Programming Corrective Exercises

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Written by Online Master Coach, Kim Leggett

What are corrective exercises? Corrective exercises are used in training programs to help people move and feel better whether it’s while working out or going about their daily lives. They are implemented in programs to achieve STRUCTURAL BALANCE for each body part which is an important consideration when putting together a clients program. 

What is Structural Balance?
Structural balance is strength and muscle mass that is evenly distributed from front to back, top to bottom, left to right, push to pull, and internal to external rotation. This means that the entire body is BALANCED as a whole, but also the strength and muscle mass is balanced around each individual joint and body segment.  By training in a way that balances the load, forces and muscle mass around each joint and body segment, we will dramatically improve our strength output, build a balanced and aesthetically pleasing physique, move better, and drastically reduce our risk of injury.

When should you implement corrective exercises into your client’s program?
Corrective exercises are used where relevant for identified WEAK BODY PARTS. Keeping in mind that we want to achieve BALANCE, you should plan your training so that you structure both weak point and strong point exercises into your program, in order to train current imbalances, prevent future imbalances and build the strongest physique possible.

Who benefits from structural balance training? 
Anyone! If we take a sample of Gen Pop clients, we might see some of the same or different imbalances, and they would also benefit from fixing these. The majority of typical injuries we see as coaches come about because of a muscle imbalance and to fix the injury, we need to fix the imbalance. If we have a look at the long term training outcomes from this type of injury, we see that the muscle imbalance someone had was only addressed in the short term rehabilitation stages with some corrective exercises, and then that person went back to their old way of training that caused their muscle imbalance, then it’s almost guaranteed that they’ll reinjure themselves again.

This approach to training will improve training outcomes and reduce the risk of injury and reinjury, and the really cool thing is that if you understand what structural balance is, know how to identify a lack of structural balance and feel confident that you have the tools to treat and prevent imbalances, you’ll be able to take someone of any level and background and understand ways that you can improve their training that will guarantee strength improvements, a more aesthetically pleasing physique and good movements that will keep them free from injury. You can think of this as a foolproof way to get any person one step closer to their goal.

Training for structural balance also improves PERFORMANCE!
When we lift, we will naturally gravitate towards using our strongest muscles, so if we neglect training the supporting muscle groups, our techniques can shift away from what is optimal for our biomechanics. This can lead to training and strength plateaus. By strengthening our supporting muscle groups we are able to produce greater total force to lift a load.

When it comes to hypertrophy and aesthetics being the goal – structural balance can aid in strengthening your postural muscles and prioritises good movement patterns. When we move well and hold good posture throughout the day, we look fitter and healthier, which is interpreted by the brain of people who see us every day as looking better.  When you add an extra loads with a barbell and multiple reps, sets and sessions performing a movement, it’s easy to see how muscle imbalances can lead to training injuries. Structural balance training is not specific to rehab, but this type of approach will drastically improve the long term outcomes of any injury rehabilitation, as well as prevent a lot of injuries.

When programming corrective exercises we must assess the ROM for each exercise and follow the principle of ISOLATE + INTEGRATE. 

When programming for the UPPER BODY, you should follow 3 guidelines regardless of the goal:

1. Use a PUSH-PULL RATIO 1:1 
This ratio refers to the number of sets you perform for the upper body within each training weak for both pushing and pulling movements. As long as you’re doing an equal amount of pulling to pushing movements you’re doing a pretty good job. 

If doing corrective shoulder work, you would avoid overhead passing and lateral raises if shoulders are impinged

2. Strengthen the external rotators of the shoulder

  • All forms (cable>dumbbells)
  • Face pulls (seated>standing) 
  • Superset with internal rotators (pecs/lats)

3. Strengthen the stabilisers of the scapula

  • All forms of posterior delt raises are recommended and all forms of anterior delt raises should be done with a neutral grip

When it comes to the LOWER BODY, we can think of it as hip dominant and knee-dominant movement patterns. If we use a squat as an example, this strengths both the hip joint and the knee joint. Every client will present differently depending on whether they are a hip dominant or a knee dominant lifter.

When prescribing corrective exercises the progression model used will typically be prone>kneeling>standing. And progress from low ROM to high ROM, ie. for deadlifts.

Another reason we look at corrective exercises is to achieve balance between BOTH sides of your body. In an ideal world, if we’re using really good technique and performing all of our exercises with excellent symmetry, then this shouldn’t be an issue, but we don’t live in an ideal world and certainly can become an issue for some people.

Most people are either left or right handed, and if you get someone who’s left handed to write something with their right, then they’ll probably not do a very good job at it. This is why it is good to include a lot of dumbbell variations in programs, so that bilateral exercises can be performed symmetrically and any imbalances can be prevented from occurring in the first place. Similarly, for the lower body, we use unilateral exercises in the same way.

Corrective exercises are often overlooked when putting together a program but shouldn’t be ignored as they are a key component in keeping your client strong, balanced and moving well!

Want to learn how to prescribe, coach and cue corrective exercises to balance out client health and performance, along with prehab to ensure clients maintain a sound, structurally balanced physique that is less prone to injury? Enrol into the Performance PT Coach Certification online course!


  1. CHFI.(2020). Performance PT Coach Certification Level 1. Clean Health Fitness Institute.

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