Over the past few years, corrective and functional training have been buzzwords in the fitness world. Unfortunately, many trainers and gym instructors mimic the high-intensity and high-impact movement patterns of elite athletes and pass them off as functional or corrective training. In many cases, exercise therapists or physiotherapists subject their clients or patients to completely irrelevant and non-specific movements in an effort to correct dysfunctions or aberrant patterns.
It’s important to understand the difference between corrective and functional training, and who needs which. A corrective exercise is an exercise or movement taught to improve a specific dysfunction which, if left uncorrected, can cause musculoskeletal injury.
Medicine balls, ropes, rebounders, clubs, bells, cables and props all help the human form to move in free three-dimensional planes. That is the first requirement of corrective movement.
A functional exercise, on the other hand, is one that has carry-over benefit outside the gym space. For instance, doing lunges will help a 60-year-old better negotiate a flight of steps with a laptop bag on the back. Functional training helps improve stability and proprioception (perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself).
Corrective exercise vs working out
It’s human nature to prioritize immediate needs over long-term goals and corrective exercises often are not top priority when compared to losing weight or sculpting the body. People often believe they need fitness-based exercises (performance-improving exercises which increase the heart rate, adrenalin and give a “high”) far more than corrective exercises. However, people should understand that if they are able to alleviate their aches and pains and remove aberrations, they are better equipped to achieve their primary goals.
Almost everyone needs help with poor glute activation, restricted T-spine mobility, limited ankle dorsiflexion, short and tight hip flexors and poor anterior core engagement. In fact, 80% of the orthopaedic problems that end up with surgical intervention have their root cause in these deficits. This is the price we pay for our lifestyles and not doing as much physical activity as we are supposed to.
Muscular imbalances, postural issues and aberrant movement patterns often lead to pain and discomfort. It is a huge error to put a dysfunctional or imbalanced body under load (when a body is under stress because of, say, weights) because this will only drive issues deep into the system.
A good way to introduce corrective patterns is during warm-ups or finishing cool-downs, and allowing them to percolate into the main segment.
If trainers would take the time to teach the movements properly instead of just loading their clients up with more and more weights or distracting them with fancy gadgets, we would see better results. Sometimes, the trainer’s idea (and sometimes even the student’s) of a good workout is to feel completely “dead” after it. It’s not a bad thing sometimes to push hard, but if every other workout leaves you exhausted, there is something definitely wrong in its execution.“No pain, no gain” should not be the guiding principle.
So if exercise trainees on their part also take the time to learn the movements and understand the nuances instead of trying to progress too quickly, they would benefit greatly.Ranadeep Moitra is a certified coach from the National Strength and Conditioning Association of America and has worked with the Indian cricket team, the Bengal cricket team and the East Bengal Football Club. He currently coaches the Indian golf team.
Some corrective patterns
Squat to stand with reach
The squat is the most primal of all movements. Rotating through the spine and hips in this position is therapeutic for joints. Standing up tutors the hamstring to lengthen and grooves the correct pattern in a real-life get-up situation.
Downward-facing dog to knee flex
A great way to stretch and release myofascia in the posterior chain. This exercise addresses each muscle right from the calf to the neck and is a great posture-correction method.
Quadruped extension and rotation
Assume a quadruped stance (all fours) on the floor. Place one palm at the back of your head and extend your other hand as if pushing away from the floor. Now sit deep on your haunches by bringing your butt close to your heels. Extend your upper back and rotate from the sternum.
This movement extends all the vertebrae in the thoracic spine and encourages mobility in that area. Most people struggle with extension and rotation through their thoracic spine. After five-eight repetitions on one side, change hands and sides.
Ranadeep Moitra is a certified coach from the National Strength and Conditioning Association of America and has worked with the Indian cricket team, the Bengal cricket team and the East Bengal Football Club. He currently coaches the Indian golf team.