CrossFit Substitution Exercises

What are substitution exercises that you can do for CrossFit movements?

Common substitution exercises in CrossFit are versatile and designed to accommodate various skill levels, equipment availability, and individual needs. These substitutions can help athletes continue their workouts while making adjustments for specific circumstances. Here are some common substitution exercises in CrossFit:

Push-Ups: Substitute for handstand push-ups or strict presses when you don’t have access to wall space or weights.

Ring Rows: Used as an alternative to pull-ups or muscle-ups for individuals who are developing their upper body pulling strength.

Box Step-Ups: A replacement for box jumps when you need a lower-impact option or don’t have access to a box.

Kettlebell Swings: Substituted for Olympic lifts like snatches or clean and jerks when barbells are not available or for skill development.

Dumbbell Exercises: Use dumbbells for movements like squats, deadlifts, and presses when barbells or kettlebells are not accessible.

Medicine Ball Exercises: Substitute medicine ball movements for wall balls, slam balls, or other weighted exercises.

Burpees: Can be scaled down to step-back burpees or no-push-up burpees for reduced intensity or when upper body strength is limited.

Rowing or Biking: Replace running with rowing or biking for indoor workouts or when running isn’t suitable due to injuries or limitations.

Goblet Squats: An alternative to barbell squats or front squats when you only have a single kettlebell or dumbbell.

Assisted Movements: Use resistance bands or assisted pull-up machines to support pull-ups, dips, or other bodyweight exercises for strength development.

Pike Push-Ups: A scaled version of handstand push-ups that helps build shoulder strength and balance.

Dumbbell or Kettlebell Snatches/Cleans: Substituted for barbell snatches or cleans for those working on form or who lack access to a barbell.

Single-Leg Exercises: Replace double-leg movements with single-leg variations like pistol squats or Bulgarian split squats for added balance and stability work.

Rope Rows: An alternative to rope climbs that targets grip strength and pulling power.

Ring Push-Ups: Easier than ring dips or muscle-ups, ring push-ups are a suitable upper body pressing substitute.

We got this question the other day “What is a good substitution for Sumo Deadlift High pulls (sdhp)?”

Sumo Deadlift High Pulls:
If you don’t have a rower substitute sumo-dealift high pulls (sdhp) with 45 pounds for men and 30 pounds for women. Take the bar from mid shin to under your chin–“shin to chin.”
2K row = 200 sdhp’s, 1K row = 100 sdhp’s, 500 meter row = 50 sdhp’s

2K row = 200 sdlhp’s,
1K row = 100 sdlhp’s,
500 meter row = 50 sdlhp’s.

one burpee per 20 or 25 meters of rowing would be closer to equal amounts of work.

*sdlhp = sumo deadlift high pull with 45 lb barbell or two 35 lb dumbbells


Go out and run or do a mix of bodyweight workout with pushups and flutter kicks.
Or do “arm haulers” lay on your stomach and do the breast stroke like your swimming.
Biking is also a good cardio substitution for swimming. 10 miles on a bike (1 hour) in rolling hills equals roughly 2000 meters swimming.


You can use dumbbells or barbell thrusters as substitution for wall ball shots. You twice the ball weight to simulate the explosiveness of squatting and throwing the ball. If you dont have access to a medicine ball you can make your own with a few garbage bags and mulch. Put the mulch in the bags and duck tape it shut. If the bag rips add more duck tape.

These substitution exercises are integral to CrossFit because they allow athletes to maintain their training and continue making progress, even in challenging situations. CrossFit coaches and athletes prioritize safety and adaptability, making these substitutions a valuable part of the program. Always consult with a certified CrossFit coach or fitness professional when incorporating substitutions to ensure they align with your goals and needs.

More substitutions from CrossFit

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