Prehab is a word that comes with very strong connotations, especially in today’s functional fitness scene. The idea of engaging in specific protocols to minimise the risk of injury is hardly new and the value certainly isn’t lost on anyone, regardless of whether the person in question is a hard-training athlete who can’t afford to miss a single game or the weekend warrior who’s just looking to get fitter. However, we need to come to terms with how we utilise the tools associated with prehab – rolling, mobility drills, stretching etc.. Are we using them to fix problems that stem from physical training or a lack thereof?
Tight hip flexors and hamstrings are two examples of common concerns amongst gym-goers, and it’s not at all uncommon to hear someone talking about engaging in some form of self-therapy in these areas, whether it’s rolling on a lacrosse ball or performing various activation drills.
It’s commendable that these individuals are taking the time and effort to address these issues instead of letting themselves be predisposed to injury. As mundane as they seem, these rituals require discipline and patience, both of which are admirable traits. However, have they ever considered what led to the development of these issues in the first place?
The human body is a pretty sturdy design, as far as adaptability is concerned. Nagging aches and pains (like the ones associated with tight musculature) don’t just pop up overnight unannounced; they’re the result of chronic neglect. Your hips aren’t tight because of that one time you worked at your desk for 10 hours straight. They’re tight because you haven’t been doing anything with them for the past six years. It’s not what you’ve been doing, but rather what you’ve NOT been doing that’s responsible for your plight.
Weakness stems from a lack of practice. Where there is weakness in the body, something will have to give as a compensatory measure (e.g. weak glutes leading to lower back picking up the slack). The one thing you should never do to weakness is to coddle it, and while regular foam rolling and mobility drills might help with the symptoms, you’re not really addressing the source of the problem.
The antithesis of weakness is strength, and strength comes from training. A strong body is more resilient to injury and able to withstand more stress. When’s the last time you pushed yourself physically? I’m talking more than just your daily walk around the park or how you take the stairs whenever possible. Getting strong is an uncomfortable pursuit to say the least, but the dividends are arguably worth the effort.
Training to get stronger is anything but the “12 weeks to shred” type of programmes that fitness magazines love to write about; you’re constantly striving to be better than the person you used to be. You don’t have to discard your prehab routines for the pursuit of strength. In fact, you’ll find that it supports you better than anything else!
Movement may be medicine, but medicine won’t make you stronger. Just as how consuming anti-inflammatories helps to reduce inflammation but not actually make you less susceptible to future incidences. Train your body to be stronger instead of being one that just moves better and you’ll find yourself being able to reap the benefits of both pursuits instead of just one.