How corrective exercise differs from regular exercise

KT at Precision Movement
KT at Precision Movement

The number one question I get asked is "Are you a physio?" - unfortunately I cannot lay claim to this esteemed profession!  I am not a physio.  The second question is, "So are you a personal trainer then?".  Again I cannot say I am a Personal Trainer either - well not anymore.  I fall somewhere between the two and work under the grandiose title of "Corrective Exercise Specialist".  This line of conversation invariably leads to a discussion about what type of exercise I do and how it differs from gym training.  I will now humbly attempt to explain in an effort to give you a better understanding of the difference....  Wish me luck!

What is corrective exercise?

Corrective exercise is a special type of exercise usually used as part of the rehabilitation process in healing and recovery from chronic pain, injury or surgery, or given to those who suffer from poor posture.  The emphasis really is on optimal alignment, stability, mobilisation and then strength development.

In comparison regular exercise that you might do in the gym or in sports has a different goal - often increased fitness, body shape change, weight loss etc.  As the goals are different the exercises and movement given are bigger and incorporate more muscles.  This helps co-ordination for sports and is also effective for conditioning the body to change shape and increase fitness.  If I were to give these exercises to someone who is in pain and has poor alignment, poor stability, mobility and strength they would not be able to perform them effectively and could potentially hurt themselves further.

It's important to mention here that corrective exercise also forms a foundation for all movement and exercise.  If your foundational principles are good then your risk of injury is much reduced.  When clients come to Precision Movement with fitness goals we still take them through foundational principles to make sure alignment, stability, and mobility is optimal for more complex movements.

The types of exercises

The majority of exercises I do with clients at the beginning of their programmes are floor or swiss ball based.  I ask them to repeat the repetitions many times to elicit postural change and I also ask them to engage in mindful exercise which includes some psychology techniques.  Corrective exercise rarely makes you sweat and definitely doesn't increase your heart or breathing rate.  It is not easy though!  The areas we stretch are usually tight and stiff and the muscles we train are weak to begin with.  When clients adapt and improve, programmes are updated to challenge them further.  

A classic exercise I teach clients is the horsestance series.  It looks very easy but it is actually quite challenging.  Before clients can do this exercise effectively I'll also teach and often reset their breathing mechanics, help them effectively activate their core and how to activate stability through their hands and feet.  When the exercise is performed correctly it is exceptionally effective in training stability and forms a solid foundation for more complex movements that you would do in the gym or in sports.  

Typical exercises you might see in the gym are squats, lunges, pullups and pushups.  These are all neurologically complex movements meaning the brain needs to send a huge amount of information to the muscular system to perform the movement successfully.  You might use a kettlebell swing which is a dynamic form of a deadlift pattern. Running, martial arts and many other sports are also exceptionally challenging to the body and brain. To perform these exercises and sports well you'll need optimal joint stability, understanding of core function, breathing mechanics, optimal joint mobility and to minimise the risk of injury good alignment throughout the body as well as in the movement.

When does corrective exercise become regular exercise?

At Precision Movement we are specialists in change.  Our goal with everyone is to get them to a fully functional movement state for life and whatever sports they participate in.  

We don't want someone lying on the floor doing a mundane exercise forever.  We may ask someone to do this in an early stage of rehabilitation to get certain muscles firing but when they adapt to the exercise we make it more challenging.  All the exercises we give have many many progressions right up to regular exercise that you'll recognise well.  Perhaps the difference in giving regular exercise at Precision Movement is we might make changes or modifications that are specific to an individuals needs eg.  A static lunge might include a band to emphasise the inclusion of the hip stabilisers that have a tendency to be lazy - they might now be strong but the band acts as a reminder for the individual to maintain good knee alignment.

In a way, we use corrective exercise like servicing a machine.  A machine that has been running for a while might need some parts changed, an oil or water change.  Similarly, we'll do a maintenance check and make sure all the stabilisers are firing correctly and alignment and mobility are good.

For more information on corrective exercise for postural alignment, pain relief and management of injuries and degenerative conditions please contact us.