What is Corrective Exercise?

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Also called corrective exercise therapy, corrective exercise combines the scientific principles of human physiology, physics, and biomechanics to address an individual’s specific physical and biochemical needs.

Corrective exercise is meant to remedy the cumulative results of stresses placed on the body, helping to restore and maintain posture, balance, mobility, and stability, which allows the body to move freely and without pain.

Of course, anybody recovering from an injury would benefit from this type of specialized exercise therapy, but so would anybody interested in maximizing their fitness potential and proactively staving off some of the common physiological effects of aging. Corrective exercise addresses joint inflexibility, muscle instability, and poor body mechanics, which makes it an ideal form of exercise therapy for everyone – from weekend golfers to elite athletes looking to take their athletic performance to the next level.

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Corrective exercise addresses inadequate body mechanics resulting from:

  • Poor posture
  • Injury compensation
  • Weak muscles
  • Tight muscles
  • Compromised body movements

People seeking corrective exercise therapy may have difficulty with pain, stability, or range of motion in their:

  • Back
  • Neck
  • Shoulders
  • Hips
  • Knees
  • Foot/ankle

As a personal trainer working in the field of corrective exercise, you will focus on correcting imbalances and the tendency people often have to compensate for an injury, weakness or pain by shifting weight or movement to unaffected parts of the body. The goal is to help guide clients through exercises that promote natural and unencumbered movement. Because corrective exercise is often considered a re-education of the body and its biomechanics, you will encourage your clients’ bodies to move as they were designed, which allows them to function at their peak.

This type of exercise therapy takes into account that every movement of the body is a coordinated effort between muscles – some contracting and stabilizing , while others relax and lengthen. You will employ corrective exercise techniques that work to eliminate compensation from imbalances, which reduce and even eliminate pain and allow the body to move without restriction or limitation.

The Ins and Outs of Corrective Exercise: The Work of Personal Trainers in Corrective Exercise

Corrective exercise is quite different from other exercise programs, which makes it a specialized form of exercise therapy most often employed by personal trainers. Your corrective exercise plan for a client will likely begin with a detailed analysis of their body, which will allow you to determine any deficits or imbalances that may be affecting your clients’ movements. For athletes, this process may address performance, while for others it may address anything that hinders daily activities.

Upon completing this analysis, you will develop a personalized exercise and flexibility program designed to correct imbalances. All exercises within your corrective exercise program will work together to make positive changes on body mechanics and address the underlying cause of pain.

The comprehensive corrective exercise regimen you develop for your clients will typically encompasses three main components:

  • Restoring range of motion/mobility: You will focus on inhibiting overactive muscles through massage and soft tissue mobilization.
  • Reinforcing correct movement patterns: You will target the muscles that prevent excessive movement by creating stability in the joints.
  • Rebuilding movement patterns: You will accomplish this through full-body movement patterns and progressive loading.

As a personal trainer leading a corrective exercise program, you will assess the following in your clients:

  • Balance
  • Breathing patterns
  • Posture
  • Core function
  • Basic flexibility
  • Movement patterns
  • Spinal mobility

After making your assessment, you will aim to produce the following results for your clients:

  • Spinal stability
  • Movement mobility
  • Movement mechanics
  • Resistance and sophistication to the movements

The corrective exercise routine you develop for your clients will likely involve the following steps:

  1. Test a movement
  2. Mobilize the movement
  3. Teach the movement
  4. Test the movement again
  5. Strengthen the movement
  6. Decompress the movement (muscle recovery)

How to Become a Personal Trainer Specializing in Corrective Exercise

Degree Programs in Corrective Exercise – An associate or bachelor degree in a major related to personal training is the general path to becoming a personal trainer specializing in corrective exercise. You may choose to complete a degree programs in personal training or in a field like:

  • Exercise science
  • Fitness and health
  • Exercise physiology
  • Kinesiology
  • Sports medicine

Some of the topics of study within these types of program include:

  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Nutrition
  • Fitness analysis and assessment
  • Exercise physiology
  • First aid/CPR

You can round out your degree program in personal training by completing a practical experience in corrective exercise.

Certification Options in Corrective Exercise – In addition to the completion of a degree in personal training or a related area of study, you may choose to earn professional certification, a common pursuit in the personal training industry. You may also pursue professional certification in lieu of a post-secondary education.

Two of the most widely recognized professional designations for personal trainers in corrective exercise include:

National Association of Sports Medicine, Corrective Exercise Specialist

The NASM-CES designation will allow you to develop the skills necessary to help clients address muscular imbalances and help facilitate natural movements. To qualify for the NASM-CES designation, you must study the appropriate online content and take an online examination. NASM also offers live workshops that supplement the online material.

Functional Movement Systems, FMS Certification

Functional Movement Systems (FMS) is a system designed to provide a standard approach to identifying limitations and asymmetries, assessing fundamental movement, and developing personalized corrective exercise programs. The FMS philosophy maintains that the whole body must function properly in order to achieve maximum performance.

As an FMS-certified personal trainer, you will have access to professional resources and a database of diagnostic tools and exercises. You will also become part of the FMS Professional Registry and Networking System and will be eligible to use the FMS Exercise Software System.

You can achieve FMS certification by completing a live FMS Level 1 workshop or the home study course and scoring an 80 percent or higher on the online examination.