Intimidating Fitness Moves

Ok, so have you ever wanted to try a training plan, saw a certain move and thought: ehhhhh, I think I’m gonna go ahead and skip that?

That was an initial hurdle for me when I first started to get into fitness and weight training. I checked out a few plans online, was pretty stoked to try one from Oxygen mag, and decided to a modify a little bit.. ok, a lot… when I saw my strength training nemeses: the deadlift and a Smith machine squat. For deadlifts, I had no idea what I was doing. Instead of keeping my spine straight, I’d look from side to side to make sure no one was watching my form disaster (even though everyone was way too worried about their own workout), and for the Smith machine, I had visions of raising the bar up overhead to have it slam down on top of me as I crashed through a crack in the ground, cartoon-style.

After I put the call out on Facebook, here are some of the moves many of you said are the most intimidating, along with some form cues and methods to work up to the actual exercises:

Intimidating fitness moves



The idea: you start standing, place your hands on the ground, pop back into a plank, add an optional pushup, jump your feet back in, then jump up into the air before repeating. Burpees are the move pretty much everyone loves to hate. They’re fantastic cardio, but also high impact, so definitely exercise caution if you have any joint/knee considerations.

Form cues: When you jump back into your plank, make sure to keep your hips in line with the rest of your body- no sagging hips and no booty in the air.

Work into it:

1) If you’re just getting started with burpees, first practice jumping up (vertical jump), then touch the floor, with a deep bend in your knees.

2) After you get the hang of that, plant your hands on the floor, then step each foot back in the plank position (instead of jumping back).

3) Once you’re a pro, just practice jumping back into plank, then back into your deep squat. Jump back and forth to build the strength required in the entire movement.

4) Then, you’re ready for a full burpee!



(Word to the world: it’s pretty impossible to take a good self-timed pull-up pic)

Here’s the first one, while I silently prayed to the camera gods that nothing shattered….


Form cues: Ok, so I can’t stand seeing people “snake” up into a pull-up. It makes me want to throw things. Focus on keeping your spine fairly straight and depend on your arm strength, not momentum, to get up to the bar. Try it with different grips to see what you prefer.

Work into it:

1) Start with an assisted pull-up machine. I prefer this than trying to do regular pull-ups with bad form. Start with a heavy weight (it’s a counterweight, so the heavier it is, the easier it will be) and gradually decrease the weight each time.

2) Once you get to the point where you’re hardly using any weight, try to do a regular pull-up, standing on a large box. There are a few methods you can use from here, like using straps to help pull you up, or jumping up to your pull-up position and slowly lowering down, but I’m not well-versed in either- I’d probably just use the assisted pull-up machine until I’m ready to try it without any weight.

For common mistakes and more form cues, check out this post. 




Form cues: Think of your stance like standing on a railroad track, not a balance beam- so your hips are hip-width apart. As you lower down, think about sinking STRAIGHT down instead of forward and down, watching your front knee to keep it above your ankle. Keep your spine straight, core tight and shoulders away from your ears.

Some tips:

-For knee or balance concerns, try baby lunges or holding onto a counter or bar for balance.

-If you have difficulty lunging, like you feel like you can’t go down very far (not due to pain, but rather inflexibility) try foam rolling your calves down towards your ankles. Tight calves can inhibit dorsiflexion range of motion, which can hinder the ability to squat and lunge effectively.


Crow pose: 


Form cues: Remember to keep your entire hand (including the space of your index finger) pressing into the floor. Keep your gaze straight in front of your hands. I like to think of crow as a shift of balance from your body to your hands- it’s just a matter of finding the “sweet spot.”

Work into it: (I am not a certified yoga instructor, but have been practicing for quite a while- just some things I’ve found helpful)

1) Start in a low frog squat with hands in prayer.

2) One that feels pretty good.. ish… haha, place your hands on the floor in front of you. Shift your knees and bend your elbows, so your knees are resting on your triceps.

3) Once you’re there, take your gaze about 6 inches in front of your hands and start to slowly shift your weight forward.

4) Eventually, try to pick up one toe, then both and balance.

This pose takes a little practice, but once you get it, it sticks.




For ideas on how to switch it up, and form cues, check out this post.

Work into it:

-Try a wall squat first, to build up your leg strength. You can place a small ball behind your low back and roll up and down into the squat (keep a 90* angle with your legs, feet hip-width apart) or come down to the squat position and hold it.


