Corrective Exercise Unicorns

Here’s a question I received from a GoPro member of my website. It’s a common question I get, so figured why not answer it here.

What’s the question?

How often should my clients be doing corrective exercise?

Favorite answer that everyone loves… drum roll please…it depends.’

There is no cookie cutter time frame based on a specific diagnosis. It’s critical to remember that the diagnosis is not the cause. You must determine why someone is in pain to resolve the issue efficiently. Pain only tells you there is a problem, it does not tell you what it is. If there is a one size fits all solution given I know one thing- it’s wrong!

The biggest linchpin I see with corrective programming is giving exercises that are too far beyond the individual’s neural threshold of doing them mindfully. Just because someone performs a movement doesn’t mean their nervous system is learning anything from it. If you push them into a high-threshold survival strategy they will fall back on poor habitual patterns. Not every corrective exercise solution is beneficial for a client. Is it the right one, for the right client, at the right time?

The idea behind corrective exercise is not to need corrective exercise. If you find yourself always having to do them you know know three things

  1. It ain’t the right corrective
  2. Something is permanently broken
  3. There is a habit THEY need to change

Pain is a request for change. A change in how you move and the way you live.

I hate the term corrective exercise!! It implies something is wrong or defective with the person. If you think about it, compensations, adaptations and pain are highly functional. It’s your body’s way of dealing with threat and stress. If these responses didn’t happen you would be susceptible and vulnerable to more injury. We just need to understand why they are happening and stop blaming the body. Pain is the only way your nervous system has to effectively get your attention.

Pain is an attention getter!


Sheriff Buford T. Justice

I prefer the term EFFECTIVE exercise.

Effective means it doesn’t matter what you choose to do as long as it works. You can roll chicken bones and voodoo chant for all I care. If it makes you feel better do it. If you think you feel better you feel better, if you think you feel worse you feel worse. It ain’t rocket surgery. Effective has a completely different mental picture and outcome in the overall care plan. Every patient has a story and you can understand the story when you watch them move.

It really doesn’t matter how good at programming correctives you are. It really doesn’t matter if you dish out a cranium bending, kick ass rehab program with the latest and greatest exercises. If you have distressed your patient and threatened their nervous system with fear inducing comments, poor ‘rookie’ explanations or simply not connecting with them personally, you won’t be getting long lasting results any time soon!

My short and sweet Top 3 answer to how long should you be doing corrective exercise?

  1. Stop calling it corrective exercise, it’s new name is EFFECTIVE. When it works STOP. When it doesn’t work STOP.
  2. If the patient doesn’t do it, pick another one
  3. Stop using so many. Too much variability is chaos. Fundamentals rule. Give them sufficient time before giving up. In the wise words of my friend and mentor Gray Cook…

1…2..3…Punch out!