Perhaps one of the most commonly asked question on twitter and via email, is how to work around differing gyms (for those who travel), home gyms, or gyms that are extremely busy and what substitute exercises exist. In other words, what exercises can be used as a replacement for another.

Arguably some exercises are more effective at isolating a particular muscle than others and therefore there may not be a ‘direct’ replacement as such. In any event these substitutes all provide useful equivalent exercises that can help out when you are limited, or equally for those who fancy an added element of variation.


EZ bar – can be replaced with a barbell – using the specified grip.

Hammer Bar Curls – can be replaced using a hammer grip with dumbbells.

Plate Curls – can be replaced using either hammer dumbbell curls or hammer bar curls.

Preacher Bench – Can be replaced using single arm dumbbell isolation curls

Bicep Pull-Up – Either perform only the negative phase of the rep – where you jump up and control the lowering phase, OR use a lat-pull-down machine, seated and using an overhand grip on the bar to simulate a pull up.


Overhead Tricep Cable Extension – can be replaced with over head dumbbell extension

Tricep cable pushdowns – can be replaced with skull crushers (EZ Bar or Barbell)

Tricep Dips – can be replaced bench dips or replaced with narrow grip bench press or diamond press-ups .



Barbell and dumbbell work can often be used interchangeably here so long as you mimic the same movement. An exception would be Arnold Press which can’t be directly mimicked with a barbell for obvious reasons.

Vertical Plate Raises – can be replaced with vertical barbell or dumbbell (hammer grip) raises.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press – can be replaced with a barbell military press.


Lat Pull-Down – can be replaced with wide grip chin ups, and for those who struggle (and don’t have an assisted chin up machine) simply perform the negative stage only – take a a look how to do so here. In essence, jump up, and control the lowering phase for the specified tempo. Then repeat. Also a wide grip bent over barbell row can be used in place.

Seated Row – Lay prone on a flat/incline bench and perform a row with either dumbbells or a barbell. Equally utilise a bent over row here with the equivalent grip.


Again barbell and dumbbell work can often be used interchangeably here so long as you mimic the same movement.

Bench Press – can be replaced with dumbbell press utilising the same incline/decline. Or Seated Press (machine)

Dumbbell Flyes – can be replaced with cable flyes.

Dips – can be replaced with press-ups or bench dips and vice versa.

Press-Ups – can be performed on your knees if required.

Guillotine press – can be replaced with an incline dumbbell press.


Back Squat – can be replaced with leg press.

Front Squat – can be replaced with quad extension or goblet squat.

Hamstring Curls (machine laying/seated) – can be replaced with straight leg deadlifts (barbell or dumbbell).

Jefferson Squat – can be replaced with goblet squats.

Quad Extension – can be replaced with a front squat.


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