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Corrective Exercises: What should I be feeling?




When performing corrective exercises, which muscles you should I be feeling?

How do I know if I am doing my exercise right?

What am I suppose to be feeling?

What is my intention?


Are these questions you have had while performing your home exercise program? If you’re answer is “yes,” then please consider the following.


When first being introduced to a new exercise, it is expected for the task to be difficult for a novice performer. At Root & Branch we intend to provide clear explanations of all of your prescribed exercises and activity modifications, however we do realize that without the guidance of your Physical Therapist, exercises can seem foreign. And confusing. The following article will address common muscles you should be “feeling” during our most common prescribed exercises. First we will describe certain terminology in order to understand our purpose. Then we will provide a list of muscles we would like you to “feel” and a list of muscles your should “not feel,” followed by tips on how to correct common problems.


Facilitated Muscle:

1. active or over-active muscle

2. “on” muscle

3. “contracted and shortened” muscle


Inhibited Muscle

1. inactive or underactive muscle

2. “off” muscle

3. “stretched and lengthened” muscle


*Symptoms of both Inhibited or Facilitated Muscles: pain, spasm, cramp, knot, tightness

Root & Branch and the Postural Restoration Institute’s (PRI) exercise interventions tend to have similar muscle, posture and movement patterning imbedded within. Below is a list of muscles we usually would like you to “feel” and “not feel.” Typically, a patient will present with dysfunctional facilitation of an “on” muscle, which can result in altered alignment and pain.


We usually want you to feel and use the following muscles:

1. lower and outer abdominals (transverse abdominis and obliques)

2. back of your thigh (hamstrings )

3. outer hip (gluteus medius)

4. inner thigh and groin (hip adductors)

5. buttocks (gluteus maximus)


We usually DON’T want you to feel and use the following muscles:

1. low back muscles (lumbar extensors)

2. front of your hip (hip flexors)

3. front of your thigh (vastus lateralis or quads)

4. lower legs and ankles (calves and peroneals)


Please note that some muscles should only be felt and used on one side of the body, and this depends strictly on your identified PRI pattern. Please see your exercise handouts or speak with your Physical Therapist if you having any concerns regarding your home exercise program


Tips for correct home exercise performance

If your are feeling muscles that we do not want you to use, then please stop and “reset” yourself to assure correct performance. Please use the following tips to “reset” yourself during home exercise performance.

1. Less is More - When working too hard or fast, usually the body will use muscles that are well trained in that type of movement. That being said, people with pain and/or dysfunction will likely use incorrect muscles during fast or aggressive movements.

2. Maintain your “scoop” - Remember, “scoop” is a term we use to describe a neutral spine (ribs down, abdominals and hamstrings engaged and pelvis tilted posteriorly). The muscles you are trying to engage have an advantage when the body is properly aligned.


In conclusion, simply performing your home exercises does not guarantee functional improvement. It is CORRECT home exercise performance that maximizes the therapeutic effect. Please understand that we do suggest contacting your Physical Therapist via email if you have any questions regarding your specific home exercise program. Always refer to your home exercise sheets. We are proving this information to further your understanding, not change or modify your current home program.

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