PaleoFit Equipment and Movement Substitutions

There are going to be times, especially in the beginning, when there are going to be movements that are very difficult, or tricky for you to master. Also, you may be limited by lack of equipment or weather. Have no fear! At these times, instead of having to wrack you brain with “What should I do?” we’ve provided you with a quick list so that you can get to your workout faster.



First off are equipment substitutions. I don’t have a ________. What should I do?

Jump Rope
Do side to side two foot jumps. Putting something very small on the ground, a wooden spoon, pencil, whatever, helps to keep you honest. Over and back is one count.

Stop Watch
Almost every smart phone has a stop watch function. Use it. If you don’t have even that, here’s a website to turn your whole screen into one. 

Pull-up Bar
This is going to become more and more important as we move forward. Having someplace where you can “pull” is important. And if it’s missing from your fitness it’s a rather large “hole.” Here’s a link to the “Iron Gym,” one of the few “as seen on tv” pieces of equipment I think is actually worth getting. See below if it’s more of a strength issue than an equipment one. 

Box (for box jumps)
Find something, anything, to jump on top of. It can be a step, the curb, a park bench (if not too high). The cheapest approach that’s not too high is 2 or 3 cinder blocks that you can get at any building supply store. If you have any carpentry skills at all, you can make yourself one, or, if you’ve got some money to spend and a cordless drill, this one can almost double as a coffee table. If you’re really in a bind, you can also substitute tuck-jumps for box jumps – 2 tuck-jumps for every box jump.



Now, fitness limitations; I can’t do _______. What should I do instead?

First let me say this, there is a difference between “I can’t do,” (I have an injury, or that movement causes acute pain) and, “I don’t like to do.” If a movement is something you just don’t like to do, because it makes you uncomfortable and its really hard, too bad, do the movement, you need the work!

IF, you’re really experiencing discomfort that isn’t the normal “this sucks” kind of pain, then it’s a good idea to substitute movements. You will also fall into this group if you’ve ever had some kind of joint surgery and are limited because you have spare parts. Know your limits, but also acknowledge when it’s a limitation in you head (push through) or your body (don’t be stupid).

Try them with your hands on an elevated surface (like the back of your couch). Eventually, you want to keep getting that elevated point lower and lower until your actually doing them on the floor. We want to shy away from push-ups on your knees, since they don’t facilitate you making progress towards the real push-up.

See if you can somehow set up some kind of “inverted row” station. It will mimic the pulling motion that we want. This is where you are essentially doing an upside down push-up. Your body is straight, almost horizontal, and you pull your chest up to the bar, a vid is coming soon!  It will also be a bit more localized into the arms, as opposed to involving the back muscles. Also, to build strength, you may do “negatives,” though we recommend only doing 3 sets of 5 (15 total) of these in any given session. You wear out quick.

Get as deep as you can. The next time they show up in a workout, try to go deeper. Make sure you watch the squat video for good ways to adjust the movement. Having a doorknob to grab onto to help with balance & to keep your weight in the heels can be very helpful. Just make sure you’re not “helping” yourself too much.

Try experimenting with different positions of the legs. Also experiment with range of motion, keeping the goal of a full range of motion in mind. As a very, very last resort, you may do crunches, but the “exchange rate” is 5 to 1, that means if it says 100 sit-ups, you’re doing 500 crunches. You’re welcome. :)

If you have diastasis
From a previous pregnancy, be very very cautious about doing any specific “ab” exercise. If you are one that has thin separation of the abdominal wall, you should really only be doing things like the plank.

Lunges/Jumping Lunges
Make sure your form is good, especially keeping your knee out and your chest up. Also, be sure not to crash onto the back knee. You can do a smaller range of motion, so your back knee doesn’t touch the ground. Also, you can substitute walking or standing lunges, instead of jumping lunges. If they really give you trouble, you may squat.

Broad Jump
Make your jumps higher instead of farther, and if need be, simply jump straight up as high as you can instead of forward. 3 high jumps = 10 meters.

Box Jumps
Starting off by doing step-ups (one leg at a time instead of jumping up with both legs) will usually solve the problem, just be sure to hustle! And, of course, you can always use a lower box.

First, check the surface you’re running on. From soft to hard they go like this: rubber track, grass/field, astro turf, dirt, pavement, concrete. If your only option is concrete, watch a few vids and make sure that you’re at least attempting to run correctly. If you can do the Running Jump Rope, this is a quite good substitution, since it mimics the running form. 10 seconds of running rope = 50 meters. Mountain Climbers can also work as a decent way to get your heart rate up instead of running. Each leg coming forward counts as 1 meter.

Bear Crawl
Walking lunges + 2 push-ups for every 10 meters. i.e. 50m bear crawl = 50m walking lunge + 10 push-ups

None – kidding…see the vid for ways to scale this. You can take the push-up out, take the jump out, there are a lot of variations.


Max ShippeeMax Shippee

Max Shippee is the owner and head coach for CrossFit 1440. Using the CrossFit and Paleo template, he’s helped numerous people reach both their fitness and beach season goals. While his gym focuses on CrossFit, Max loves showing people that fitness can be an anywhere thing, not just in the gym. Recognizing that we never stop learning, he holds several certificates in not only CrossFit but also weightlifting, nutrition, and heart rate training. He’s a husband to one and a father to three, and can also be seen on television from time to time. Find him on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.