What is corrective exercise, anyway? Corrective exercise is a buzzword – buzz phrase? – that’s tossed around a lot these days.
Corrective exercise is a process to correct a movement dysfunction. Movement dysfunction can occur for a number of reasons. Repetitive motions in the workplace, recovery from an injury, and inactivity can all cause movement imbalances. When one muscle stops doing its job, its synergists step in to compensate. As a result of movement dysfunction, one is at increased risk of overuse injuries, tissue trauma, and inflammation that will cause additional injury.
Take the gluteus maximus as an example. One of the largest muscles in the human body, the gluteus maximus is the primary hip extensor. Unfortunately, in modern society, many people spend extended amounts of time seated. They could be at a desk in front of a computer, driving, or watching television. Consequently, their glutes “go to sleep.” Other muscles step in to compensate.
In corrective exercise, we determine the probable cause of movement dysfunction. Which muscle or muscles are underactive, and which are overactive? Implementing a solution looks like this: we foam roll, or inhibit, the overactive muscle. Then we stretch it in order to lengthen it. Next, we activate the underactive muscle or muscles. Finally, we incorporate a total body movement so everything is working in synchrony.
A classic example is a client I worked with several years ago. This person didn’t need me to train what I call the mirror muscles: chest, shoulders, biceps. He had all that. But his job was driving a bus. His work schedule was two four-hour shifts driving, with an extended break in between. As a result of all that sitting, his glutes weren’t firing.
After years of extended sitting, we wanted to activate his back extensors and glutes. I demonstrated the bird dog and asked him to do a set of 20. He struggled and began sweating profusely. In the end, he re-activated his glutes.
You should see results of a corrective exercise program in just a couple of sessions, but it can can take 12-20 sessions to completely restore normal muscular function.
Corrective exercise is an adjunct to, not a substitute for, a structured strength training program. The goal with correctives is to improve joint stability and neuromuscular connections. There’s no substitute for deadlifts or hip thrusts, for example, to build posterior chain strength.
Not everyone needs corrective exercise. If you think you might have a movement imbalance, find a personal trainer who’s certified in corrective exercise to help you achieve your goals. This doctoral dissertation suggests that people who undergo a supervised corrective exercise program have better outcomes. Feel free to contact me with any questions.