In life, where skills are so compartmentalized and application is key, if you spend too much time correcting a weakness it probably does more harm than good. Fitness, and health in general, is interesting in that we can seek to correct our weaknesses and actually see relatively immediate benefit. Increase vegetable intake? Solid chance you’ll get healthier and feel better. Correct muscle imbalances? You’ll be able to go harder, faster, and longer with less chance of injury. That is where “prehab” comes in.
Too long we wait for injury to address the problems we may be facing and then rehabilitate the injured body part back to full functioning capacity. Prehab takes a proactive approach, instead not waiting until one is hurt but seeking to correct movement imbalances, compensations, and weakness before one is actually injured. We have the habit of performing the same moves over and over—not just in our given workout routine but also life which leads to compensatory patterns and muscle imbalances. Feet rotate out when you squat? Calf muscles are probably tight. Get a curve in your back when you reach overhead? Lats are tight. Lean forward when trying to sit? Good chance you have underactive gluteal (butt) muscles. Now, you may still be able to get your activities done because the body is wonderfully adaptive and will take path of least resistance for a given movement. However, that does not mean you are moving correctly or efficiently. Why not fix this to feel better during your given workout and daily life?
A prehab routine will then typically focus on strength, coordination, stabilization, and range of motion. While much of prehab is sports specific, many of us could benefit from the same problems seen in runners—tight hips and quadriceps dominance while having underactive gluteal muscles and hamstrings. A quick prehab routine would look something like:
We want to work the soft-tissue of the lower body region with a focus on the hips, quads, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles
Focus more on the overactive (hips and quadriceps) and not the underactive (gluteal muscles and hamstrings) areas of the body.
We would then proceed into exercises that would activate and strengthen underactive, weak, or inhibited muscles.
Now, these often won’t have you sweating profusely but will be deceptively difficult because your body is not used to working these muscles. Prehab can often be done as a specialized warm-up or a more thorough as a workout on recovery days. Don’t succumb to the belief that in order for a workout to be beneficial, it has to kill you every time. Fix the body before it gets hurt so you can go harder when you need it the most!