Prehabilitation or Prehab seems to be all the buzz at the moment so I thought I would share my approach to this proactive form of avoiding injury.
The idea behind prehab is to perform movements and exercises to help strengthen and mobilise the joints as well as improve balance so as to avoid getting hurt in the future.
Let’s look at 7 of my favourite prehab exercises:
1. Yoga Squats
Yoga squats are a big full body exercise that will strengthen the buttocks, quads, hamstrings and back. The yoga squat will also help to improve mobility in the shoulders, upper back, lower back, knees, ankles, hips and hamstrings.
The yoga squat is my go to prehab exercise because you get so many benefits from just 1 exercise.
Watch a video of the yoga squat below:
Throughout the movement it is very important that the heels are kept on the floor in order to work into the back of the body.
If you find you cannot squat deep without falling backwards then you should practice just deep squats holding onto a post, TRX or band attached in front of you.
Once you have mastered deep squats then practice with your hands overhead before moving onto the second phase of the movement.
If during the second phase you cannot keep your hands on the floor then practice holding the shins as you straighten the legs.
The ultimate goal is to perform the full yoga squat, straightening the legs with the hands on the floor.
Work with your breathing throughout the movement, breathing OUT as you go down, IN as you straighten the legs, OUT as you drop back into the deep squat and IN as you stand.
10 repetitions is usually enough but I’ve worked up to 50 smooth and relaxed reps.
2. Shoulder Taps
Shoulder taps are another of my favourite full body exercises.
The movement is surprisingly uncomplicated but most people find it very challenging if done correctly.
The shoulder tap exercise with help strengthen the shoulder stabiliser muscles as well as condition the core and lower back muscles too.
From the push up position the core muscles are kept tight with the pelvis tucked under. Next, slowly touch your opposite shoulder with your hand.
The movement should be slow and steady with minimal movement and rocking at the hips.
The closer the feet are kept together the more challenging the exercise.
Watch a video of the shoulder tap exercise below:
10 alternating repetitions is a good start but working up to 60 seconds non-stop is an excellent goal.
3. Single Leg Deadlift
So many exercises and daily movements are based off the deadlift movement pattern.
The basic deadlift movement pattern involves hinging at the hips while isometrically keeping the back flat and core braced.
For many people the mechanics of the deadlift movement patten are alien to them and so the single leg deadlift is a great learning tool.
The single leg deadlift will also strengthen the hamstrings, glutes, quads, core and lower back.
At the same time this full body exercise will also improve mobility in the hips and upper back while dramatically improving your balance.
Watch a video of the single leg deadlift below:
Once you have mastered 10 repetitions on each side you can progress to the single leg deadlift using a kettlebell.
4. Hip Openers
The hip openers exercise is another of my regular prehab exercises that I use with my kettlebell classes.
The movement starts in the push up position, like the shoulder tap exercise, but then involves bringing the foot up and next to the hand.
Once the foot is by the hand the hips are relaxed towards the floor, the hand next to the foot can then be raised straight towards the sky opening up the chest.
Hip openers are great for improving stabilisation in the shoulders and core muscles as well as mobilising the hips, and upper back.
Watch a video of the hip opener exercise below:
Practice alternating sides working up to around 20 total repetitions.
5. Bird Dogs
I use the bird dog exercise with all my beginner personal training clients.
The movement is surprisingly tiring on the shoulders even though you are starting the movement from your hands and knees.
Opposite arms and legs are extended activating the shoulders, mid and lower back, abs and buttocks.
The objective is to strengthen the core muscles and glutes while keeping the back in a neutral position.
Watch a video of the bird dog exercise in action:
Breathing is essential during this core based movement.
As the arm and leg is extended the belly button is drawn inwards and an IN breath is taken. As the arm and leg are replaced the belly drops as you breathe OUT.
Beginners when starting out should just return the hands back down to the floor following the extension.
Once 10 successful repetitions can be completed on both sides then the elbow can be brought to meet the knee as you breathe OUT.
The cossack exercise is a lateral movement that really opens up the hips while at the same time maintaining good upper body posture.
As well as a great mobility movement the cossack exercise will also strengthen the hips, lower back, hamstrings and quads.
The movement is very aggressive on the inner thighs (adductor muscles) so caution must be taken when starting out.
Start by keeping the cossacks shallow and do not force the movement.
Always keep the heels on the floor and chest upright.
If you find yourself falling forwards then you are sitting too deep for your own mobility.
Beginners may find it helpful to hold a post, pole or TRX in front of them as they develop the movement.
With time the cossack should be performed by rolling the foot over and pivoting on the heel.
Watch a video of the cossack exercise below:
Work up to a total of 20 alternating repetitions although 50 relaxed reps is an even better goal.
7. Dead Bugs
My final prehab exercise is the dead bug.
The dead bug exercise is fundamentally for the core muscles.
The objective of this exercise is to keep the pelvis stabilised while moving the limbs.
The ability to stabilise the pelvis while moving your limbs around is vital for injury free movement during activities.
You will also achieve good hamstring and shoulder mobility from this exercise while conditioning your core muscles.
Watch a video of the dead bug exercise below:
The most important part of this exercise is keeping the pelvis / lower back in a constant position.
You can place a very thin rolled up towel under your lower back and concentrate on maintaining pressure on the towel as a training guide.
Alternatively, you can have a partner place their hand under your lower back and observe regular pressure on the hand during movement.
As the core weakens the ability to maintain a consistent pelvis will fade, once this happens you must stop the exercise.
A good goal is 20 alternating repetitions with perfect form.
Conclusion of 7 Prehab Exercises to Prevent Future Injuries
Prehab exercises will help strengthen and mobilise your joints while at the same time improving your balance and coordination.
The objective of the 7 exercises listed above is to help you avoid injury by bomb proofing your body.
The ability to perform the prehab exercises can be used as an assessment tool.
For example, the inability to perform the yoga squat would show a bad squat movement pattern that would need some attention before a weighted squat is added.
The shoulder taps, hip openers and bird dogs could indicate weak shoulder / core stabilisers so push ups or overhead work will be challenging.
The bird dogs and dead bugs are a great indicator of core strength and stabilisation, if these exercises are challenging then the lower spine will show vulnerabilities.
Practice is the key to all these exercises.
Work on the exercises that you find the most challenging and develop a body that will be strong and mobile for many years to come.
Have you tried any of these exercises? Let me know below: