The Workout: Prehab Your Body

By Andrew Heffernan |

A chronically sore lower back. A tweaked ankle. A frozen shoulder. If you carry battle scars associated with your active lifestyle, you’re likely aware of the cruel irony of working out: Exercise can be hazardous to your health.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Kate Galliett, NASM-PES, creator of The Unbreakable Body, an injury-prevention program designed to shore up your body’s natural weak points.

Most exercise-related injuries are preventable, she says. By training your body to be durable and resilient, you protect it not only from the rigors of long runs and heavy deadlifts, but also from everyday mishaps.

“You crawl under a desk to fetch a dropped pen at the office, or go up for a lob on the tennis court. That’s when you’re vulnerable to a tweak — or worse. Sometimes you move weird. You need to be ready for it,” Galliett says.

Injury-prevention exercises known as prehabilitation (versus the post-traumatic movement protocol known as rehabilitation) expose your body and brain to novel positions.

By breaking out of habitual movements, your body learns what to do when life or sport throws something new your way. In fact, a 2005 study found that prehab drills could reduce ACL injuries among female soccer players by as much as 88 percent.

Prehab also irons out muscular imbalances, resulting in better posture, improved performance, and more efficient, pain-free movement throughout your day, Galliett says.

“It’s great to feel the burn and work up a sweat,” she says. “But prehabilitation training has a longer-term focus: It may pay off 10 or 20 years down the road, when everyone else is getting stiff and injured, and you’re still going strong.”

Six Pillars of Strength

Stabilizing and strengthening the body starts from the ground up. Workout designer Kate Galliett has identified six key areas of focus that, in most people, lead to healthier movement and better durability.

If one of these areas is weak, it can affect the others, Galliett says. But if all six areas are working well, chances are the rest of your body will, too.

“Each area communicates its level of mobility, control, and strength to the others,” she says. “Unstable feet lead to unstable shoulders. Poor glute strength weakens the core. It’s all related.”

The workout on the following pages develops these Six Pillars of Strength.

You can use any or all of these six moves in several ways:

  1. At any time throughout your day. (Choose one or two moves that you find challenging and do them for 30 seconds up to 10 times a day — during breaks from work, while waiting in a line, or while watching TV.)

The Prehab Workout

Leg Drop Hands Into Wall

Pillars Worked: Shoulder-blade strength and Torso strength

Reps: 8 to 15

Alternate with: Pull-ups

  1. Press your lower back into the floor.
  1. To make the movement easier, bend your knees less than 90 degrees so you can touch your heels to the floor closer to your body.

Banded Glute Bridge

Pillars Worked: Glute strength and Hip strength

Reps: 8 to 15

Alternate with: Barbell back squats

  1. Brace your abs, press your lower back into the floor, and widen your feet until you feeltension on the band.
  1. Lower your hips back to the floor, and repeat.

Reverse Table

Pillars Worked: Shoulder-blade strength, Torso strength, Glute strength, Hip strength

Reps: 8 to 15

Alternate with: Overhead press

  1. Squeeze your glutes and flatten your lower back.
  1. Reverse the movement, pause, and repeat.

Hip Hike

Pillars Worked: Torso strength, Hip strength, and Foot strength

Reps: 8 to 15 per side

Alternate with: Deadlifts or pushups

  1. Place your hands on the tops of your hip bones and press your left foot into the box, until the angle of your hips is level with the floor.
  1. Reverse the movement, pressing through your left leg to lift the right hip as high as comfortably possible.

Four-Point Squat

Pillars Worked: Shoulder-blade strength, Postural strength, and Torso strength

Reps: 5 to 10

Alternate with: Any core exercise (e.g., plank)

  1. Raise arms overhead.
  1. Keeping your torso erect, arms raised, and gaze forward, press through your heels and stand up.

Elbow Plank With Reach-Through

Pillars Worked: Shoulder-blade strength, Postural strength, Torso strength, Glute strength and Hip strength

Reps: 8 to 15

Alternate with: Lateral lunge

  1. Assume a plank position with forearms on the floor, elbows under your shoulders, and your lats, abs, and glutes engaged. Your body will form a straight line from head to heels.
  1. Alternate sides to repeat

Postural strength, Shoulder-blade stability15 to 25.Bent-over rows, TRX rows, or cable rows.Foot strength, Torso strengthUp to 40 in each position.Any upper-body exercise (pushups

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