Readers, I’ve had a rough time reconciling corrective exercise with my overall training program. I have a few movement issues that I feel are standing in the way of achieving my peak awesomeness, but I find it difficult to decide how to best incorporate my efforts to patch those holes into my movement practice. I’ve tried a few methods, and heard about others, and they have their good and bad points, of course. Today I want to share some insight into each approach so you can find one that works for you.
1) Full Focus
Committing all your training time to corrective exercise.
Readers, I’ve tried this approach, and it’s not my favourite. When you put your training on hold and put all your eggs in the corrective basket, lots of stones are left unturned. Many movement patterns will go unexplored. The skills and capacity you have worked so hard to earn will rust and crumble. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ll go out of your mind with boredom.
Never go full physio.
There will be times when it is necessary to devote all your efforts to rehab, but that’s typically when you’ve sustained serious injuries or have fallen very ill. If you’re someone who is capable of a very singular focus and who has a high tolerance for tedium, you may find that this an effective approach to fixing your movement problems. Power to ya. It is my humble opinion, however, that most of us will be better served by an approach that melds corrective exercise into our existing movement practices.
The next few methods offer just that.
2) Warm-Up and Cool-Down
Implementing corrective exercise immediately before or after your workout.
You can slip your corrective work into your warm-up, cool-down, or both. The benefit of putting it in the warm-up is that you will be calibrating your target movements for better performance before they come up in training. The training, then, helps lock-down some of those sweet, sweet gainz. The benefit of putting corrective work in the cool-down is that it helps you reset your target movement to a more refined level after training. This is helpful if the challenge of your workout took you out of ideal alignment a bit too often. The benefit of doing correctives in both the warm-up and cool-down, then, is that you get the perks of each.
The only real downside of this approach is that your workouts will get a little longer. I would advise against trimming other important elements out of your movement prep and recovery to make room for corrective work, unless the correctives are logical replacements for those elements. (For example, you could replace Air Squats with motor patterning drills for squatting.) You could trim some non-critical elements out of your workouts to make the time for correctives instead, but you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of that for yourself.
Implemented properly, this can also be a good way to really refine your approach to movement preparation and recovery, even when corrective exercise isn’t a bit priority. A few drills that help you calibrate your skills for the training of the day can go a long way towards optimizing your workout.
Pairing a corrective drill with another exercise in your workout.
Similar to the previous approach, using corrective supersets lets you optimize your patterns in the same session in which you challenge them. The difference is that you’ll be bouncing back and forth between the two. The benefit here is that you can immediately take any gains you make through your corrective and apply it to the challenge movement, bit by bit. If you do things right, each set will get a little cleaner, a bit more refined.
Supersetting your correctives will still tag a few extra minutes onto your training time, but probably not as much as the previous approach. You may also find it easier to tackle a few more patterns at a time, since this strategy piggybacks on the organization already present in your program. The downside is that you might not get the same training frequency for your correctives if you are trying to target too many at once. My advice would be to pick a couple patterns to work on, and pair those correctives up with other similar movements. (For example, you could superset your squat mobility drill with sets of deadlifts or L-sits.)
4) Stand Alone
Planning a separate session for corrective exercise.
The nice thing about this approach is that you get another little dose of movement through your day, and it’s good to move more often. Although your time commitment to training will go up, you may find it more tolerable since your actual workouts won’t get any longer. It may also be easier to convince yourself to do corrective work more often through the week, since it is a habit that isn’t tied to your training days.
The trick with this approach is that it requires you to find another chunk of time in your day for exercise. If you’re someone who already finds it challenging to schedule a training session, this approach might not be for you.
A blend of the other approaches. (Except the first one.)
A hybrid approach, I think, has the greatest potential. You can mix a little corrective work into your movement prep, pair it up with relevant parts of the training session, and give it a little extra focus outside of the session when the opportunity arises. One of the biggest factors that will influence the success of your movement correction strategy will be frequency, and here the hybrid approach shines. How often are you exposing your body to the new movement habit you want to build? How often are you taking your tissues into that new range of motion? How often are you practicing to refine that wonky movement pattern?
A word of caution towards the hybrid approach: Don’t let it take the consistency and organization out of your efforts. It doesn’t mean use each method as it strikes you, doing some correctives in your warm-up here and a superset there. That may still work, but you run the risk of giving yourself a pass too often and losing that ever-important element of frequency.
Readers, I have to admit that writing this post has really helped me organize my own thinking around implementing correctives and given me some fresh insight into how my current efforts are falling short. (Funny how that happens.) I hope that this has given you some ideas on how you can keep training and work on improving your movement quality at the same time. You don’t have to trade one for the other.