This month’s blog focuses in greater detail on corrective exercise (CE). The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) defines corrective exercise as “the systematic process of identifying a neuromuscular dysfunction, developing a plan of action, and implementing an integrated corrective strategy.”
Here is a suggested four - step protocol that will help you achieve results from a personalized CE program:
Inhibit tight muscles: Inhibiting releases the tension and/or decreases the activity of overactive tissues that cause stiffness, soreness, or restricted movement. Flexibility can be restored to areas that are not moving properly with a technique called self-myofascial release, also known as foam rolling. Stretch (lengthen) shortened muscles: Following inhibition focus on mobility with a combination of static, active and/or dynamic stretches. Be aware that greater flexibility alone does not improve movement quality. The body must be “taught” what to do with that newfound flexibility or it will revert back to its old movement pattern.
Activate weak muscles: Once you achieve an adequate range of motion work on stability. Because the body does not work in isolation, but rather recruits groups of muscles to perform movements underactive muscles must be coaxed to optimal activation through careful body positioning.
Integrate the steps: The last step in CE ties everything together. Integration must come after mobility and activation to be sure all the parts are ready to work. Similar to activation, exercise technique (form) is important. Otherwise the body will revert to what it knows best, its old familiar patterns. Essentially the body has created a movement habit that must be replaced. The integration phase can begin to increase load, as this will help to “store” the new movement, but the load cannot be at an intensity that makes the body go back to the old pattern it is familiar with. Typically, an intensity of about 50% is about right. Habits are formed by repetition, so performing 15 to 20 repetitions is recommended. But don’t let the number of repetitions become the goal; form is the goal.
Steps 1 and 2 of this protocol incorporate the mobility aspect of corrective exercise. There are many different ways to work on mobility, including foam rolling and stretching. Unfortunately this is where many people stop trying to improve movement. If you do not incorporate steps 3 and 4, a new movement cannot be created and the body will remain tight.
Safe, effective CE requires the knowledge of a fitness professional who knows how to perform an assessment, design an appropriate individualized program, and implement CE techniques properly.
Next month I’ll discuss preparation for recreational hiking and other popular outdoor activities.