Top 7 Substitute Exercises For BUILD
When it comes to skipping gym sessions, I’ve heard all the excuses in the book. Too sore, no equipment, don’t know where to start — don’t want to start at all.
The reality? These excuses can all be overcome with some simple amendments to my powerbuilding program. Whether you’re new to the gym or don’t have access to equipment, there’s plenty of substitute exercises for BUILD.
Substitute exercises for heavy-lifting
Powerbuilding does require access to a gym, but there are plenty of alternate exercises, equipment swap-outs and recovery sessions to help avoid missing your workouts.
I know it can be tough to stay on track, especially when life throws you a curveball. But I genuinely believe you can always find a way to make your workout happen. So, I thought I’d share my top substitute exercises for BUILD, from simple swaps to alternative movements that target similar muscles. Here goes!
Substitute exercises for your upper body
Upper body exercises — including bench presses, shoulder presses and lat pulldowns — make up a big part of my BUILD program. But, never fear, there are plenty of alternatives exercises available.
1. Bench press: Swap the barbell for dumbbells
The traditional bench press is a super popular upper-body exercise — especially as it works your chest, triceps and shoulders. It’s also an essential part of BUILD.
Because bench presses are so popular, it can be hard to beat the queue for the machine and find someone to spot you. Instead of waiting in line, why not swap the barbell for dumbbells and find an available bench?
As a general rule, opt for dumbbells with a combined weight of roughly 70% of what you’d usually lift on the barbell. So, if you usually bench press 40kg on the barbell, use two 14kg dumbbells — a combined weight of 28kg. The more experienced you become with training, the closer this gap will become.
2. Skull crushers: Do overhead tricep extensions instead
This exercise is nowhere near as crazy as it sounds! Skull crushers, also known as lying tricep extensions, stimulate the entire triceps muscle group in the upper arm and are an awesome isolation exercise. In BUILD, I use dumbbells for my skull crushers — but other weights can be used, too.
If you experience pain while performing tricep extensions or are just starting out and find this exercise too intense, swap skull crushers for overhead tricep extensions.
Grab a single dumbbell or a plate, hold it with both hands and get set to go. Repeat for the specified number of reps. Word of warning: these aren’t going to be easy!
3. Lat pulldown: Opt for chest-supported rows
Lat pulldowns are an important part of my upper-body workout, and one of my favourite heavy-lifting exercises. But they do have a high RPE (Rating of Perceived Exertion), so they’re not for the faint-hearted.
If you’re finding lat pulldowns too tough or don’t have access to a machine, do chest-supported rows as a substitute exercise.
You’ll need two dumbbells and an incline bench set to a 35-degree angle to complete this exercise. Your upper back and biceps are in for a solid workout.
4. Chin-ups: Give yourself some support
Chin-ups aren’t just for guys in the Navy. Chin-ups are an awesome back exercise, and a great way to improve performance. But they’re not easy. Practice makes perfect.
If you need help getting started, opt for assisted chin-ups instead. The chin/dip machine will be your best friend in the gym as it gives you as much or as little support as you need to complete this exercise.
Want to make assisted chin-ups harder? Reduce the weight to give yourself less support, meaning you do more of the hard work yourself.
Alternately, use a long resistance band on the chin-up bar. Opt for a heavier band at the beginning as this will make it easier. As you get stronger and feel more confident, swap out the band for a lighter one.
No assisted chin-up machine at your gym? No problem. Substitute this exercise for a lat pulldown, a front lat pulldown or an inverted row on a smith machine.
You’ll be smashing chin-ups in no time!
Substitute exercises for your lower body
There’s much more to exercising your lower body than opting for the classic squat. (Although, I love those too!) Whether you’ve got equipment or not, there’s always a way to get your workout done.
6. Deadlift: Swap for a dumbbell Romanian deadlift
There’s no denying the fact that I love deadlifts. The deadlift is a powerful way to build muscle and increase your strength, which is why it features so heavily in my workouts. But, the good news is, there are plenty of alternatives.
Switch it up by swapping regular deadlifts for dumbbell Romanian deadlifts.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip. (Your palms should be facing towards your body.) You’ll really feel the burn in your hamstrings!
7. High-bar squat: Swap for a box squat
Squats are arguably the most superior exercise for increasing muscle strength in your lower body. I love the mental challenge that comes from heavy, low-rep sets and being able to break previous limitations.
A high-bar squat is an exercise where the bar is balanced across the back of your shoulders. High-bar squats are great for your quads and glutes.
But, if squatting is causing you pain in your knees, back or shoulders, it may be best to find an alternative exercise. (I would also recommend you check your form and make sure you’re performing exercises correctly.) Meet: the box squat.
Box squats are a great exercise for those new to BUILD. The box allows you to sit further back in the movement, making it easier to engage your glutes. Plus, pausing at the bottom of the box will help reduce stress on your knees.
Focus on your goals not your obstacles
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. When you’re focused on achieving your goals, you’ll find a way to get there — regardless of experience or equipment.
There are plenty of substitute exercises for my heavy lifting workouts. It’s about finding what works for your body, and focusing on exercises that continually challenge you. (And if you’re just getting started with lifting heavy, focusing on exercises that build a solid foundation.)
I’d love to share more powerbuilding substitute exercises. Which machines or lifts do you struggle with most? Let me know in the comments section.
* Results from BUILD may vary. Strict adherence to the program is required for best results.