Corrective exercise is an absolute must for anybody starting an exercise programme. It took me until 2003 to discover this important fact. During my 27 years of experience, corrective exercise was never mentioned: all instructors and colleagues ever spoke about were gaining muscle, getting bigger arms and legs or becoming stronger, faster and fitter. I had picked up most of my training knowledge from friends, specialist magazines and from books like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopaedia of Body Building, a very insightful book with lots of heavy lifting exercises. But of course, Schwarzenegger was doing tons of steroids in order to gain his muscle mass. I found these kinds of books didn’t really work for me as I was training naturally, eating healthily and lifting weights hard.
Fortunately for me in 2003 I was introduced to the Paul Chek method through a colleague at the gym where I was training. Since the Chek Institute is based in California, the world center of bodybuilding, I realized the method must have something. Paul Chek was using a corrective exercise programme along with a holistic diet and lifestyle system to get his world-famous clients out of pain and back into the sport. So this is when I became enlightened to the idea that corrective exercise has to be a number one priority in anybody’s exercise programme.
While working out in all those gyms over the years I make a habit of walking around and watching: I see people exercising without any training programme or any real direction, usually sitting at the machines with headphones on and reading newspapers. When I ask them why they have no exercise programme, they reply that it’s all in their head. So then I ask: would you fix your car all in your head or would you read the manual, set out a plan and then decide to fix it or take it to a mechanic? If they answer sensibly then I ask them if they would like an exercise programme to correct their posture, help them look better, increase their energy and make them faster, fitter, stronger, and, most importantly, pain-free. This is where corrective exercise comes into the training.
In the Chek system Exercise Coach is one of four levels that we must reach before qualifying as a Master Practitioner level 4. We learn to correct the body’s alignment, switch on the core, and take the client through four distinct phases before we let them do the fun stuff. But the majority of gyms and trainers today take clients straight to speed and power, mistakenly believing they are doing their best for the client. But clients usually have faults that require correcting: faulty head- posture, inverted breathing, shoulder misalignment, anterior pelvic tilt, abdominal wall extension, or perhaps lower back, shoulder and knee pain.
And so in a corrective exercise programme, everybody should follow the following sequence: flexibility, balance & stability, speed, and power. As I have said, most people go straight into the last phases of speed and power– this is what Paul
Chek observed during his 36 years of clinical experience. Going straight into speed and power is not the thing to do, and yet this is precisely what people do when they train in the park or join large fitness organizations. It is very wrong and very harmful to the body.
For the first stage of a fitness programme, FLEXIBILITY, the client must be assessed. I carry out 140 orthopedic assessments of the body – so there is no guesswork involved. There are certain orthopedic norms that need to be maintained in order to avoid injury. For example, if you have a tight hamstring or tight quadriceps, then this may be the root of your knee pain. If you have too much anterior pelvic tilt, postural tilt, or forward head posture, this may give you lower back pain. So you see, the body has to be individually assessed to find out what needs to be tightened, loosened or left alone.
The next part of a corrective exercise programme is STABILITY. Stability is about balance. A bad sense of balance will be setting you up for a future injury. For my corrective exercise system, I use a lot of Swiss Ball work, which has been used by physios since 1953 to help people out of pain, although I tend to use it to strengthen individual muscles, stabilize the body and strengthen the core.
After the stability phase has been completed the client moves onto to the STRENGTH phase of an exercise. Here the client develops strength and learns how to carry out primal movement patterns. The primal movement patterns consist of: squats, dead-lifts, pushes, pulls and rotations.
The next phase is SPEED. This is where we begin working faster now that the client’s joints are stronger and more flexible and he has been taken out of pain. Clients seem to enjoy this phase when the tempo increases. Corrective exercise can be a bit boring for the client but once they start seeing improvements in their posture, in how they are moving, and become free from pain, this really encourages them.
The last phase is POWER. Your power requirements will depend on your particular sport or pastime. Sprinters need extreme power; boxers need endurance as well as power; a yogi does not need physical power. Therefore every programme I design is tailored to an individual’s particular needs. And so after the diet and lifestyle assessment, there is a postural assessment of 5 hours in total, I then have the equipment to write a fantastic programme for the individual. With a good corrective exercise programme, I have been successful in removing shoulder, neck, knee and lower back pain.
But be warned: these corrective programmes can take time and depend on how regular the client is working with me. The minimum I will work with a client is twice a week because there is such a lot that I must pass on. Additionally, the client should train twice a week on their own. I have been using these corrective exercise programmes for about thirteen years and have found them to be hugely
successful in getting clients stronger, faster and fitter, and useful for removing pain in the shoulders, back, and neck.
Unfortunately when it comes to physiotherapy, therapists rarely understand exercise and a physiological degree does not cover diet. In my clinical experience I have to find out where a client’s pain is coming from: could it their diet and lifestyle, a faulty or even non-existent corrective exercise programme, their posture, or even from mental and emotional issues? I must assess you: if I am not assessing, then I am only guessing – which is what 85,000 trainers are doing in gyms all over the country. In my opinion, they are not doing a sufficiently in-depth study, and of course, some may only be in it for the money.
I love my job and am passionate about getting the best for my clients. So corrective exercise is where we begin, taking you through the different phases in order to guarantee success in your sport or favored activity. And I don’t only train athletes, you know! I also train ordinary mums and dads, office workers, builders and anyone who’s keen to exercise and get their body in shape.
So remember, if you do not have a corrective exercise programme this may be why you are not getting the outcome you really want. With a suitable programme, however, good results are guaranteed to provide you pass through and complete the specific and necessary phases.