Workout of the Week: Making Moves Work for You — Part 1

How to fine-tune classic moves for your body
September 5, 2014 Updated: September 5, 2014

Let’s face it, not all exercises are meant for every body. Certain positions may be uncomfortable or painful to get into, or we may have an injury that is causing an impediment for the time being. Other exercises are just too hard, and we may need to work our way up slowly.

Here are some classic exercises that everybody knows but not everyone is able to do properly, with some alternatives that may work for you.

Clap Jacks for Jumping Jacks

Jumping jacks are a great way to get your blood pumping and heart rate up. However, this exercise may be too high-impact for some. You can still reap the benefits of jumping jacks by raising and lowering your arms vigorously above shoulder height, since the heart must work harder when the arms are moving overhead.

  1. Begin by standing with feet together and both arms down by your sides.
  2. Raise both arms out to the sides and up, so that you clap your hands together overhead as you simultaneously tap your right leg out to the side.
  3. Return to starting position.
  4. Raise both arms out to the sides and up, so that you clap your hands overhead as you simultaneously tap your left leg out to the side.
  5. Return to the starting position and repeat for 30–60 seconds.

Deep Squats With Heel Lift or Chair

The deep squat is not only a great leg and buttocks exercise, but also a range-of-motion exercise that is important to maintain throughout one’s lifetime. There are several reasons a person may have trouble getting into and out of the deep squat, such as hip mobility, ankle mobility, thoracic spine mobility, and stability problems.

You can try placing a rolled up yoga mat under your heels, as this changes the body’s center of gravity and can help maintain vertical alignment in the shins. This may not work for everybody, as there can be mobility and stability issues that may need to be cleared up first by a professional.

The chair squat is also a good alternative because it teaches you to send your hips backward and decreases the range of motion needed to perform the squat.

  1. Stand tall with a rolled up mat under your heels. The arches of your feet should be lined up with the outside of your hips. Engage your buttocks and legs by performing a “corkscrew” action, using the muscles of the legs to exert an outward pressure while maintaining your feet in a firmly planted position. Toes can be slightly turned out. Arms should be extended overhead.
  2. Send the hips back into the space behind you while lowering your hips down toward the ground. The knees will naturally bend. Make sure to keep the ankles, shins, and knees in line with one another. It is very important to make sure the knees do not collapse inward. Also, keep the back extended.
  3. Take a deep breath or two at the bottom of the squat and then return to the standing position without dropping the back forward or sticking the buttocks out behind you.

The mechanics of the chair squat are the same. Send the hips back toward the chair and tap the butt lightly on the seat without putting all of your weight down, if possible, before returning to the standing position.

Ashley Whitson is an ACE-certified personal trainer, Pilates certified instructor, pre/postnatal exercise specialist, Functional Movement Systems professional, Neurokinetic Therapy practitioner, and professional dancer in New York. Shen can be found at