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What Is Corrective Exercise?

Jun 30, 2016

As we go through life we are subject to many different technological innovations that are meant to make life simpler for us. However, as technology has increased dramatically our activity level has decreased in the same amount. Further, we are constantly put into situations and positions that are detrimental to our posture, creating imbalances in our body and ultimately creating chronic pain and discomfort. Take for example, constantly looking down to look at or read what is on our cell phones creates tension and sometimes pain through our neck and shoulders. Unfortunately most exercises programs do not take into consideration a person’s postural imbalances and therefore does not correct them. Hindering any success that a person might have and in some cases doing more harm than good.

So what is corrective exercise? Corrective exercise is about identifying postural and movement imbalances as well as joint limitations in your body. Then developing a program designed to correct those imbalances.

Chances are you have probably heard the term Corrective Exercise. But do you know what that means? The truth is corrective exercise is something that is done quite regularly. You may have even done a few corrective exercises before and didn’t even know it! If you work with a personal trainer or a fitness coach, chances are you've done some type of corrective exercise!

Corrective exercise is all about testing your body's ability to perform a certain movement and testing your body's mobility while doing that movement. Once certain tests have been performed you'll be able to know which muscles are overactive or "tight" and which muscles are under active or "weak". Once you have determined this, you'll be able correct your movement by strengthening or relaxing the muscles through a series of exercises. Resulting in a stronger and more functional body (and much quicker results!).

First it's important to inhibit(relax) the tight and overactive muscles. You can do this by myofascial release and stretching. It sounds fancy but you can achieve myofascial release by simply using a foam roller on the areas needed or even a foam or lacrosse ball (which I know we probably all have used before or after our workouts anyways!)

After you've inhibited the muscle, it's time to strengthen! Usually whichever muscle you’ve lengthened or relaxed, you'll then need to strengthen the antagonist or the muscle that does the opposite action. Now there are tons of different corrective exercises you can do that all serve their purpose but for this step you'll usually do a isolated and controlled movement. Once your body has adapted and gained strength, you can then incorporate full body or more complex movements.

An example of a movement tested is the most functional movement there is, the squat. One of the most common dysfunction's I see during the squat is the chest falling forward and knees collapsing together. Performing incorrect squats may not hurt initially but over time with many repetitions it can have a negative impact on your joints such as the knees and hips. However, performing correct squats has massive benefits over time such as healthy knees and hips that allow you to perform many different tasks without pain and also importantly the legs are a large muscle group that when utilized correctly helps with keeping a healthy metabolism and weight down.

Here are some examples of what a right and wrong squat looks like:

Chest up, butt down, knees tracking over toes, weight in the heels.

But often times, squats can tend to look like this-

First thing I think of when I see this is "lack of mobility in the ankles". If someone lacks the ability to flex at the ankle it makes it very difficult to reach full depth in a squat. To compensate for this and to get lower into a squat, most people will flex or bend at the hips excessively. This will cause the body to pitch forward and chest to fall. An easy fix is to place a plate or some time of elevation tool to raise the heels off the ground. Then performing inhibition and strengthening techniques to correct that ailment. The goal is to eventually not have to use the heel elevation but attain the mobility in the ankles to perform a functional squat on your own. If the elevation does not improve the squat, chances are the dysfunction or imbalance is in the knees, hips or trunk.

There are many different movements that we may be doing incorrectly everyday. Eliminating as many of these incorrect movements as possible is optimal for overall well-being and health. It will also help to eliminate the frustration you may be suffering from not getting the results you expected from you current exercise regiment.

Correcting movements are very important. Being able to squat with good form (or do any type of functional movements with good form) is going to make daily activities easier and prevent injuries in the future. Corrective exercise can benefit anyone. No matter how old you are, how fit you are, we all have some type of disfunction or imbalances in our bodies that we can improve!

Faith McKay, NSCA Certified Trainer


Faith has always enjoyed maintaining a healthy lifestyle. As a competitive athlete Faith realizes the true value of dedication to healthy living and wants to help others achieve this same joy.


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