You’ll have heard and read many of us coaches talking more and more frequently in recent years about the need and importance of compensatory exercise, right?
As such, it’s normal to want to question what compensatory exercise is, why it should be included in your planning, as well as how and when. In this article, we address these aspects so you can include this type of complementary sessions in your weekly training plan.
What is compensatory training
When we talk about compensatory training, we’re referring to scheduled sessions whose objective is to develop and improve all the gestures that complement the movements of the sport you practice, aimed at reinforcing the weakest links to avoid injuries and improve the synergy between each of the motor gestures and their function.
Maybe this definition isn’t the clearest, so let’s look at some examples.
In cycling training, for example: the sports gesture is cyclical, predominantly using the lower limb and with an unnatural posture of excessive flexure of the core and hip flexors.
A compensatory exercise here would be something to help reenforce the lower back, chest extension, and hip flexor stretching.
It can also include the training of skills other than those typical of the specific sport, or less predominant muscle groups. Let’s not forget that beauty is in the balance.
What must be taken into account is that, before designing a compensatory training programme or selection of exercises, the specific characteristics of the sport must first be established.
Benefits from the compensatory exercise
Complementing our sessions with exercises that help to improve the weakest or least worked links allow us not only to develop greater muscle balance, but also to prevent injuries caused precisely by the lack of motor control, strength, muscle imbalances in certain parts of the body and joints.
A perfect complement to improve and develop other skills, abilities.
On the other hand, it’s also very appropriate in recovery processes after an injury and at times of the season or macrocycle of lower loads and training volumes.
Do you know how you can compensate for your specific training?
Once we’re clear about the importance of including compensatory training as part of our training plan, we need to determine which exercises are the most suitable for each of us (depending on the sport we practice).
To do this, we have to analyse the technical gesture or movements of our activity and/or sport, as well as the skills and abilities that we work most.
From posture, to the joints mainly involved, development of main muscle groups etc…
From there, it will be easier to see which limbs, muscles, joints receive less attention but are more prone to imbalances and weakness.
Keep in mind that all movements involve an important musculature as well as the mechanical action of the musculature in that specific gesture:
- Some will be the primary and protagonists;
- While others will be secondary or stabilisers.
Compensatory exercise for strength sports
With regard to sports in which strength and its development is the main skill, we should focus on the main gestures.
This won’t be the same for a javelin thrower and a CrossFiter, or a weightlifter, for example.
In general, joint mobility and stability work, such as those of the shoulder and elbow, would be points to monitor and treat in this type of sporting activity as they play a big role and their stability is fundamental for the correct and safe execution of the exercises.
Other important aspects when developing a compensatory exercise session would be all the exercises aimed at reinforcing the stabilising musculature (core work) as well as the postural and respiratory pattern to control the management of pressures in heavy lifting and avoid diastasis recti, for example.
Examples of exercises to include in successful compensatory training:
- Core work (transverse, gluteal-hip, quadratus lumborum, pelvic floor).
- Diaphragmatic breathing.
- Pectoral girdle and spine mobility.
- Shoulder exercises with little weight to improve their stability, such as these.
- Gluteal activation with mini resistance bands.
Compensatory exercise for endurance
For this, we also need to analyse the predominant technical gesture of the sport and the musculature that it principally works, and from there select the complementary exercises for this compensatory training.
Think for example of a butterfly swimmer and a long-distance runner… you’ll see that, although they’re both endurance sports, they don’t work the musculature in the same way and the needs are different.
In either case, the work of the central stabilising musculature is fundamental (as in the case of strength), and all core work is indispensable.
- In the case of swimmers, for example: due to the extension of the lumbar spine, it’s important to work that area to strengthen it alongside the abdomen.
Because the shoulder joint works constantly with each stroke, special attention should be paid to the mobility and stability of this joint.
- In the case of runners, the overworking of the lower body musculature will have to be compensated for with additional work of the upper and middle areas.
When should you do compensatory exercise?
If we organise a good range of exercises, they can be included in our training sessions either as part of a specific warm-up or in more specific sessions of just compensatory exercises.
It will depend on the time availability and the distribution of sessions throughout the week.
It’s also advisable to include this type of session at times of lower training intensity and volumes, because, as we’ve mentioned, they also work to prevent injuries.
- Everything you need to know about strength training for cyclists. Click here.
- The so-called kegel exercises help to strengthen the pelvic floor…. continue reading.
- What is diastasis recti and how do you prevent it? Visit this link