The practice of corrective exercise is booming. Even clients are starting to understand that achieving their end goal might require some customized corrective exercises—which could mean taking a step backward before they move forward.
What are some basic, effective corrective exercises? Here are three popular ones, with explanations as to how they might have developed and how they are pertinent to helping clients achieve better alignment and function. Note: Be sure to stay within your scope of practice when working with clients who are injured or have special needs. Whenever it is appropriate, refer clients to a physical therapist or other allied health professional.
Corrective Exercise #1: Foam Roller for Gluteals
Self myofascial massage techniques performed with a foam roller are very popular in the corrective-exercise setting. The more we spend our days sitting, the less we extend our hips as nature intended. Consequently, the posterior hip and gluteal musculature gets used incorrectly--some muscles are overworked, while others atrophy. Using a foam roller on the gluteal complex can rejuvenate this area and keep it healthier.
How to Do It: Sit on the foam roller with one ankle balanced on the opposite knee. Roll weight onto the buttock that’s on the same side of the body as the lifted leg and apply pressure to any sore spots in that buttock. Have clients perform this exercise once per day for 1-2 minutes each side.
Corrective Exercise #2: Hip Flexor Stretch (With Rotation)
Hip flexor stretches are particularly important in corrective-exercise programs because of the excessive amount of time we spend sitting down in hip flexion. Stretching the hip flexors can reduce the forward pull on the lumbar spine, thus reducing the possibility of excessive lumbar lordosis (a common cause of back pain).
How to Do It: Kneel on one knee with the other foot in front for balance. Tuck the pelvis under, using the gluteal muscles and abdominals to assist with the movement. Raise the arm on the same side as the kneeling leg to increase the stretch. Hug yourself around the shoulders, and rotate the torso over the front leg. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and repeat 6-8 times. Ask clients to do at least one set per day on each side.
Corrective Exercise #3: Single-Leg Squat
Body-mind programs emphasize balance, coordination and weight transfer to correct movement deviations. Science has helped us better understand the body’s systems and the degree to which muscles need to coordinate with one another to facilitate balance and weight transfer. A good example of this is seen in the single-leg squat.
As we descend into a single-leg squat, the gluteal muscles of the standing leg work eccentrically to slow down both hip and leg motion. As we begin to rise out of the squat, the glutes extend the hips in order to return the body to an upright position. At the same time, as we lower into the squat, weight is transferred forward in the foot and ankle, and as we stand up, weight settles back into the heel. It is imperative that you understand the coordination and timing of this movement so you can help clients learn to transfer weight properly—as is necessary, for example, when walking.
How to Do It: Stand on one leg and squat down by bending at the ankle, knee and hips. Slow the foot motion down with the muscles of the foot and calf, and the hip motion down by engaging the gluteal muscles. Extend the hips and raise the arch of the foot back to its neutral position as you return to the starting point. Clients should perform 1-10 repetitions, 1-5 times per week, depending on the goal.