Blog Fitness The Best Prehab Exercises That Will Keep You Healthy And Injury-Free

The Best Prehab Exercises That Will Keep You Healthy And Injury-Free

Anyone who’s gotten surgery or had to get physical therapy is familiar with how rehab works—you do exercises to regain mobility and strength, with the ultimate goal of returning to your previous level of functioning.

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Prehab is similar, but it’s preventative instead of reactive. Initially prehab referred to the exercises and physical therapy that patients did before joint replacement surgery, in order to improve their post-surgical outcomes.

But now the term is used broadly to describe any type of exercise or training that helps reduce the risk of injury. 

Here’s everything you need to know about prehab, including the best exercises to keep you healthy and injury-free.

What Is Prehab Therapy?

Prehab is short for “preventative rehabilitation,” and refers to any type of exercises or training that helps reduce the risk of injury. The goal of prehab is to improve your functioning and movement, so that your body is better prepared for the demands of your chosen activity (8).

Prehab exercises are typically specific to the individual and focus on correcting any imbalances or weaknesses that may put them at risk for injury.

For example, someone with a history of knee injuries may focus on strengthening the muscles around the knee joint, while someone with a history of back pain may focus on improving their core strength and stability.

Even if you don’t have a history of injuries, prehab can still be beneficial. Everyone can benefit from exercises that improve their strength, stability, and flexibility (1).

By improving your functioning and movement you’ll not only decrease your risk of injury, but you’ll also improve your overall performance (1).

Not to be confused with a warm up, which is designed to increase your body temperature and heart rate in preparation for activity, prehab exercises are meant to be performed on a regular basis (usually 2-3 times per week) as part of a long-term injury prevention strategy.

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They are more nuanced than a traditional workout, and often target small, stabilizing muscles that are easy to overlook. As a result, they can be challenging and even uncomfortable at times.

Prehab exercises should always be performed under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional, such as a physical therapist or a certified strength and conditioning coach.

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prehab exercises

Benefits Of Prehab Therapy

There are many benefits to participating in prehab therapy, both in the short-term and the long-term.

In the short-term, prehab can help you (7):

  • Improve your function and movement
  • Decrease your risk of injury
  • Enhance your overall performance

In the long-term, prehab can help you (7):

  • Maintain your independence
  • Delay the onset of age-related decline
  • Reduce your risk of falls
  • Improve your quality of life

Types Of Prehab Exercises

Prehab exercises are designed to prevent injuries and help you stay healthy and injury-free. There are many different types of prehab exercises, but some of the most effective include:

  • Strengthening Exercises: These exercises help build up the muscles, tendons, and ligaments around your joints, which can help prevent injuries.
  • Mobility Exercises: These exercises help improve your range of motion and flexibility, which can also help prevent injuries.
  • Balance Exercises: These exercises help improve your balance and coordination, which can also help prevent injuries.
  • Plyometric Exercises: These exercises help improve your power and explosiveness, which can also help prevent injuries.

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prehab exercises

What Is The Best Prehab?

Below are some of the best prehab exercises that you can do to keep yourself healthy and injury-free:

Shoulder Prehab Exercises

These shoulder prehab exercises will work on strengthening the rotator cuff muscles and improving the range of motion in the shoulder joint:

Band Pull Aparts

Shoulder impingement is a common injury that can be caused by repetitive overhead motions such as those often seen in weightlifting, baseball, and swimming (5).

The band pull apart is a great exercise to help prevent this condition by strengthening the muscles around the shoulder joint.

To do the band pull apart:

  1. Hold a resistance band with your palms facing up (supine grip).
  2. Keeping your elbows straight, pull the band apart until your hands are shoulder-width apart.
  3. Pause for a count of two, then slowly return to the starting position.
  4. Do three sets of 12-15 repetitions.

External Rotations

External rotations help strengthen the muscles that stabilize the shoulder joint and are often used as a rehabilitation exercise following a rotator cuff injury (6).

To do external rotations:

  1. Anchor a resistance band at knee level.
  2. Loop the band around your left elbow and hold the other end of the band in your right hand.
  3. Keeping your elbow at your side, rotate your left arm out to the side as far as you can.
  4. Pause for a count of two, then slowly return to the starting position.
  5. Do three sets of 12-15 repetitions.

Face Pulls

A strong and stable upper back is important for both preventing and rehabilitating shoulder injuries (2). The face pull is an excellent exercise for targeting the muscles in the upper back.

To do face pulls on the machine:

  1. Attach a rope handle to the high pulley of a cable machine.
  2. Grasp the rope with an underhand grip. This helps to keep your shoulders down and back during the exercise.
  3. Keeping your elbows close to your sides, pull the rope toward your face until your hands are at eye level.
  4. Pause for a count of two, then slowly return to the starting position.
  5. Do three sets of 12-15 repetitions.
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prehab exercises

ACL Prehab Exercises

The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is a key stabilizing ligament in the knee joint. Unfortunately, ACL injuries are all too common, particularly in sports such as soccer, football, and basketball.

These ACL prehab exercises will help strengthen the muscles around the knee joint and improve your balance, both of which can help prevent ACL injuries (3).

Straight Leg Raises

Straight leg raises help strengthen the muscles around the knee joint, including the quadriceps and hamstrings.

To do straight leg raises:

  1. Lie on your back on the floor with your legs straight.
  2. Keeping your leg straight, raise it off the floor until it is parallel to the floor.
  3. Pause for a count of two, then slowly lower your leg back to the starting position.
  4. Do three sets of 12 reps per leg

Prone Hamstring Curls

The hamstring curl is a great exercise for targeting the hamstrings, which are often weak in people who have had ACL surgery.

To do prone hamstring curls:

  1. Lie face down on a yoga mat with your stomach and pelvis resting on the mat.
  2. Bend your left knee to move your heel up to your butt.
  3. Keeping your pelvis on the mat, curl your left leg up toward your glutes.
  4. Pause for a count of two, then slowly lower your leg back to the starting position.
  5. Do three sets of 12 reps per leg.
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Quadruped Hip Extension

The quadruped hip extension helps strengthen the muscles around the hip, which can help improve your balance and prevent ACL injuries.

To do quadruped hip extensions:

  1. Get down on all fours, making sure your hands are directly under your shoulders and your knees are directly under your hips.
  2. Keeping your right knee bent, raise your right leg up behind you until your thigh is parallel to the floor.
  3. Pause for a count of two, then slowly lower your leg back to the starting position.
  4. Do three sets of 12 reps per leg.

prehab exercises

Patellar Tendonitis Prehab Exercises

Patellar tendonitis is a common injury that occurs when the tendon connecting the kneecap to the shinbone becomes irritated and inflamed (4).

These patellar tendonitis prehab exercises will help to strengthen the muscles around the knee and improve your range of motion, both of which can help prevent patellar tendonitis.

Partial Squats

Partial squats help strengthen the muscles around the knee, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.

To do partial squats:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips.
  2. Keeping your knees behind your toes, lower your hips down into a squat.
  3. Pause for a count of two, then slowly stand back up to the starting position.
  4. Do three sets of 12 reps.

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Core Stability Prehab Exercises

The key to preventing injuries and staying healthy is having a strong and stable core. By doing exercises that target your core muscles, you can help keep your body balanced and better able to support itself.

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Pilates Scissor Kicks

This is a great exercise to help improve the stability of your lower back and pelvis. It also works your abdominal muscles, obliques, and hip flexors.

To do Pilates scissor kicks:

  1. Lie on your back on a yoga mat with your legs in the air and your hands on your hips.
  2. Keeping your legs straight, lower your right leg toward the floor until it is about 6 inches from the floor.
  3. At the same time, raise your left leg up toward the ceiling.
  4. Pause for a count of two, then switch legs and repeat.
  5. Do three sets of 12 reps.

Dead Bug

The dead bug is a great exercise for targeting the muscles of the lower back and pelvis. It also works your abdominal muscles and obliques.

To do the dead bug:

  1. Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
  2. Place your hands on your hips.
  3. Brace your core and press your lower back into the floor.
  4. Slowly extend one leg out straight and the opposite arm overhead.
  5. Keep your core engaged and lower back pressed into the floor as you extend.
  6. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
  7. Do 8-12 reps per side.

The Bottom Line

Prehab exercises are an important part of any fitness program, and they can be especially helpful if you’re someone who is prone to injuries. If you’re looking to stay healthy and injury-free, be sure to add some prehab exercises into your routine.

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DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. ACL Prehabilitation Improves Postoperative Strength and Motion and Return to Sport in Athletes (2022, sciencedirect.com) 
  2. Effect of Upper-Extremity Strengthening Exercises on the Lumbar Strength, Disability and Pain of Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Study (2017, nih.gov) 
  3. Evidence for the effects of prehabilitation before ACL-reconstruction on return to sport-related and self-reported knee function: A systematic review (2020,nih.gov) 
  4. EVIDENCE–SUPPORTED REHABILITATION OF PATELLAR TENDINOPATHY (2010, nih.gov) 
  5. Impingement syndrome in athletes (1980, pubmed.gov) 
  6. The effect of exercise types for rotator cuff repair patients on activities of shoulder muscles and upper limb disability (2016, nih.gov) 
  7. The effectiveness of prehabilitation or preoperative exercise for surgical patients: a systematic review (2015, pubmed.gov) 
  8. WHAT IS PREHABILITATION? (n.d., ace-pt.org)
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