getting a lot of requests for beginner workouts, and I keep thinking of the saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” I could give you a beginner workout or I could teach you how to modify exercises so that you can turn all the workouts I post into beginner routines. I’m going to do both. Today, I’m going to go over the general rules for how to make exercises easier, and then later in the week I’ll post a beginner workout. Instead of writing off an exercise as “too hard,” use the following rules to modify it.
Change the Angle of Your Body
You can make an exercise harder or easier by changing the angle of your body. Exercises done in a plank position are the best example of this. Doing a plank with your hands on a chair or wall is a lot easier than doing a plank with your hands on the floor. Dropping your knees down (changing angle!) also makes it easier. Another example of this is boat pose. If your legs are straight, it’s harder; if you change the angle of them by bending your knees, it gets easier.
Reduce the Impact
This is a modification I always stress for clients with knee or other joint issues. Take jumps, hops, leaps and bounces out of the equation. Instead of a jump squat, keep your feet planted on the ground and do a regular squat.
Reduce the Range of Motion
If you’re doing exercises with a stepper or bench, simply don’t use one as high. Maybe you just step up onto the bottom stair of a staircase rather than onto a tall chair. In addition to using smaller equipment to make the range of motion of an exercise smaller, you can simply not move your body as far during bodyweight exercises.
In a side leg lift, for example, it will be harder if you lift your leg up to hip height. If you only lift it a few inches off the ground, it will be easier. For squats, if you only lower down a couple inches (vs. bringing your booty to the floor), the exercise will be easier. For push ups, if you only lower down a couple inches (vs. bringing your chest to the floor, they’ll be easier.
If doing an exercise on one leg is too hard, make it easier to balance by using both. You can also increase the stability of an exercise with equipment. Stability balls, bosu balls and balance plates all create an unstable environment. To make the exercise easier, use steady surfaces instead (the floor, a chair, etc.).
Power walk instead of run. Do 10 burpees during an interval of work instead of 15. Spin at a lower RPM. Going slower doesn’t always make things easier (in Lagree Fitness, for example, slow = hard), but for the sake of the workouts I post on P&I, speed typically makes things more intense and challenging.
Reduce Time or Number of Reps
Hold a plank for 30 seconds instead of a minute. Do 10 bicep curls instead of 20. If I ever post an interval workout that looks too hard, just shorten the work interval (if I say do 45 seconds of work and 15 seconds of rest, maybe you change it to 30 seconds of work and 15 seconds of rest).
I’m not trying to insult anyone’s intelligence by including this point; just want to cover all my bases! Use lighter kettlebells, dumbbells or medicine balls. You can modify further by using no added weight at all—just your bodyweight.
Let’s combine some of these rules and look at potential modifications for a burpee with a push up at the bottom. As you’ll see, there are so many ways to make each part of it easier that everyone, regardless of fitness level, can do the exercise in some capacity.
- Squat down and place hands on ground by feet.
- Jump feet back into plank position.
- Do a push up in plank position.
- Jump feet back up towards hands.
- Jump straight up in the air with arms overhead.
- Squat down slightly, bringing hands onto the seat of a chair or bench.
- Step feet back one at a time into an incline plank position.
- Do a push up in this incline plank position or, if it’s too hard, modify by dropping down to your knees for it.
- Step feet back up towards chair/bench one at a time.
- Stand upright.
Hopefully this post was helpful! Also, if there are specific exercises you aren’t sure how to modify, let me know and I can put together a more detailed tutorial for those moves.
WEARING | leggings: c/o Reebok / sneakers: New Balance / hoodie: New Balance c/o Kohl’s // tank: Athleta