How to Deal with Exercises that Don't Work for You or Your Clients

February 08, 2015 | John Paul Catanzaro

If an exercise doesn’t work for you or someone you train, then change it! No one is holding a gun to your head. There are many ways to skin a cat. Vary the exercise and if that variation doesn’t work, then use a completely different exercise to achieve the objective.

Remember, if something doesn’t feel right, then it’s usually not right. Rather than force two pieces of a puzzle that don’t fit, find a better solution.

For instance, years of heavy bench pressing can take a toll on your shoulders. Using a closer grip, lighter weight, and varying the bench angle can help, but for some people it’s still not enough. Abandoning the bar in favour of dumbbells is the best solution. So be it!

As I discuss in the following video, the front squat is another classic example.

Some people have trouble staying upright on the front squat. Of course, you can stretch the calves and hip flexors thoroughly, and use a heel lift. For some people, this helps. For others, not much!

Some people have problems racking the bar across the clavicles and maintaining that position throughout the set. It may be due to tightness in their wrists or shoulders, or it may be due to large arms. You can try to accommodate them with some of the techniques I mention in the video, but it doesn’t always work. Of course, I would focus on stretching the tight tissue and perhaps referring them out for some body work (such as massage therapy, active release technique, and so on), but in the meantime use a different exercise. Go with a back squat instead. If that doesn’t work, try a deadlift.

Some people are so kyphotic that no form of bilateral squatting should be performed until that issue is corrected. A healthy dose of unilateral lower body movements (such as split squats and step-ups) should be done instead.

Bottom Line: Use common sense and change an exercise if you must. An alternative always exists.