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Corrective Exercise - How to Train For Skeletal Alignment

Updated: Jan 12

Old school 5 lb dumbbells I bought as a kid.
Old school 5 lb dumbbells I bought as a kid.

When I first started lifting weights I was 11 years old. I saved $50 and with the help of my Dad (my first and best fitness coach) I bought a set of simple dumbbells, a barbell, and some plastic covered concrete weights at JC Penny in our shopping mall.

My motives were simple; I needed to be able to defend myself on the school bus and I was becoming interested in girls. Over the years my motives have shifted to also include boosting my testosterone, helping me to manage weight gain, and keeping my body in fighting shape for chores, heavy gardening, and unknown challenges (lingering bullies from the school bus). As I get older and begin to see first hand the fragility of my body my top motive for resistance training has come to be aligning my skeleton to protect and maintain joint mobility.

Our bodies are amazingly adapted for a number of challenging physical feats. We can run and walk dozens of miles, fight off predators and foes, heal ourselves, go many days without food, endure varying temperature swings . . . this list is long. Ironically our bodies are not well adapted to many aspects of modern living - sitting for long periods of time, uninhibited access to disgustingly delicious heaps of sugars, fats, and salt, stress that we cannot run from our fight off, on-screen entertainment that compels us to reduce life-giving sleep - basically all of those things that we love to do but are slowly wrecking us. As a side note - give yourself a break (and a loving hug) for doing all of these things. We do them because our brains are wired to conserve energy, consume resources, scan the environment for threats, and connect emotionally while empathizing with others (even if they are fictitious characters in a Netflix series).

Let's examine the damage that excessive sitting can have. Based on a 2016 study of over 51,000 participants the average adult sits for 6.4 hours per day and the average adolescent sits for 8.2 hours per day. In that sitting position your glutes and abdominal muscles get weaker and your hip flexors and low back muscles (erector spinae) become shortened (tighter). These muscles are attached to your pelvic girdle. Weak glutes and core plus overly tight hip flexors and erector spinae equals a pelvic girdle that is anteriorly tilted. Low back pain is often associated with anterior pelvic tilting.

Braces with rubber bands to align teeth.
Braces with rubber bands to align teeth are like how we can train muscles and connective tissue to align our joints.

The concept of corrective exercise is creating the proper balance in your body at each joint through strengthening, stretching, and myofascial release. For the example of anterior pelvic tilting, a corrective exercise program would focus on myofascial release plus stretching of the muscles that have shortened excessively (hip flexors and erector spinae) and strengthening the muscles that have lengthened excessively (glutes and abdominals). I liken this to how we use braces to align teeth. Our teeth in this metaphor are the bones at each joint. The braces and rubber bands are the muscles and connective tissue that pull on those bones. For proper alignment we must strengthen and stretch in a way that creates balance.

In future 2 min health tips I will go through all the main joints in our bodies and give a brief overview of what a corrective exercise approach at each joint would look like. We'll also examine the pillars of health and how to reduce overall inflammation.

This is where I make my pitch to help you. I started Flow Dojo fitness and training because I love empowering people to feel healthy and happy. Let's work together to achieve your wellness goals. I'm a certified behavior change specialist as well as a personal trainer and instructor of martial arts, pilates, yoga, and meditation. Let me help you find your Flow.

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