Why are you using rehab exercises in your training?

I often find when clients develop nonspecific aches and pains they start, almost randomly, introducing low load rehab work into their program in an attempt to solve the problem.  This is usually done after a quick google search which makes various reasonable suggestions as to what might be wrong and the exercises to do to help the problem. This though really doesn’t tackle the problem well, if at all, given it misses out looking at why the aches and pains developed to begin with.

Given that we’re not talking about acute injuries so we’re not rehabbing for a tear or strain of any kind, the first step really should be to look at what it is you’re doing. As I’ve spoken about before training load is where things are likely to go wrong first. Too big an increase in either volume or intensity too quickly will result in you not being able to adapt to the new stress. Sometimes it can seem like the increase hasn’t been too severe but factors outside of any training workload may be what is causing the failure to adapt to the increased workload be they work related stress, less than ideal sleeping habits or poor nutrition. All of these can result in you developing aches simply from not quite recovering well enough.


Let us say though that you have got your sleep and nutrition dialled in and your level of general stress is low and any increases in workload haven’t been overly high then at this point we might want to look at technique.  It is at this point when you are sleeping well, eating well etc and pushing hard that getting your technique correct is important. It is well worth getting paying a coach to have a look at the movements you think may be causing you a problem. When a coach assesses the movement they may see something specific in your technique that once cleared up everything is fine again be it you’re running technique, your golf swing, your squat or whatever it is you do.


Now you’ve checked your training volume and technique but there still seems to be an issue. Now is the time to see another professional who can assess whether there has been some soft tissue damage or if perhaps it’s more of a sensitivity issue as I described in THIS post. Either way you can then get this aspect of the problem cleared up and if there is a requirement for any rehab work the appropriate exercises can be prescribed. This isn’t a long process to go through and even if it was it is probably the best way to go through it if you have not injured yourself. If there is a definite injury then the process can be switched around and it is definitely worth seeing someone who understands the importance of training load in the picture.


Now we come back to the use of low/lower load exercise in your program. A good rehab specialist will also be able to make suggestions as to how and what to include in your program. There is a place for face pulls, YTW’s, hip dissociation drills and other similar exercises as they can be a fantastic for adding to your warm up. It is important to remember that the likes of the bench press when performed well isn’t bad for the shoulder and actually works the external rotators well, with rowing movements doing similar for the medial rotators. For runners it can be as simple as making sure that you do some simple strength work a couple of times a week, this will do more for you than unweighted glute bridges and pilates ever will.
To sum things up, before you go adding things to your program you must be able to justify their inclusion and not do it simple because someone at the gym, running club etc said that you should.

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