Mountain climbers:

Mountain climbers

Form cues: There are a couple of different ways to do mountain climbers, but no matter what you decide to do, you want your body in a straight plank position. You will bring one knee in towards your chest, hop and switch, but as you do this, remember to keep your body in alignment (with hips down!). You can either place your foot down on the floor, jump and switch, or keep your foot lifted (which I prefer)

Work into it:

1) Practice your plank first. If it’s too much for you to hold the plank for an extended amount of time, work on doing rounds: 10 seconds on, 3 seconds rest, repeat.

2) Next, bring one knee into your chest, then step back and switch.

3) Once you get the hang of that, practice jumping and switching- you’ve got it! 🙂


Side planks:

Side planks1

Form cues: I’ve had yoga instructors tell me two different ways- keep your hand under your shoulder, or move your hand away from your shoulder. My thoughts: do what feels best for you. I prefer my hand directly under my shoulder, as it gives a little more stability. Keep your top shoulder lifted (don’t let it collapse) and core tight. The top arm can either be on your hip, or raised, with your gaze up towards to the ceiling.

Work into it:

1) Start on your knee first. Extend the top leg and really focus on keeping your body lifted and your top shoulder back.

2) Once you have the hang of it, try stacking your feet on top of each other. Really pull in through your low hip and keep your core tight.



Form cues and tips: check out this post.


Are there any fitness moves that intimidate you? Any that you’ve recently rocked and mastered??

Hope you’re having a great day <3






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  1. Christa @ Edible Balance on November 13, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    Great post Gina! there are so many fitness moves that I am fearful of only because i ahve no idea what I’m doing… namely the dreaded burpees! So I just run or jump onto the elliptical instead, LOL. It’s time to get on the bandwagon though, I’m ready for that love/hate relationship 😉

  2. Morgan on November 13, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    This is an awesome post that I really appreciate you taking the time to create! Crow pose is definitely intimidating and this makes me want to give it a try.

  3. natalie @ will jog for food on November 13, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    Great post! The Assisted Pull Up Machine and I are BFFs 😉

    I will always hate burpees!

  4. Elizabeth M. on November 13, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    This is awesome! I am intimidated by all of these, and I just plain HATE lunges. I’ve noticed with lunges, if I remember to step farther out than I think I need to, it works better, and instead of stepping in front of my body I focus on stepping in front of my hip joint of whatever leg I am using (which for me as a dancer feels like I am stepping out to the side a bit) but it helps a lot.

  5. Kelly @ Femme Fitale on November 13, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    Personally, I hate scorpion pushups (à la Jillian Michaels). They’re so difficult and awkward, although I know they’re a great modification. Impressed by your pull-ups… mine are awful.

    From my experiences teaching group fitness classes, I think people are most afraid of full range, dynamic movements that require balance & stability too: like lunges. And then plyometric exercises that draw together strengthening AND cardio: burpees, anyone?!!! It’s so important that the instructor demos these movements before the track. Realistically, you’re afraid of anything “unknown” or that you feel is beyond your range of knowledge and ability.

  6. Shelby on November 13, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    That crow pose intimidates me the most!

  7. Jamie on November 13, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    Thank you so much for this post! As a newbie, so many of these are intimidating moves to me! I really appreciate you taking the time to make this post!

  8. Emily on November 13, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    Ugh, crow. YEARS and I am still totally unable to even get one of my feet off the ground for more than 2 seconds. I hate it so much and feel so daunted by it I don’t even do it any more.

  9. Michelle @ Eat Move Balance on November 13, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    Great collection of exercises! I’m always worried about my form when performing lunges. Sometimes I feel wobbley. So the railroad tracks are a great visual to remind me that I don’t need to place one foot directly in front of the other. Thanks!

  10. Alexis on November 13, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Thank you for this post!

  11. Hope on November 13, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    Pistol Squats, ZWow rocks them out. Not me. OMG, I can’t do them without holding on to a chair. Also dive bombers, I injured my shoulder doing those. I know shy away from workout with them. Ninja Tuck Jumps are a killer too, my knees crunch on the way down. Too many years of step aerobics, guess I have no cartilage left in my knees.

    • Fitnessista on November 13, 2012 at 9:22 pm

      i hate pistol squats, too!

  12. Melissa on November 13, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    I LOVE your purple shirt! Is that lululemon?

