Mike Rants: Corrective Exercise

Originally published at FLzine.com

If I hear the term “corrective exercise” used in a disparaging sense one more time, I’m going to take up sword swallowing as a part time hobby.

I guess I get fed up with the term because people try to use it in a negative fashion to bash my colleagues or myself.  It’s even more humorous because these people have never even been to my gym, they’ve never seen a program that I’ve written, let alone see how I actually train any client!

Seriously, think about the term corrective exercise for a moment.  What’s the alternative – non-corrective exercise?  As in take your clients and get them injured exercise?

Do you really think, “Gee I hope Johnny blows his knee out on this next set of 10 foot box drops?”

It’s a stupid term – ALL exercise is in fact corrective, if you’re programming intelligently.


The Origins of “Corrective Exercise”

The term corrective exercise has come about in the past couple of years, primarily because it’s safer for a personal trainer or strength coach to say they understand corrective exercise than rehabilitation or physical therapy.  But this point alone has lead to a lot of heated debates.

I can say from my own experience I am not a physical therapist.  I don’t claim to be a physical therapist, and I don’t claim to have the background or schooling of one.

However, this doesn’t mean I don’t want to know at least a few things about what a physical therapist does.  Training is a continuum – from the most beat-up, dilapidated physical therapy patient to the elite athlete.  EVERYONE falls somewhere along the training continuum.

And the more complete your understanding of the training continuum is as a coach, the better results you’re going to get.

If a physical therapist understands how to isolate and utilize every muscle under the sun, and a strength coach understands how to integrate all those muscles into smooth and efficient motor patterns, why wouldn’t you want to know the entire spectrum?


The Training Conundrum

Far too often as coaches and trainers, we assume that people are going to come to us totally healthy and ready to train; the proverbial blank slate.  I can tell you from experience that this is very rarely the case.

Almost everyone we evaluate at IFAST has muscle imbalances, weaknesses, and/or asymmetries in strength and mobility, etc.  Whether their goal is fat loss, developing muscle mass, getting stronger or becoming a better athlete, our goal as coaches should always be to get them healthy first and foremost.

As Shirley Sahrmann would say, “Ideal alignment facilitates optimal movement.”
In essence, we are often rebuilding their postural and movement foundation.  We’re making it more optimal so that when we build from this point forward, they’re not only more resilient and less likely to get injured, but the correct muscles are doing the work.  When the right muscles not only turn on, but are also strong enough to do their job consistently, you have the ability to do amazing things with any client.

A Final Note on Corrective Exercise

A final, often misunderstood component of so-called “corrective exercise” (or at least what the pundits would have you believe), is that there’s no training effect.  That people who train in a so-called “corrective” fashion have their clients flop around on foam rollers, perform glute bridges, and sing Koom-Bay-yah during their training session, after which they indulge in a frothy recovery shake and go on about their day.

I hate to burst their bubble, but if people really think this, they’ve not been around a real training facility in a while.

Truly corrective exercise utilizes the benefits of all those mediums (foam rolling, activation, etc.) and builds upon them via an intelligent progression of strength training exercises.  It’s not just performing glute bridges until your glute striations look great in a banana hammock, it’s getting your glutes to fire so that your hips extend and keeps your back healthy.

It’s not just lying prone and doing a bunch of scapular stabilization circuits either.  It’s turning those scap stabilizers on so that when you do a heavy row or chin-up that you can recruit and utilize them as you’re supposed to.

The isolation isn’t there simply to isolate; it’s there to promote more optimal recruitment patterns when it comes to integration.


I’m not here to tell you it’s my way or the highway, or that if you train in any other fashion that you won’t get results.

What I can tell you is that far too often people who feel the need to critique others via an Internet forum or blog aren’t doing all that much coaching themselves.  Corrective exercise is usually just a term that Internet pundits use to pigeon hole the trainers and coaches who are in the trenches and actually training clients!

If your goal is to not only get strong/lean/jakt, but to stay healthy in the process, give “corrective exercise” a shot.  You might just be surprised at the results.



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