Prehab may seem like something that’s only important for athletes who make a living off of their physical talents and abilities, but if you want to prevent injuries (and the subsequent rehabilitation) and move more efficiently so you feel your best, you should prehab too.
While the exact protocols may take different forms from one individual to the next, the ultimate goal of prehab remains the same: to improve the body’s overall function. At the center of prehab is a focus on enhancing core function, which will help to mitigate muscle imbalances and poor posture. Muscle imbalances can alter normal functions in the body, changing both the way joints are loaded and the mechanics of our movements. This can trigger a domino effect of compensations throughout the entire body since the body is one kinetic chain.
And this doesn’t only happen to the pros. “Sixty-five percent of injuries are caused by these imbalances and overuse, which are more apt to come from spending long hours sitting at a desk than from playing on a field,” says Shana Martin, a master trainer for ACE and TRX.
How to Prehab
The best prehab focuses on stability and mobility training for the entire body, with additional attention to injury-prone areas such as the shoulders, Martin says. Ten to 20 minutes of myofascial release (using a foam roller or massage stick) followed by a dynamic warm-up incorporating corrective exercises and an assortment of mobility-focused movements for the feet, ankles, hips, thoracic spine, chest, and shoulders can be quite beneficial, says Todd Durkin, C.S.C.S., owner of Fitness Quest 10 and author of The Impact Body Plan.
Once joint and postural integrity is gained or restored, you can shift to movement-based training centered around the five primary movement patterns: bend and lift movements (such as squats), single-leg movements (lunges), pushing movements (pushups), pulling movements (rows), and rotational movements (woodchops). These movements not only apply in the gym, they also translate to the things we do in everyday life, from climbing up the stairs at work to carrying a heavy bag of groceries to the car. Developing efficient movement patterns will ultimately decrease the likelihood of pain and injury.
For those with an existing injury that requires surgery, doing prehab under the guidance of a fitness professional can help you enter the procedure in the best possible shape so recovery goes more smoothly. “Often individuals will have conditions associated with orthopedic and/or cardiorespiratory issues that aren’t the direct reasons for the surgical intervention,” says Anthony Carey, C.S.C.S., founder of Function First in San Diego and inventor of the Core-Tex. “Addressing these conditions prior to a procedure minimizes the detrimental effects on the rehabilitation process while also enabling the supporting structures adjacent to the involved area to be functionally maximized to aid in daily activities during rehab.”
RELATED: 10 Ways to Use a Foam Roller
So regardless of your training goals, current fitness level, activities, and preexisting conditions, prehab should be a part of your routine to help you maximize your workouts and remain injury-free while enabling you to live your happiest, healthiest, fittest life.