8 Prehab Exercises That Belong in Every Training Program
Here’s What You Need To Know…
1. If you want to stay healthy and performing at your highest level for the long run, corrective exercises need to be prioritized in your training.
2. The RKC Plank and Side-Plank variations really turn up the challenge and intensity when compared to the traditional plank. That is why these movements translate into better pain-free performance.
3. Don’t forget about the quadruped and supine positions! Correctives targeting the core and hips using these fundamental positions can really target the deep musculature responsible for keeping you healthy.
4. Banded resistance and assistance added to a number of traditional corrective exercises can be used as effective progressions that are capable of cleaning up your squatting patterns and linking up your core to the rest of the body. Earn the right to band up!
It’s All About The Form
I despise the use of improper form with a passion. There may be nothing that lights me up more than when people perform specific movements and exercises with form that resembles a flailing fish rather than a pristinely executed prehab exercise that should yield a targeted benefit instantaneously. Hell, they don’t call them “corrective exercises” to do incorrectly!
Some say I’m the posture police. Others can feel my presence walk up behind them and perk up their posture and form without me having to open my trap. My clients know that it is an absolute priority to keep their form on “A” game when I’m nearby, because they know I’m not shy when it comes to coaching and critiquing corrective movements.
As a coach aspiring for the best from my athletes and clients, breaking out the microscope and focusing on achieving as close to movement perfection as we can get needs to be the standard. We as health and fitness professionals need to aspire to teach and correct movement with the highest attention and finest details possible. Correct movement is that important.
The first rule of training and rehab is don’t kill your client. The close second is don’t hurt your client, so the necessity to keep both current and future injury rates as low as possible is of the utmost importance. Yet, in order to do so, we need to focus more time on the types of movements that aren’t as sexy and exciting. That’s the hard truth, but if you want to stay healthy and performing at the highest level possible for the long run, better listen up!
Ah, yes, corrective exercises and movement. The kind of “exercise” that no one wants to do, some don’t do, but everyone will most likely benefit from the most at some point in their training careers. Think of correctives like flossing your teeth. Seriously, do you prioritize flossing your teeth twice a day like the dentist recommends, or do you wait until you have some nasty vegetation holding back your ability to get a date until you take action and break out the floss? (Crickets). I didn’t think so.
The Importance of Prehab Exercises
Time to get off the high horse! Look, I’m like you too; I enjoy nothing more than crushing iron and myself in the process on a frequent basis. I wake up each morning at 5:00am excited like a kid on Christmas morning just to get ready to hit the gym to train. That passion is what drives me.
The important point here is that in order to remain healthy and out of the pain cave, it’s an absolute requisite for you to bulletproof your body with some prehab exercises in order to decrease the likelihood of injury. It’s near impossible to stay injury-free forever, but using an effective and efficient program that targets your weakest points will minimize the likelihood of injury, and even limit the severity of injuries if and when they do occur.
Everyone will get their usual aches and pains along the way to training hard and training passionately, but the real goal is to avoid the big hurdles that keep us on the shelf and out of the gym for prolonged periods of time. Ultimately, the break in routine and the inability to train uninhibited will get in the way of our ability to make progress towards our goals on a consistent basis.
Protect Yourself – Implement These 8 Prehab Exercises
Time to take a look at prehab exercises from a new light, and dose yourself with just enough of this aspect of fitness to protect your ass for the long run. Sure, I realize its not the most fun, the most exhilarating form of fitness, but guess what? Neither is sitting on your couch with a herniated disc watching reruns of late night SportsCenter with crumbs covering your newly acquired beer belly. Get my drift?
Here are my top corrective movements for the hips and core that will lead you down a path to pain-free training, and allow you to feel and perform better than ever before! Don’t have time, you say? These movements can be completed within a few minutes a day, so no excuses, get it done!
#1 RKC PLANK
The RKC Plank is one of Dr. John Rusin’s favorites, and it’s obvious why! I believe this version of the plank for many reasons that I allude to in the video. Most importantly though, it feels more challenging. To me, challenging myself during training is mentally healthy. It’s very important to keep this edge for yourself.
- Simultaneously drive your toes up toward your elbows, and drive your elbows down toward your toes
- Engage your core muscles
- Squeeze your glutes
- Use a cue such as a disc pillow in between your thighs and “crush” it
- I’m a fan of short duration holds with a hefty dosage of sets
- Perform 3 sets like this: 10 second hold, 5 second rest, 10 second hold
#2 SIDE-PLANK WITH DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING
Breathing. Sounds easy, but it’s really not when done properly throughout a variation of body positions. Trust me, give this one a shot and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. Possessing the ability to breath properly has tremendous value and carryover into training.
- Stack your feet on top of each other
- Place your left elbow underneath your left shoulder, and drive that elbow toward your feet to keep the lat muscle engaged
- Keep a nice straight line from head to heels
- Engage your core and hip muscles
- Use the deep-belly breathing model (explained in video)
- Focus on number of breaths, as opposed to duration of time
- Perform 3 sets x 5 breaths/side
#3 RNT BIRD-DOG WITH MINI-BAND
This is a nice little version of the bird-dog, because it really forces you to ensure a proper pattern with the right amount of core activation. It’s tougher than it looks, so don’t get all sloppy on me! Remember the reason why we are doing correctives in the first place?
- Wrap band around left foot and right hand
- Engage your core muscles
- Maintain a flat, neutral spine (don’t drop the glass of water balancing on your lower back!)
