WTF is a prehab exercise?


Whether you are a learned fitness professional or someone who simply dabbles in fitness, your feed has probably been inundated with posts that read “THE 3 BEST PREHAB EXERCISES FOR XYZ PAIN.” But what constitutes a “prehab” exercise? Are they just a regular exercise dressed in sheep’s clothing? And are they really something you need in your life, as all of the social media physio heroes suggest?

The label “prehab” was likely a clever reiteration of the term “preventative rehabilitation.” It is often used to describe certain exercises that are performed with the intention of preventing musculoskeletal injury. 

For example, in order to “prevent” low back pain or injury, exercises like dead bugs, bird dogs, and Palloff presses are often recommended. Or, in order to “prevent” shoulder pain or injury, exercises like I/T/Ys and resisted external rotation may be recommended. Those are examples of the basics, but some of the “prehab” exercises on the ‘Gram have gotten pretty… um… creative. 

A “prehab” exercise is essentially an exercise variation  that the average person doesn’t do regularly or even at all. When instructed to incorporate this exercise and perform it with intention, the client is able to stress the involved tissues in a novel way and gradually expose them to new movement demands. With repetition over time, this can facilitate adaptive changes in the tissues that make them more resilient under load and in certain positions.

I don’t know about you, but based on the definition I just described, I think nearly every exercise that exists could qualify as a “prehab” exercise in the right context. With this in mind, wouldn’t it make sense for your best prehab approach to be a well-rounded exercise program?-- one that exposes your body to a wide variety of movements and loading schemes that are appropriate for and build upon your current training level? Prehab and training might seem like apples and oranges based on how they are both portrayed on the internet, but in the end, we’re really all talking about fruit. Just some food for thought.

As we know, we can never truly 100% prevent an injury. . We do what we can to mitigate it, but anyone claiming to erase the risk of injury by doing some prehab clamshells is just a misleading jerk.

While a lot of the prehab content out there comes from qualified professionals with good intentions, a lot of it is nothing more than click bait. Pain and injuries are complex and unique to each individual, so we should always be skeptical of claims to “cure your back pain for good” or “kick your knee   

If you want to stack your injury deck for you rather than against you, then focus on what you can control by getting on a comprehensive training program, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

Head over to Hybrid’s page to learn more about Hybrid Training and to browse our collection of training programs designed to help you pursue your own style of strength and resiliency. I’ll catch you guys on the next video!


Test Your Knowledge

1. Which of the following are interventions that can meaningfully reduce injury risk?

      1. Fatigue monitoring
      2. Training variability
      3. Movement optimization approaches


2. Age and sex are two examples of __________ factors that can affect injury risk.



    1. Modifiable
    2. Non-modifiable

3. True or false: it is nearly impossible to identify a single contributing factor when it comes to predicting injury risk.

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