What is a corrective exercise specialist anyway?!

Some of you have probably noticed that my credentials include “NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist” and have wondered what that means. A Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES) is a trainer that has obtained a second certification and is able to help clients to prevent injuries by improving their muscle imbalances and movement efficiency. Basically, everyone has muscle imbalances, whether they know it or not.

This means that some muscles tend to be overactive or tight while opposing muscles are under active or lengthened, which causes joints to be pulled in the wrong direction while doing even the simplest movements such as walking or sitting.

Everything in the body is connected (kinetic chain) so when something is being pulled in the wrong direction, say, the arch of a foot, it has the potential to cause problems with the knee, which then leads to problems with the lumbo-pelvic hip complex (hips). This can lead to low back pain and core instability, which can then lead to further problems elsewhere!

A CES will be able to pick up on these imbalances by asking you to do some type of movement (often a squat, walking away from you and coming back, standing with your back to the wall and holding your arms out, holding a plank, etc) so that the CES can assess how your muscles move. Based on what the trainer finds, they can predict types of injuries (chronic or acute) that you currently suffer from or have the potential of getting.

The next step is to develop a plan to release the muscles that are tight and strengthen the muscles that are weak. Once an over active muscle is discovered, it is then inhibited, or released. Trainers often use a foam roller to do this. The client will position him or herself on the foam roller so that it is pressing into the fascia of the muscle and holding it on a tender spot until it releases (kind of like a sports massage, ouch!).

Afterwards the muscle will be stretched/lengthened. Next, the opposing muscles that are under active will be strengthened by exercises that challenge that individual muscle, later followed by exercises that incorporate more muscle groups working together. This will slowly start to pull the muscles and joints back in line where they should be! Keeping up with this type of program that can be designed by a CES will help alleviate many chronic pains that people typically get from their lifestyles, occupations and repetitive movements. For example, it is common for people that sit at desks or drive for long periods of time to have rounded shoulders and a forward head. In these cases, common over active muscles can be found in the chest, large back muscles, shoulders, front and back of the neck while under active muscles are located in middle of the back, deep in the neck, along the ribs, and shoulders. These people may also have tightened hip flexor muscles (on the front of the hip area) and weakened cores, which, as we’ve seen above, can lead to injuries in the lower body as well. What a mess!

I have found plenty of these imbalances in myself and they are often made worse during my running season from the high volume of repetitive motions. They manifest themselves as plantar fasciitis, runners knee, and lots of aches. During the winter, I add exercises to strengthen areas that need it and foam roll several times a week. In the summer it is not uncommon for me to foam roll more than once a day to keep my over active muscles as loosened as I can, ready for my next run!

Now that you’ve seen that it can be a complex process to figure out which muscles are tight, over active, under active, lengthened, etc., save yourself the hassle and let me assist you! If you have a nagging injury, or want to protect yourself from future injuries common to your sport, event, or occupation, contact me today so we can keep you doing what you love!

Amy 🙂


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