What is Corrective Exercise and Do You Need it?

“No No No, you are doing it all wrong. Do it this way!”

That is not corrective exercise.

Corrective exercise consists of 3 things.

  • Joint mobilizations
  • Stretches
  • Specific targeted exercises

Does Corrective Exercise Fix Joint Pain?

That will be the topic of this post. Since I am a Corrective Exercise Specialist, hopefully I can explain this in a way that gives you enough information to decide if thus is something you should incorporate in your workouts or pre-workouts.

So let’s start with an example.

Let’s say you have been sedentary for a number of years and feel old. You want to lose 10-15 pounds and look and feel better.

What do you do?

Old Model

  1. Join gym, bootcamp or buy a DVD.
  2. Start exercising and eating better.
  3. If you get hurt, either stop or see a Doctor that tells you to stop working out for a while.
  4. Repeat cycle.

Okay, I am being a little sarcastic here but isn’t that how it generally goes? Most people think a workout is either cardio, weights or a combination.

To make matters worse, most people want to “do” and not spend time “learning”. Fair enough.

Here is the problem. The fitness world is not telling you the whole truth.

Everyone likes to think their situations are different. And sometimes they are but most of the time people suffer from the same handful of conditions.

The reason is that we all work in the same environment, a sedentary one. We drive everywhere, sit for eight hours at work and sit on the couch at home.

That is a lot of time for negative body changes to take place. Changes you won’t even notice until they manifest themselves as pain.

Muscles become stiff and shorten. Muscles that are always under tension become irritated. They begin to pull on the joints in an uneven fashion. So you get muscle and joint pain.

This causes similar effects in most people.

  • Tight Hip flexors
  • Tight Hamstrings
  • Knee pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Shoulder and neck pain.

The idea here is not to get into how those physiological changes affect you but to talk about why traditional exercise isn’t going to fix them.

2 Rules to remember

Rule 1: Joint pain generally is not a joint issue.

Rule 2: Tight muscles are not a result of those muscles being tight.

Totally confused?

Let’s look at a knee.

corrective exercise kneeIn corrective exercise, I see joint pain as an effect not as a cause. If it isn’t the cause, then something must be going on to misalign the knee so crunches, hurts, pops, etc…

If the ligaments all need to aligned for the knee to track properly, what could pull them out of whack?

Tight muscles.

So to track where the culprit is, you have to go up from the knee and down from the knee and look at those muscles.

For example: Say the front of your knee hurts.

Old School Thinking:

If my knee hurts my muscles are weak. I will do a bunch of leg extensions and leg presses to strengthen them.

The problem:

Your pain is probably being caused by quad muscles already. They are tight from sitting and may have developed knots and all kinds of nasty stuff. If that is the case, strengthening the front of the leg will increase the imbalance not fix it.

Corrective Exercise Thinking:

Get a foam roller or a lacrosse ball and actively go up and down the leg muscles looking for painful spots. These are knots or adhesion and most likely will be the culprit of the knee pain. As you work them out you will get more length in the muscle and the knee pain will “magically” go away. Once you get rid of the adhesions or knots you can stretch and strengthen the muscle joint. But not before.

Sometimes that is all there is to it. I teach my clients how to troubleshoot and fix their aches and pains. It is all based on logic, therefore it is very intuitive and easy to learn but it is a different way of thinking.


Do I have to buy expensive equipment?

If you want to but all you really need is:

  • Foam roller $20 to $30
  • Tennis balls
  • Lacrosse ball $2-$3
  • Golf Ball

Everything else is optional.

How long does it take to do?

That depends on how many issues you have. The nice part about corrective exercise is that if it doesn’t hurt, we leave it alone. Usually 5-15 minutes is all it takes. Once an area is fixed, you don’t have to do the exercises.

Should I do corrective exercise before or after the workout?

If you do it after, you have just spent your time blasting muscles that are already tight and damaged. Not the best idea. Do the corrective exercise stuff before the workout and again after if that is an option.

Does it always work?

Nope. Sometimes you need to take it to another level and get a deep tissue massage. A good masseuse can diagnose and massage out knots faster than I can with my techniques, so always keep that open as an option. Also, corrective exercise probably won’t work if there are tears and ruptures. If you have any doubts, get to a Doctor an get MRI’s and X-rays. Corrective exercise is good but it can’t fix everything.


The Bottom Line:

As we get older, we are more susceptible to muscle and joint pain. If you think you are inflexible, have joint or muscle pain, it would make a lot of sense for you to learn these techniques or hire a coach to teach you.

I always start with a full body assessment before coming up with a workout program for my clients.

The biggest part of getting back in shape is showing up for the workout. So take a few minutes to make sure your body is ready to perform.