    • Fitnessista on November 13, 2012 at 9:21 pm

      thank you! yes 🙂

  13. Lisa on November 13, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    I’m just catching up on some blog posts now, so I wanted to wish you a happy belated birthday! These tips on intimidating moves are excellent and make me want to get out there and try some of the things I never even imagined myself trying before.

  14. Sara Lake on November 13, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Pullups are my intimidating move, and that’s because even at my most fit, I could never do more than one. It’s a terrible situation. I blame having massive boobs (extra weight). 😉

    • Fitnessista on November 13, 2012 at 9:21 pm

      that is a tragedy haha

  15. G.G.R on November 13, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    I rock the squats, jump squats and the lunges. I’m generally afraid of doing things that could affect my lower back, which I’ve had a lot of trouble with.

  16. Amanda @ .running with spoons. on November 13, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    Eep crow. I’m still not brave enough to attempt that one – I’m convinced that I’m going to fall on my head and break my nose or something. Deadlifts were another one that used to scare me, and even now that I’ve gotten more comfortable with them, sometimes I still worry that my form will be bad and I’ll end up pulling something that shouldn’t be pulled 😯

  17. Liz @ Tip Top Shape on November 13, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    Really love this post! Thanks for taking the time to go through all of those moves 😀

  18. Ali @ WHOLEistically Fit on November 13, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    Love the post. What a great idea 🙂 I think a move that intimidates me is a box jump on anything smaller or narrower than a step aerobic bench and on anything higher than knee-level. Yikes!!

  19. Brooke ( on November 13, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Side planks KILL my wrists. I sometimes shy away from yoga JUST because of them.

  20. Joelle (on a pink typewriter) on November 13, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    FABULOUS post- thank you so much for this! This is so helpful!

    p.s. If I’m interested in learning more about the Tuscon area (I’m considering a cross-country move back to the west coast, where I’m from!), would it be alright if I shoot you an email? Thanks!

    • Fitnessista on November 13, 2012 at 9:20 pm

      of course!

  21. Danica @ It's Progression on November 13, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    love this post!!
    I used to be terrified of “real” push-ups….I set up a challenge for myself a couple of months ago and now I can do over 30 of them. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was insanely proud of that 🙂

    • Erika on November 14, 2012 at 11:55 am

      That is awesome and you should be very proud. I still tend do to more of the “girly” style pushups but I need to be better at at least trying them “boy” style first. Way to go!

  22. @pluvk on November 13, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    Thanks for this! There were a few moves that I question my form on, but this helps a lot! One workout move that I have hard time with is Renegade Rows (altn. rows while in a plank). Do you have any tips? Thank you!! 🙂

    • Fitnessista on November 13, 2012 at 9:21 pm

      for me, the type of weight i use makes a huge difference- some of them KILL my hands! play around with different weights and see how it feels. i’ve found for those, heavier weights help stabilize, too

  23. Amelia on November 13, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    What a great post! Totally not related to intimidating exercises, but where is your shirt from? I love the purple and the fitted look. Very flattering! 🙂 Lululemon?

    • Fitnessista on November 13, 2012 at 9:20 pm

      yep- an oldie 🙂

  24. Averie @ Averie Cooks on November 13, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    It took me YEARS to be able to find my balance in bakasana and not face plant 🙂 There are all kinds of yoga things that I’d see people doing 10 years ago and think I’d never be able to but now I can…and it always happens when I stopped caring. Just one of those, I’ll get there things – and I did. Fun post, Gina!

  25. Bek @ Crave on November 14, 2012 at 12:52 am

    I love doing the crow yoga position in Body balance- it is all about finding that sweet spot and then voila! You’ve got it. I’m also nervy about deadlifts! I feel like noob doing them 😛

  26. Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie on November 14, 2012 at 7:03 am

    Thanks so much for this useful list! It will be helpful as I get into more workout moves!

  27. Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin on November 14, 2012 at 8:13 am

    Stability ball jackknifes really intimidate me! I tried doing them once and I definitely didn’t have enough core strength, so I haven’t done them since! 😛

  28. {Haley @ The Saucy Apple} on November 14, 2012 at 9:04 am

    You caught me! I’m supremely guilty for skipping difficult moves, I snake my pull-ups, and I struggle with crow! Another scary move for me is push-ups… basic, I know. But I have the hardest time, and I hate going to my knees… that makes me feel like such a girl. I guess you have to walk before you can run, right? 🙂

  29. Stellina @ My Yogurt Addiction on November 14, 2012 at 9:46 am

    Great post! I am intimidated by the crow pose…I don’t think I have enough upper body strength to do it! I’m also new to Zumba and kind of intimidated by that too. I don’t consider myself a dancer or someone who has rythm if you will, so it’s definitely not easy for me! The intructor also doesn’t give any verbal cues, so that can be frustrating because she goes so fast! I am determined to become good at it though…I want to dance like her and the other people in the class. I might look like a fool now, but I’m putting in effort, that must count for something right?!

