Monster Exercise Substitution List

This has been a long time coming. It’s been something I wanted to send you for quite a long time. Brace yourself.  In fact, you’ll want to print this out as it will be the ultimate reference guide to exercise substitutions whether it’s one of my programs or someone else’s.


… is the ULTIMATE Exercise Substitution List.

Look, not everyone should be doing Jump Squats or Spiderman Climb Pushups. If your form is sloppy, you won’t get the maximum benefit.  I’d rather you nail a set of Total Body Extensions with great form then doing a harder exercise like the Jump Squat with ugly form.

But wait… there’s more! <== Infomercial Cliche’ Here (BOOM!)

You’ll also get some bodyweight alternatives for resistance exercises if you don’t have access to weights. That’s good news, however, it could mean bad news…

Now you have NO EXCUSE to skip your finisher or workout.

I bolded that because it looks louder.

Ha-ha! <== Nelson from The Simpsons said this, not me

Enough. Let’s get serious. We’ll go by muscle group, cool?  On the left you’ll see the exercise and then you’ll see the alternatives to the right. Let’s keep it simple.

Chest Exercises (Bodyweight Alternatives)

  • DB Chest Press ==> Any variety of pushups that you can do with that rep range. For example, if a program calls for 10 DB Chest Presses, you could do Decline Close-Grip Eccentric Pushups to make those 10 pushups harder
  • DB Squeeze Press ==> Close-Grip Pushups
  • Dips/3/4th Rep Dips ==> Close-Grip Pushups or 3/4th Rep Pushups
  • Renegade Pushups ==> Regular Pushups

Easier Alternatives

  • Spiderman/Spiderman Climb Pushups ==> Offset Pushups or Elevated Pushups
  • Decline Pushups ==> Regular Pushups
  • Explosive Pushups ==> Regular Pushups (or use less reps)
  • Pushups ==> Kneeling or Incline Pushups

**Note – don’t be afraid to sub any variety of pushup to fit your fitness level… even if that means doing harder ones!

Back Exercises

  • Chin-ups ==> DB Rows, DB Chest-Supported Row or 1-Arm Row (Bodyweight Alternative- Inverted Row or Strap Row with underhand grip)
  • Pull-ups ==> Overhand Grip DB Row or 1-Arm Row (Bodyweight Alternative – Overhand Inverted Row or Strap Row)
  • Renegade Row ==> Bodyweight Renegade Row (keep the arms tight to the sides and contract your lats HARD)

Other bodyweight alternatives….

When performing leg exercises, you can do them prisoner style, which means you’ll keep your hands behind your head, pulling your elbows back and squeezing the shoulder blades together.

Zero-Equipment Bodyweight Row (don’t knock it until you try it). Stand up with your feet shoulder width apart. Extend your arms out in front of you at shoulder height with palms facing down. Now bring back your arms by bending the elbows and squeezing your shoulder blades as hard as you can. Repeat for 12-15 reps. I had campers that were sore in their back the next day when doing these.

Bodyweight Exercises

Leg Exercises (Equipment Swaps)

  • BB Squat ==> DB Squat, Goblet Squat
  • Deadlift ==> DB Squat OR…. you can superset the DB Row with the Stability Ball Leg Curl
  • BB Lunge (all varieties) ==> DB Lunge (all varieties), Goblet Lunge (great sub for bootcamps that don’t have a lot of DBs)

Leg Exercises (Bodyweight Alternatives)

  • Squat (BB or DB) ==> Bodyweight Squat, Prisoner Squat
  • BB/DB Lunge (all varieties) ==> Bodyweight Lunge (all varieties)

**Note – you can make the bodyweight lunge harder by doing 1-1/2 reps. So you perform a lunge, come halfway up, then back down and then finally all the way up… that’s ONE rep.

  • KB/DB Swings/1-Arm Swings ==> Total Body Extensions
  • Javelin Lunge ==> TD Lunge
  • Goblet Step-ups ==> Bodyweight Step-ups
  • Goblet Sumo Squat ==> Bodyweight Sumo Squat
  • King Press (Bulgarian Squat with Shoulder Press) ==> TD Bulgarian Split Squat

Leg Exercises

Challenging Exercises

Squat Substitutions (Easer bodyweight moves) ==> Hip Extensions, 1-Leg Hip Extensions, Wall Squat (with a ball behind your back), Bodyweight Step-ups

  • DB/BB Jump Squats or BW Jump Squats ==> Total Body Extension or Bodyweight Squat
  • Lateral Jumps ==> Skater Hops
Bodyweight Exercises

More Bodyweight Alternatives…

  • DB Romanian Deadlift ==> Stability Ball Leg Curl, Bodyweight Romanian Deadlift, 1-Leg Bodyweight RDL or Prisoner Good-Morning
  • DB/BB Bulgarian Split Squat ==> Bodyweight Bulgarian Split Squat

**Note – you can make the bodyweight version harder by doing 1-1/2 reps. Go all the way down, halfway back up, all the way down and finally all the way up – that’s ONE rep

  • Goblet Squat ==> Bodyweight Squat
  • DB Squat, Curl and Press ==> Y-Squat

Bodyweight Exercises

**Note – another way to make bodyweight squats harder is to use eccentric training…. take 4-5 seconds to lower yourself and 1 second to come up. Boom.

  • Bodyweight Exercises
  • Lunge Jumps ==> Split Shuffle or Alternating Lunges
  • Bodyweight Exercises
  • Jump Squats ==> Low Box Jumps or Total Body Extensions
  • Bulgarian Jump Squats ==> Unless you’re really coordinated, stick with Bulgarian Squats or Split Squats
  • Bulgarian Split Squat ==> Split Squat
  • Long Jump (aka Broad Jump) ==> Low Box Jumps or Total Body Extensions

Ab Exercises (Bodyweight Alternatives)

  • Ab Wheel/Stability Ball Rollout ==> Inchworm
  • DB/Medicine Ball Chops ==> Bodyweight Chops
  • Cable Core Press ==> Stability Ball Plank or Plank
  • Medicine Ball Slams ==> Bodyweight Chops
  • Bodyweight Ab Exercises
  • Spiderman Climb ==> You can make these easier by bringing your foot only halfway towards your hand
  • Squat Thrust ==> You can make this easier by doing Stability Ball Jackknives
  • Stability Ball Stir-the-Pot ==> If you don’t have access to a SB, you can do X-Body Mountain Climbers

Arm Exercises

  • DB Tricep Extensions ==> Close-Grip Pushups

Conditioning Exercise Substitutions 

Bodyweight Exercises

Bench Vault ==> Lateral Hops or Skater Hops

  • Death Crawl ==> Bodyweight Death Crawl (replace the DB Row with an Extended Arm Pushup)Bodyweight Exercises
  • Burpees ==> Bodyweight Squats
  • Burpee/Pull-up Combo or Chin-up Combo ==> Burpee or BW Squat

Wow, that’s a lot of typing. I’ll add more in the future. In the meantime, if you need another exercise substitution, you can ask me on my facebook page here:

==> Join Me on Facebook

“We must train from the inside out. Using our strengths to attack and nullify any weaknesses. It’s not about denying a weakness that may exist but about denying its right to persist.”–Vince McConnell

Finish this week strong,

Mikey “Pancakes” Whitfield,
Author and Master CTT