Someone asked me the other day: “What’s the hardest part of training a client/athlete?” Is it getting them to push harder in a session, or just getting them motivated to train in general? Nope. Neither one. The hardest thing I’ve had to teach a client/athlete in 20 years is how to slow down and focus on their weaknesses while maintaining proper form.
When it comes to performing corrective exercises, if you’re not focused on proper breathing and form you are literally defeating the whole purpose of “corrective” movements. I could write about which exercises strengthen what muscles for better posture, or better balance. I could even write about exercises that help prevent overuse. But, it’s irrelevant if you are doing the exercise wrong. So, today my goal is to teach you exactly what to focus on when going through a corrective exercise routine. Let’s get to it.
- Breathing. Let your breath rate (inhale/exhale) control your tempo of the movement. A slow and relaxed diaphramatic breath will keep you calm and focused on proper form. Remember this isn’t a hard session. Try a three to four second inhale followed by a three to four second exhale. This will give you time to complete a full range of motion and really focus on contracting the right muscles.
- Proper form. As I said earlier, you negate the entire purpose of the movement if you are doing it incorrectly. I repeat this because people always mess this one up. I have to constantly remind folks that nothing magical happens if you make it to number twelve of the third set if it’s done wrong. Corrective exercises should be focused on your weak muscle groups. So, you may not be able to complete three sets of 12 repetitions; it’s OK, you are working a weak muscle! Instead of trying to “make it to the end,” take notes and chart where in the set you begin to lose range of motion and form. For example, let’s say it’s on the eighth rep of the third set. Simply make a note of that in your training log or in your phone “notes.” The next time you do that particular corrective movement, try and complete nine reps on the third set. That’s progression. That one extra “proper” repetition means that weak muscle is getting stronger.
- Be patient. Undoubtedly, you didn’t develop your weaknesses overnight. Plan to incorporate corrective exercises for at least six to eight weeks in order to see the best result. How? Simple. If you are strength training two to three times per week, begin each session with corrective movements. Five minutes of foam rolling tight areas. Five minutes of 3×12 Shoulder External Rotation, 3×12 Glute Bridge, 3×30-60sec plank (yes, planks can be corrective!), 3×10 Bodyweight Reverse Lunge with Overhead Reach. Follow with five minutes of a dynamic warm up and you’ll be better prepared for your workout. I personally do some version of corrective movements before every strength session.
- Light is right. Recognize you are working weak and imbalanced muscles. You must establish proper firing of the muscle in order for it to grow stronger and to prevent from compensating with other muscles (which will create more imbalance). There is plenty of time for you to train hard and work up a sweat, but now is not that time.
- Focus. When performing corrective movements, it is important to focus on what’s going on, not thumbing through your iTunes library or catching up on Sports Center. When I am performing corrective movements, I literally envision the muscle contracting and moving through the range of motion. Visualizing and focusing on the muscular contraction can dramatically help improve proper signaling and firing of the right muscles.
Now that you have the five elements of Corrective Strength Training, it’s time to put your patience to the test. Incorporate my four corrective movements into your current training model for six to eight weeks, and let me know how much better you feel and move after.
1. Shoulder External Rotation (using resistance tubing) 3×12