by Mitch Hauschildt, MA, ATC, CSCS
Corrective Exercise is a bit of an overused buzzword at times in our field these days, but the idea of using specific and directed exercises to improve larger, more useful patterns is something that I do a lot and is essential to helping people perform better and stay injury free in a society that is constantly fighting against movement and healthy habits.
When I teach corrective strategies, I always want to be authentic, practical and realistic with regards to expectations for both patients and clinicians. I truly believe that anything worth doing is worth doing to the best of our abilities and we need to work hard to be perfect whenever possible. But, what happens when you or your client can’t always be perfect?
Let’s look at an example here:
I have a client who has several issues that are related to their inability to squat efficiently. Improving their squat is a priority for me within their overall program. One of my most effective strategies for correcting a squat pattern is multisegmental rolling because it is very effective at upregulating core and trunk stability, so it will definitely be a large part of my program.
As I introduce rolling, the client struggles to perform the pattern, which is pretty normal. Even though most of us rolled very well as infants, it is a pretty foreign concept for most of us as an adult. My goal is to see a perfect roll as an intervention strategy for a perfect squat. But, is that realistic? Is it even necessary to perfect their rolling patterns?
My answer to that questions is…ideally, yes, we work on rolling until it is perfect, but the reality is that we need to keep our eyes on the overall goal. In this case, the goal is to improve their squat and whatever else they have going on.
I will always be an advocate for performing and perfecting movement patterns in general. But, I think we also need to have some level of practicality to our programs. Meaning, if I spend days and weeks perfecting their rolling patterns, I might have improved their rolling patterns, but that might not be the most important thing in their overall program. In my efforts to make them roll well, I may be missing out on other areas that need to be addressed as well.
In their quest for absolute perfection, some people forget about the larger picture.
My stance on the original question of whether or not corrective exercise has to always be perfect is largely shaped by my current role in the college sports setting. When I was in the outpatient clinical setting, it was easy for me to say, “you shouldn’t run (or do some other activity) until we fix this, this and this…” But, when you work in the college setting, you aren’t afforded that opportunity. My athletes have to workout and compete. It is my job to make sure that they can do that and do it effectively. Mandating things as absolutes doesn’t work well.
Referring back to our example from above, my job in that situation is to make sure that their squat improves and their pain gets better. The last time I checked, there isn’t a competition for multisegmental rolling. So, as much as I love rolling, it isn’t the most important thing. It is a tool that I use within the larger picture.
My realistic approach to correctives as of right now (I always reserve the right to change my mind at any point) is that I want to strive for perfection with everything that I do, but my main goal is to improve their squat (in our example). If taking their rolling from a really crappy roll to a mediocre roll is what is needed to improve their squat, then I’m good with a mediocre roll in that moment. I constantly look back to the larger picture.
My point is, don’t get paralyzed by perfection. Strive for high quality, but keep your eyes on the big prize and be realistic about your goals and what your client or patient can realistically achieve.