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Training equipment swaps

Whether you're getting into resistance training for the first time, have dabbled in it a bit, or you're a seasoned athlete, it can be uneasy trying to find alternatives for an exercise if you are in a busy gym or in a brand new facility where they don't have your usual equipment. Fortunately, there are several training equipment swaps available to you regardless of exercise.


Since we're all about the basics 'round here, we're going to use one example exercise within each category of the basics: squat, hinge, push, and pull. We're going to omit forms of Carries today, but know they are still important and part of the basics :).


1. Squat

When you think of a squat, you likely think of a goblet squat or barbell back squat initially. If the goal is to perform any type of bilateral squat pattern, you could choose various modalities to complete the exercise. For squats, you could use a barbell for a back squat, front squat, or Zercher squat. You could use dumbbells by holding them at your sides, in a front-racked position, in an off-set position (one front-racked, one at your side), or one at your chest for a goblet squat. You could use kettlebells in the same manner(s) as dumbbells. You could use a plate by holding it in front of your chest. You could use a mini loop band at your mid-shin or above the knees. You could use a long loop band or handle band by stepping on the band and holding the handles or loop at your sides or in a front-racked position. You could use a cable machine with the resistance anchored in front of you or below you. You could use a hack squat machine or even a leg press machine. You could use a TRX. You could use strictly body weight. Did I cover every piece of equipment under the sun? It feels like it anyway. I'm sure you could find other things to use as resistance, too, like a backpack, but these will do for now.


2. Deadlift

The most common type of deadlift is likely going to be a barbell deadlift, be it conventional or sumo. Outside of the barbell, you could use several types of equipment to complete the same exercise. You could use two dumbbells, one dumbbell, two kettlebells, one kettlebell, a long loop band, or a handle band. You could use a cable machine, but honestly I would use this as a last resort due to the load being improperly placed to replicate a deadlift. Deadlifts are best performed with load below or surrounding you. Unfortunately you can't necessarily do a deadlift with a TRX or body weight, but you can practice a hinge with these two methods.


3. Chest Press

Aside from squats, I feel that chest press is the second most versatile exercise for types of equipment. Chest press is most commonly known for being done with a barbell for bench press or dumbbells for chest press. Although I prefer programming chest press with these two modalities, it's not always everyone else favorite nor accessible. You could use a single plate -- I often use this method as an introduction to chest press for newer clients or clients who have graduated from physical therapy regarding their shoulder. You could use kettlebells, which requires a bit more shoulder stability. You could use a cable machine or exercise machine. Often with cable machines, depending on how close you can get two cables in the starting position, I'd likely recommend doing a single-arm version of this. You could use a handle band or long loop band anchored behind you, too, similar to a cable machine. You could use a TRX for a push-up variation. You could use your body weight for a push-up, knee push-up, or incline push-up. Lots of chest press variations to choose from!


4. Row

A row is an exercise that requires some form of equipment. Meaning, although you could move your arms in a row motion and maybe get a little lat squeeze out of it, it's going to be more effective to have some form of resistance. You could use a barbell with an underhand grip or overhand grip, dumbbells with a neutral grip, kettlebells, or a plate. Doing rows with a resistance band will either require you to do a single-arm variation with the mini loop band (stabilizing with one arm/hand) or have the long loop band or handle band anchored to a post or squat rack. The TRX can also be a helpful tool for rows too. Overall, I'd suggest finding some sort of piece of equipment or opt for a different type of back exercise.


Within all KATHLETICS training programs, I have suggested modifications and modalities listed within each exercise so if you're at a new gym, working out on vacation, or just want a different variation of equipment, you can see the other options available to you. Learn more about working with KATHLETICS here.


Katharine Moustakes
Hey, friend!

I'm Katharine.

I'm a personal trainer, running coaching, and nutrition coach who's stoked about lifting, the outdoors, summit snacks, and my dog.


I understand that fitness is not your whole life. Fitness is a PART of your life. I approach training in a way that adds value to your life and longevity, so you can enjoy being active whether you're romping around in the mountains, playing with your kids, or signing up for your first 10K race.

I'm here to meet you where you are, so you can train safely and effectively, and gain strength and confidence both in the gym and on the trails.

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