  30. Sarah @ Yogi in Action on November 14, 2012 at 9:56 am

    You’re so right about crow- it takes some practice but once you successfully figure it out- you’re golden!

    I wish I could do pull-ups. I do ok with the assisted machine but once I try it with my own weight, I’m pretty much guaranteed to fail 🙁

  31. Fitsouffle on November 14, 2012 at 10:12 am

    Great post today! Really nice cues and pictures. I find that my clients are intimidated by these exercises too.

  32. FitBritt@MyOwnBalance on November 14, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Love this post Gina! I always had a hard time with pullups! Grrrr.

  33. Beverly Aragon on November 14, 2012 at 11:08 am

    AWESOME post, Gina! I think the exercises I hate most (I’m looking at you burpees and pull-ups) could actually become faves now. So much of the intimidation factor is knowing that my form is all wrong and that I’ll never master these beasts until I get the proper form down. This post really helps! 🙂

  34. Amber @ Busy, Bold, Blessed on November 14, 2012 at 11:42 am

    Crow pose was definitely one of the hardest things for me in yoga. At my first class I was just like, what?! How are people doing this pose, voodoo magic? After working at it, I finally got it! I was so pumped! I may or may not have fallen on my face once or twice while trying to get it 😉

  35. Margaret @ WellnessCircle on November 14, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Great post, Gina! I think of all the poses, the crow pose is just intimidating.

  36. NatureHealMe on November 14, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    These are all killer workout moves! I have to say that burpees are my favorite for getting my heart rate up and working out my whole body!

  37. Allison on November 14, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    From the picture, which I know isn’t great, it looks like you are doing a chin-up, not a pull-up.

  38. Grace @ Practicing Grace on November 14, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    I was pretty intimidated by burpees. I think I just dread them in the moment but afterrwards I feel WORKED. I fell like my arms are very strong but I can’t do a pullup!! How many can you do?

  39. Lara on November 14, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Great post! I think box jumps are super scary and intimidating! All those sharp edges just scream “if you try this you will almost assuredly fall and bleed everywhere in front of everyone…” haha But I tried it once as part of a bootcamp class on a fairly low box and it wasn’t actually so bad! I still haven’t gotten up the courage to do it on a real “box” but I do them all the time at my house using my bed as the box instead! 1) no hard edges so if I fell I’d hit my head on the mattress so NBD and 2) it reminds me of being a little kid and jumping on the bed 😀 Makes it more fun/silly so less intimidating!

  40. Melissa on November 14, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    Oh the Crow Pose! I try it every week and every week I end up just looking at my yoga teacher and laughing. I can’t get my knees above my elbows! I haven’t been practicing yoga very long (just a couple of months) so hopefully one day (fingers crossed).

  41. amanda j on November 14, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    Hi Gina – as everyone else has said, great post! One tip, or piece of advice, I could REALLY use with all of these exercises (and maybe you go into this on the form check page) is what part(s) of the body SHOULD be burning or where I should focus on pulling the strength from. I’ve noticed that if there is a strong muscle group in my body, I’ll find a way to use it vs using the proper muscles to work. For example, my quads are really really strong, so I tend to default to them for whatever exercise. For squats, lunges, etc. I have to really focus on using my glutes. Anyway…this was just on my mind tonight when I took a (very first!) spin class. My body wanted to default to “quads mode” and I had to get super focused and figure out how to engage my hammies, glutes, etc.

  42. Jessy on November 16, 2012 at 11:34 am

    I am eager to get back into a workout again but my workout routines may change because of a back injury. 🙁 For a long time, I used to think pyrotechnic moves weren’t as effective as going into a weight room and lift weights only. With my healing back, I have to try pyrotechnic (spelling?) exercise when I use my own body as weight vs. weight room. Are there any other exercises that I can do with the lower half beside squats?

  43. Molly on November 16, 2012 at 11:36 am

    Thank you!!

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