- Extend left foot and right hand out
- Pause, return to starting position
- I really like to take this one with a slow and controlled approach
- Perform 3 sets x 8 reps/side
#4 DEAD-BUG WITH BAND OVERHEAD
A regular ol’ dead-bug is definitely a great bang-for-your-buck prehab exercises for multiple reasons. However, I’ve found this version to really engage the core a bit more, while also forcing you to slow down with the pattern of the movement. Give it a try, and earn your right to advance to this variation!
- Lay with your back flat on the ground, and make sure to press your lower back into the ground (no arching)
- Hands overhead shoulder-width apart holding onto a band with enough tension on it to keep the core muscles engaged
- Knees over hips with toes facing straight up toward your face
- Slowly lower one leg down toward the ground, pause, and return back to the start
- Nothing fancy here, just keep it simple with low reps to focus on the pattern
- Perform 3 sets x 5 reps/side
#5 MINI-BAND LATERAL WALKS
I have physically witnessed this exercise being butchered in nearly every performance center and clinical setting I’ve ever stepped foot in. I make a valiant effort to correct form here more than any other prehab exercises known to man. Do them right and they will work wonders in your lower body training. Do them wrong and… I’ll be at your front doorstep.
- Wrap the mini-band around your legs slightly above your knees
- Get into a mini-squat
- Keep tension in the hips by keeping the band pressed out (think: break the band)
- Move in a controlled fashion side-to-side, avoiding any up-and-down motion
- One of those exercises where a lot of reps won’t hurt you, it’ll only provide to be more helpful in the long run
- Perform 3 sets x 15/side
#6 MINI-BAND SQUAT
We all want to squat correctly. We all have different anatomy. We all need to explore this anatomy in a safe and controlled setting to find which range, pattern and depth work best for us. I firmly believe having the band wrapped around your knees as a trusted sidekick for immediate feedback during the squat is a must-have drill in any good training program.
- Wrap the mini-band around your legs slightly above your knees
- Keep weight evenly distributed in the feet, ensuring proper hinging at the ankles, knees and hips
- Drive your hips down and back toward the floor, while keeping your chest up with a flat back
- Most importantly, “break the band” by driving your knees out, in essence creating more space for your pelvis to move through on its way down
- Grooving the pattern, especially in such a highly-used global exercise like the squat, is paramount to your success in the weight room
- Perform 3 sets x 10 reps
#7 SINGLE-LEG BENCH SQUAT
Branching from the previous drill, having an appreciation and understanding of how your knees move in a single leg stance holds a ton of value. It also provides you with the opportunity to spend more time grooving that pattern and testing your eccentric control during the lowering portion.
Key Points (Up 2, Down 1):
- Sit down with feet hip-width apart
- Place weight evenly throughout the feet
- Drive up with 2 feet
- Remove one foot off the ground, and come down with 1 foot
- Make sure to keep the working knee straight over that foot to ensure proper alignment
- We really want to avoid any valgus collapse here
- Once you’ve mastered up with 2, down with 1, it’s time to perform it all on one foot
- Spend time focusing on the eccentric lower portion
- Perform 3 sets x 8/side
#8 SINGLE LEG BAND LOWERS
Tight hamstrings? Some will say this is a myth, while others will argue your lumbopelvic rhythm is out of whack. Lumbopelvic rhythm, you say? Basically it comes down to this, as your spine bends forward, your hips and pelvis need to shift backwards to create pristine movement. The opposite can be said for extension of the spine, the hips and pelvis need to shift forward in an anteriorly tilted position. Can be as simple as that for our current needs in this movement!
Not many people truly appreciate the biomechanics involved when dissociating movement in each hip, nor should you really need to. It’s imperative to achieve proper hip stabilization in one hip, while the other hips aims to tackle increased mobility. This symphony of movement is key, and ultimately is what we are after. Slow and controlled is the name of the game with smooth patterning.
- Loop the band around the right foot
- Pull your right leg up with the band, while only gently stretching as far as it will allow
- Use a 4 or 5 out of 10 pressure gauge on the band here (don’t overdo it)
- Primary goal is to hone in on the movement of the left leg
- Keep it slow and controlled, while adding more stretch (lightly, if it allows) on the right leg after each rep
- A real game-changer, especially on posterior chain work training days
- Perform 3 sets x 8/side
About The Author
Matthew Ibrahim is a Strength & Conditioning Coach with a strong passion in athletic development, sport performance, and context-rich assessment protocols to enhance performance output and build a foundation of resilience. He is also a Licensed Massage Therapist with the ability to provide soft tissue treatment for athletes and clients. His professional work has been featured in Men’s Fitness, STACK Media, and The Personal Trainer Development Center. You can follow his work on www.matthew-ibrahim.com and on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter
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Would you suggest doing this routine on a lifting day as a “warm up” or on a rest day? Thanks for your time!
OMG you have no idea how much I love that you give the same cues I do….especially balancing a drink! haha! Not enough people are taking the time to do these types of exercises because they aren’t sweating and it can be very frustrating to get people to understand the importance of them. Thank you for sharing and for being another form nazi in a world that doesn’t always appreciate it. Totally following you on IG now. Thanks again.
Sir, these 8 prehab Exercises are great.But doing these exercises, this becomes my complete workout.Please clarify whether these exercises are followed by proper workout(say,chest, back,legs,glutes etc.)