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The corrective mentality trap

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“If your workout isn’t fifty percent mobility work, you’re doing the wrong program.” – Coach Dan John

Corrective exercise (CE) is often used as an adjunct to a fitness program, where an individual is seeking either to improve performance, or to rehabilitate from an injury. The nature of CE, with its light, frequent reps, may seem to be at odds with traditional “strength” exercise, but as Dan John quotes, it should be part of any fitness program; not just rehab. The two are not necessarily at odds.

Oftentimes, in a fitness program of this nature or in a true rehab setting, it's easy to get into a "rehab mindset"; thinking "I'm injured", rather than "I'm getting stronger". CE isn’t as glamorous as strength or cardio training, so it also becomes easier to lose one’s zeal for the program.

A shift of perception could help here. What if we thought of CE as “assistance exercise” instead of “corrective”? Imagine that they serve to benefit one’s strength/cardio program, which they always do; maybe too subtly. The trouble is that they don’t feel like they benefit. There’s no satisfying “burn” or “muscle pump”.

When properly programmed into a workout, CE's also serve to increase efficiency and act as active rest between more intense exercise sets. Picture two workouts: Both athletes have the same precious time in which to work out. Athlete number one sits on a bench between sets, back slumped in poor posture, selecting music for the next set. Athlete two does a breathing drill and a dynamic stretch between sets. Which athlete benefits more?

To further add interest, and avoid the rehab mentality, one could find exercises that both serve as CE/mobility and strength training. By changing loads and speed of the exercise, one can address both mobility and strength. Some examples:

  • The Get-up (see video)
  • The Crooked Arm Bar
  • The Goblet Squat
  • The Anterior Reach/Single-Leg Deadlift

These exercises challenge all manner of muscle groups, balance, and coordination. They have tremendous carryover into performance. They can be done weighted or unweighted. And they will spice up any workout and banish any thoughts of CE/mobility being boring. Any competent fitness professional will be familiar with these exercises, and, most importantly, can also recommend the proper format in which to utilize them.

Corrective exercise, or rehab, needs neither to be boring, nor detract from your fitness progress. It’s well-known that your mental state affects your workouts. Think your routine is boring and it will be. Think strong and train strong.

And re-read Dan John’s quote.

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