The Difference Between Functional Movement and Corrective Exercise

Let’s clear up some confusion between these two buzz words. 

Functional Movement:

Think of functional movement as being the equivalent to nutritious whole foods in your diet.  They represent training a variety of movements and not just individual muscle groups.  Typically, these movements are replicating some sort of real-world type of scenario like a pull, push, squat, lift, carry, jump, or sprint. Minimal equipment is required for this type of training as you can perform most functional movements with your body weight alone.

A major focus of functional training is also to incorporate core strength and stability in every movement. For example, doing a pushup with proper form requires core balance and integrity to keep your entire body tight and connected throughout the movement. Picking up a heavy load and carrying it over a certain distance requires you to stabilize the spine by setting the abdominal and lower back region with your breath and core muscles, and forcing them to maintain stability over the distance that you carry the object. 

Notice I didn’t use sit-ups or crunches as an example.  These exercises are not terribly functional and are actually poor choices that can produce injury at high volume.  The reason is that having a strong core does not mean only having nice abs.  In fact, there are plenty of people who have 6 pack abs and have terrible core strength.

Core muscles actually include muscles that wrap around the entire torso and pelvis that produce movement in all 3 planes of motion, not just the ones in the front that look good.

Your core is CRITICAL for producing force transfer to your limbs and for stabilizing your mid-line to prevent injury.  It is a known fact that those who have the strongest core strength, endurance, flexibility, motor control and function are the most bullet-proof from injury and the most powerful athletes on earth. 

If your goal is to look good, feel good, move well, and stay injury-free, functional movements should represent the majority of your movements in your training. 

Corrective Exercise OR Isolation Exercises:

Think of corrective exercise and isolation exercises as the minerals and vitamins that ensure sufficiency and balance in your diet.  These movements focus on training specific muscle groups and are usually done at a slower tempo.  These movements can look like bicep curls, banded leg abductions, machine leg curls, or lat pull-downs.  Basically, they are like bodybuilding isolation exercises or accessory movements.  

Equipment such as bands, dumbbells, or machines are usually required to produce resistance for isolation exercises.

The main focus for a corrective exercise would be to train a specific muscular strength deficiency, strengthen an area of the body that has had prior injury, or correct postural or mechanical imbalances. 

What I have found is that individually we are all very different physically due to genetics, past trauma history, daily habits, and lifestyle, and therefore all have different individual needs when it comes to corrective exercises.

In my office, to determine corrective needs we have developed a unique evaluation system that includes postural testing, functional movement analysis, muscle tests, chiropractic palpation, and x-ray.  Together this allows me to understand where there are specific problems and allow me to deliver the best possible recommendations for correcting those imbalances.

If you have chronic injury, postural imbalances, or your wanting to improve your performance and break through some plateaus, stop guessing what to do and get yourself scheduled for an evaluation today!

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