• Bryan Bacaoat

Examples of how to modify common exercises to suit your individual needs!

How to modify a program to suit your needs!

Okay! So, this week's article was supposed to be about something different. But, when I started writing it, I found myself writing about other things, and before I knew it, I wrote two pages of information not related to my original topic. Well, to be fair, it was somewhat related, but it took on a form of its own. The original article was about not blindly following people's advice and instead finding workout programs tailored to you. But as you'll see when you continue reading, the report instead turned into me talking about how to modify exercises to suit your needs.

In today's article, I'll cover three different ways we can modify a program to suit the individual better. The three areas I cover are as follows: how to program if someone has weaknesses and you want to work on those weaknesses, how to modify an exercise using the same movement pattern and I go through the importance of progression and regression as needed by each individual.

Example of a tailored program adding extra work to help client's weakness

This example looks at the modification I would do if someone had a particular weakness. I use Glute weakness in this example, but the concept remains the same, just different exercises that suit that specific person. Individualism, however, doesn't mean the program person A gets is different than person B. For example, let's say person A and B both have the goal of losing body fat. Both are around the same height, age, weight, and are both new to training. But, person A has an ongoing knee issue, while person B has no knee problems. Person A and B both work behind a cubicle in the office, behind a computer.

What I would do differently for Person A, who has the knee issue, is add more glute work and knee strengthening exercise as opposed to Person B who has no knee issues. What that looks like program wise is something like below:

Person A (Knee issues)

- Hip thrust with barbell-4x10

- Standing laterals for glute- 3x15

- Clams-3x25

- Wall squats-3x30s

- Leg extensions-3x15

- Leg curl-3x15

Person B (No knee issues)

-Hip thrust-4x10


-Leg extensions-3x15

-Leg Curl-3x15

These exercises are just an example. They may not be necessarily the best ones to do. They were just the ones to come to my mind as I am writing this. So, the difference is that Person A got six lower body exercises, hitting different angles to make sure they strengthen their glutes and the muscles around their knees. Person B only got four exercises. Same exercises, but Person A just gets more due to his needs. Person B may benefit from the extra exercises; however, I usually would write it down as "only if you want or you have time".

Above is an example of how a program would differ depending on the client's need. For the above example, Person A needed more knee strengthening work due to their injury, whereas Person B didn't. We still included the same exercise in both programs. However, person, A's program had more exercises to help strengthen the knee muscles. So that's an example of adding more exercise if the client needs it. Next up, we're going to cover the same movement pattern, but we're going to play around with how we perform the movement.

Example of different ways to perform the same movement pattern, but changing how we do so to accommodate the client's needs.

For this scenario, we're going to take Person A and Person B again. This time, Person A has limited shoulder and wrist mobility and can't get into the front rack position for barbell front squat (see picture 1 below). Person B has great shoulder and wrist mobility and can easily get into the front rack position for barbell front squat. With Person A, due to the lack of mobility, we are going to have him either cross his arms to hold the barbell in place as the front squats (as shown in picture 2 below). If he cannot do this, then the next option will be to perform a high bar barbell back squat instead of the front squat. The high bar back squat loads the same muscle so will be as beneficial as the front squat.

Picture 1

Picture 2

As you can see in the above example, we took into consideration the client's mobility restriction. We adjusted how we performed the exercise so that the client can receive the best benefit from the exercise. We do want to work on Person A's mobility restrictions so we'll be performing mobility drills to help with the restrictions. Once his mobility improves, we'll move him into a front squat.

I'll do another example. Say, for example, you have wrist pain, and your program calls for a straight bar, palms facing down (pronated grip, picture 3 down below) overhead press. You can fight through the pain, but it's not worth it. A smarter approach would be to use a dumbbell instead and changing your grip up to a neutral grip (picture 4 down below) help alleviate your wrist pain.

Picture 3- pronated grip

Picture 4-neutral grip

These are just examples of things you can do to help with injury, pain or a lack of mobility. There are plenty more ways we can modify and change an exercise, but I tried to do the most common ones I see.

Exercise progression and regression

A message that I want to emphasise is that you'll get more from doing an exercise properly than doing it incorrectly. Let me give an example. Let's take push-ups. The majority of people I see at the gym will perform a full push up (on their toes) with limited range of motion, have their elbows flared out in a dangerous position, rather than regress the exercise to a knee push up, or even an elevated push-up. With the regressed version, you can do a full range push up and have your elbow tucked in a better position. Whether it be ego, or mindset, or whatever other reasons people have, do the variation that you can do with the correct technique. You need to learn how to walk before you run.

The same goes for progression. Some people are afraid to progress to a harder exercise or exercise variation for similar (or the same reasons) as people not wanting to regress.

To make gains, we need to work at our level and progress/regress from there depending on how you go. The end. That's how you make gains. The longer you can stay injury-free, the more you can train, which means the more benefits you make. You see too many people these days peak quickly, then get injured or suffer a setback and go back to square one. I don't know about you, but I'd instead make slow and steady gains over the years, then quick benefits that don't last. But that's just me.


So, as they say, there are many ways to skin a cat. You just need to find one that works best for you and your current situation. The examples aren't an exhaustive list of examples. These are just what I think are common ones, and easy for me to explain without a video presentation.

The reason I wanted to post about this today is to highlight that if there is an exercise not working for you, there are ways to work around it. If you want more info, check out my social media. My Insta and FB handle is- Bryan Bacaoat Fitness. So, you don't miss out on updates, subscribe to my articles down below!

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