YOU DON’T HAVE to train for long before you realize what your favorite exercises are. Maybe you relish the ego boost of a heavy bench press, or love what deadlifts do for your overall power. And pullups? You’ve been the king of those since high school. But now ask yourself: What if you couldn’t do those lifts anymore—would you quit working out altogether?

If you’ve been training for a few years, chances are you’re no longer able to do all your favorite lifts, due to injury or age. But that’s no excuse to bail on hard training entirely. Instead, with a few exercise substitutions, you can continue to challenge yourself, build muscle, and burn off the fat to see your abs inside of a month. Our routines work the whole body with joint-friendly movements that help you burn more calories and see your six-pack. This won’t hurt a bit.

How it works

When your joints are beat up or you lack flexibility, continuing to perform conventional strength exercises like the squat, bench press, or deadlift can make matters worse, as they’re relatively unforgiving. But there are variations that allow for safer lifting without sacrificing gains.

For instance, you can squat onto a box, which will take pressure off your lower back and knees but still work your quads and hamstrings. To go easier on your shoulders, you can perform chest presses using a neutral grip or while lying on the floor (to cut down the range of motion). And deadlifting with a trap bar instead of a straight one puts you in a stronger pulling position, biomechanically, lessening your risk of back pain while increasing the amount of weight you can lift. Of course, you can make these substitutions to prevent injuries, too. Chances are you’re about to discover a few new favorite exercises either way.


Perform each workout once per week in the order shown. Exercises are performed as straight sets, so you’ll complete all the prescribed sets for one move before going on to the next.


Leg workout

1. High-box squat
Sets: 3 Reps: 8
Set a box behind you so that when you squat down on it, the creases of your hips are a little above your knees. Grasp the bar with hands as far apart as is comfortable, and step under it. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and nudge the bar out of the rack. Step back and stand with feet shoulder-width apart and toes turned slightly outward. Take a deep breath and bend your hips back, then bend your knees, lowering your butt onto the box. Pause for a moment but don’t relax, then come up.

2. Terminal knee extension
Sets: 3 Reps: 20
Attach a band to a sturdy object and loop the other end around the back of your knee. Stand back from the anchor point so you feel tension on the band, and allow it to pull your knee into a bent position with your heel raised, toes still on the floor. Extend your knee and plant your heel on the floor.

3. Cable pull-through
Sets: 4 Reps: 15
Attach a rope handle to the bottom pulley of a cable stationand straddle it, facing away from the weight stack. Grasp an end of the rope in each hand and stand far enough in front of the machine to put tension on the cable. Bend your hips back, allowing your knees to bend slightly, until you feel a stretch in your glutes (keep your lower back in its natural arch). Squeeze your glutes and extend your hips to come up to standing.