The Myths of Modifications

September 16, 2021

The Bar Method is truly special in that it is infinitely adaptable to a range of abilities, conditions, and situations. Every human being is unique, so why would your workout be one-size-fits-all?

Our technique is efficient, effective, and our many loyal students are a testament to its sustainability. The best workout is the one you can do consistently over time! Our highly-trained teachers are there to offer continuous feedback based on where you are on a given day. From props to positioning to substitutions, we have a full toolkit to personalize your experience. Unfortunately exercise modifications tend to get a bad rap and many dismiss them as an “easier” version of the original move. We’re cutting through the noise and the stereotypes by addressing the five modification myths we hear most often. 

Myth #1: I should only modify if something hurts or I am injured.

If you experience discomfort in any position, you should absolutely let your instructor know, just like you should always follow your doctor’s advice pertaining injuries. But those are not the only reasons we may suggest you shift your approach to an exercise. Often, we are looking to help you into better alignment to feel the exercise more deeply. Your teacher may spot an opportunity to make you more comfortable so you can focus on the muscles at hand. So if you find yourself mystified by an exercise and don’t feel it the way you think you should, that’s a great thing to bring up with your teacher.   

Myth 2: Modifications are for beginners.

While it’s true that when you are first starting out, you may not be taking every challenge option as you focus on learning proper form and gaining strength, many of our modifications have nothing to do with ability level! Many of them are ways to customize for your specific body; if you are more petite, we have riser mats to boost you higher to the barre. If you have tight hamstrings, we offer stall bars with variable heights to stretch. If you have sensitive shoulders, we can loop straps over the bar to keep you comfortable while working your abs in flat-back. If you are long-waisted, a small mat or two at your ribs can create just the balance you need to try an option in curl!  

Myth 3: Modifications make things too easy.

Quite the opposite! Our modifications are designed to make it easier to get into the right form, which in turn makes the exercise itself more intense by targeting the right muscles. For example, in abdominal work it’s very common for students to use different combinations of mats as support behind their back to alleviate stress in their neck and engage abs more effectively. We offer options for how students perform push-ups and encourage them to choose the position that they can maintain the best form in for the longest to build endurance. If modifying allows you to feel an exercise where you should or allows you stay in it through the last reps, that’s a win! 

Myth 4: If I need to modify today, I will always need to do the exercise this way.

It depends. Some things are forever—you can’t change your height or proportions, for example, so if you use riser mats to reach the barre or prefer to work at a taller barre, that’s unlikely to change, either. On the flip side, injuries heal, flexibility increases, pregnancies are finite, sensitivities can dissipate, and you can certainly get stronger so any adjustments to how you take class can evolve along with you. Keep an open dialogue with your teachers to assess whether your current modifications are still serving you.

Myth 5: I need to do the whole class without modifications to be a good student

No way! The only “right” way to take The Bar Method is the way that keeps you in the form that is best for you. Look around in any class and you will see individualized solutions around the room. Bar Method teachers are students too, if you see us in class doing anything differently, feel free to ask us why. 

Always ask your instructor if you think you need to modify as they can advise on the best plan of action! 

About the Author 

Stephanie Kagan took her first Bar Method class in 2011; that initial step led her to later become a certified instructor at The Bar Method Baltimore and a national coach. Stephanie now serves full-time with The Bar Method as our Continuing Education Leader. Stephanie lives for a good challenge and loves spending time with her husband and two children.