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Corrective Exercise: Definition, Examples, and Uses

What is Corrective Exercise?

Corrective exercise is an approach that aims to identify movement dysfunction and use activities tailored to an individual’s needs to improve mobility, relieve chronic pain or discomfort, and correct imbalances. This allows for more efficient movement, productive workouts, better athletic performance, and lower injury risk.

A Deeper Look at Corrective Exercise

Though it may seem overly complicated, corrective exercise is simply a way to help people move better and more efficiently.

In this sense, even minor tweaks in technique can fall into the ‘corrective exercise’ category if they improve how a person moves. A simple example would be a coach observing a client’s squat and providing actionable tips to perform it more effectively.

That said, corrective exercise is traditionally used for more systematic approaches, where a specialist examines how a person moves to spot mistakes, inefficiencies, and imbalances. 

Once the specialist pinpoints a problem, they develop a plan to correct it through mobility, stability, and strength-building activities, as well as drills to improve muscle activation and coordination. Specialists may also teach proper setup, bracing, and technique from scratch.

In some cases, specialists perform a biomechanical analysis using specialized tools like motion-capture software and force plates. This allows for a more thorough movement breakdown, making it easier to spot issues.

While corrective exercise is typically reserved for people with obvious movement issues, most everyday trainees and athletes can benefit from some corrections, even if they feel fine.

The Benefits of Corrective Exercise

1. Correct Postural Issues

A postural issue, such as forward head posture or rounded shoulders, can increase the risk of muscle tightness, discomfort, and an inability to assume certain positions, such as the front rack for Olympic lifting.

Corrective exercises that strengthen the upper back and shoulders and improve mobility in that area could alleviate postural issues, improve movement capacity, and reduce the risk of chronic discomfort.

2. Improve Movement Efficiency

Better movement efficiency means activities require less energy, and athletes are put in a better position to produce more force. The result is better performance, improved endurance, and potentially lower injury risk.

Corrective exercise to improve movement efficiency typically involves balance work, drills to improve muscle coordination, and re-learning motor patterns.

3. Address Muscle Imbalances

Muscle imbalances often result from repetitive movements that engage some muscles while ignoring others. 

Side-to-side imbalances (e.g., one bicep is stronger than the other) can result from the dominant side taking over too much during bilateral exercises.

Agonistantagonist imbalances (e.g., the hamstrings being weak relative to the quadriceps) can result from focusing too much on one muscle while ignoring the other. 

Correcting muscle imbalances is important for improving movement, optimizing performance, reducing injury risk, and improving balance and symmetry (particularly important for bodybuilding).

4. Improve Joint Alignment

Joint alignment issues, such as the knees caving in during squats (knee valgus), can put undue stress on joints and connective tissues, resulting in chronic aches and serious injuries. Poor performance and loss of balance are also common results of misalignment.

In such a scenario, corrective exercise would aim to understand the root cause of misalignments and focus on resolving the issue, typically by working on muscle flexibility and strength in specific body parts.

5. Improve Body Awareness

Corrective exercise is slow and methodical, forcing athletes and everyday athletes to maintain specific poses, focus on their balance, and move through a particular range of motion.

This emphasis on proper movement can improve proprioception (body awareness), helping people better understand how they move through space and develop the skill of self-correction when necessary.

So, in addition to helping athletes, corrective exercise can help them resolve potential issues more independently in the future.


1. How are corrective exercises different from regular exercises?

Whereas regular activities aim to improve specific characteristics (e.g., strength, power, or endurance), corrective exercises are prescribed to resolve movement dysfunction, allowing people to move better.

2. Can corrective exercise help with back pain?

Corrective exercise can alleviate back pain by strengthening the midsection muscles and improving posture.

3. How do you know which corrective exercises your client needs?

The best way to determine individual needs is to monitor your clients’ movement patterns and collect feedback, particularly regarding chronic aches or balance issues. This can help you put together an effective plan that suits their needs.

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