Why Should You Care About Corrective Exercise?

By Harold Gibbons, Trainer & Certified Fitness Nerd

Who the F*ck Cares About Corrective Exercise?

At MFF we’re obsessed with finding opportunities to get better. We care about creating the best training environment possible. Your goal is to look and feel your best, and that’s exactly what we want you to do. Ninjas achieve rapid physique, personal, and lifestyle transformations. One of our best tools for achieving these transformations is called corrective exercise.

The most effective definition of corrective exercise that I’ve seen yet comes from our friend Mike Robertson:

“Corrective exercise is an approach where an assessment is used to determine specific weaknesses and/or limitations of the athlete. This assessment drives the programming process, where a systematic and progressive approach is used to reduce the likelihood of injury and improve performance.”

We use a shit-ton of corrective exercises at MFF, and if you’re completely unaware, I think that we’re doing our jobs right. Here’s why:

All exercise is inherently corrective, and there is massive power in performing simple movements with precision and strength. The term “corrective exercise” doesn’t always have the best connotation either.

I need corrective exercise?  I must be broken. They f*cking hate me.

When I sat down with Mark Fisher, he said, “First of all, not sure I love the term corrective exercise. I’m usually not one to parse over semantics, but the root assumption is that something needs to be ‘corrected.’ While you could argue that, I think a more useful frame is that something is being ‘improved.”

Ah, great: Improvement exercise!  Totally better. Wait, if that’s the case, then why do we put so much emphasis into corrective exercise?

“At its heart, corrective exercise is merely finding the best rung on the ladder to help a trainee get a movement pattern closer to ideal,” Mark continued. While we sure can provide cues during an exercise, taking the time to address specific limiting factors in a pattern best allows us to improve this pattern.

According to MFF trainer Matt Wilson, we address these limiting factors with “[exercises] that don’t necessarily feel like lifting heavy shit, but that are potentially really useful.” At MFF, corrective exercise isn’t about fixing what’s perceived to be broken, or policing perfection. It may be about improving exercise, but it’s definitely an exercise in improvement. If we can focus on what is cockblocking our progress, we find opportunities to get a f*ck ton better. (TWEET THAT SHIT!)

When does it all begin? 

Figuring out the right corrective exercise for the right person begins with the Functional Movement Screen (FMS). The FMS is used to establish a movement baseline, and is an integral part of planning your fitness journey. Completing an FMS is like taking your car for inspection before a road trip. You don’t really have to do it. You can pop into the car and turn on your GPS and just drive, but even the best route won’t get you there if your car can only turn to the left. Using the FMS, we can plan the most appropriate route for your starting point. What does that route going to look like? That’s up to you.

Some of us want to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. Others want the most scenic route possible. Still others want a greater sense of adventure, happiness, or badassery. There’s no right way to do your journey; you’re calling the shots. That said, we can all agree that breaking down on the side of the road or getting stuck in traffic isn’t the sexiest thing ever, even when we’re in the Bang Bus.

The FMS is only the beginning. As our fitness journey continues, we must regularly reflect on what movements look and feel the best, and when necessary, what we can do to improve them.

In pretentious fitness land, there’s a big emphasis on assessment, weakness, limitations. These are certainly things to look for, but our view is one of empowerment:  What can we focus on improving? What more can we discover about ourselves?  Above all else,corrective exercise should be a process that allows us to best reach our goals. (TWEET THAT SHIT!)

What if that goal is losing 100lbs?  What if that goal includes better balancing the onslaught of stress in the concrete jungle?  What if that goal is being a better boss to ourselves?  These goals combine of health and hotness, and achieving them is dependent on feeling better.

So what happens if corrective exercise makes us feel worse?

Our daily mission to find glory can be stressful, and that stress can have a big impact on our fitness goals. We trick ourselves into thinking it’s all under control, but under the surface, our bodies are dealing with chronic stress. That stress can f*ck things up big time.

There’s a cruel irony to using stress-reducing exercises for the stressed. It doesn’t always work. Fighting perfectionist tendencies, we entertain our own personal suckfest when something isn’t donejust right. MFF Trainer Katie Kaufman notes that many fitness professionals may take it too far. “If we cock block them by not letting them actually lift, causing them to feel broken, is it really ‘corrective?’ Assuming that the goal is to look and FEEL better about themselves, I would say the answer to that question is no.”

Corrective exercise is an ongoing process of assessment and programming that is all about you. We are better served by making corrective exercise, or “improvement exercise” an empowering aspect of your training, by beginning from where you are at any given moment. It isn’t about perfection, but about finding opportunities to move better so that we can see the best health and hotness results possible. Most importantly, it’s about having the best tools possible so that we can lift better, live better, and get better.

How about you? What’s your experience with corrective exercise? Drop a comment below and let’s talk about it!

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