What is Prehab and why it is important for you

Prehab, short for prehabilitation, can be defined as a proactive approach to address poor movement patterns, muscle or tissue imbalances and poor postural habits before they result in pain and injury. It’s a practice using exercise to help facilitate muscular activation, increase overall mobility, and develop coordination for stability.

It is applied to everyone whether they are an athlete or not. Now you may be thinking “isn’t this just simply warming up before a workout?” Well yes and no. A warmup is physical movements that help prepare an individual for the demands of their given exercises or sport. This is where the body is increasing its core temperature and circulation, while mobilizing joints and activating muscles. The later of the two are objectives of prehab but we want those objectives to last more than just the exercise session.  When structured appropriately, prehab can help you tackle activities of daily living, sport, and hobbies, it is also a well-known practice used prior to undergoing a surgical procedure, known specifically as preoperative rehabilitation.

How can prehab help me?

Prehab has the potential to help optimise your life by preventing any ongoing niggles, aches, pains and injuries from occurring again, as well as preventive new ones from happening. As we grow older the need for specific exercise increases to enable us to live a long and healthy life. With applications like prehab incorporated into your exercise regime, you can help to create a strong and resilient body, capable of responding to anything life throws at it.  

Some examples include:

  • Using the correct muscles when picking up heavy objects from the ground
  • Correcting your body’s position when exposed to unpredictable surface
  • Preventing a muscle from straining when reaching for something quickly
  • Maintaining optimal posture when working or doing daily activities of life
  • Preparing specific muscles for the high demands of sport and exercise related hobbies

Prehab will not prevent all high impact injuries such as extreme tackling in certain sports or falling from heights, but it will help make the recovery from these types of incidents a lot sooner.

How to Prehab

Prehab is targeted to individuals based on the demands and needs of their body. As mentioned, this can be for non-athletes and athletes alike.

An example for a non-athlete would be someone who gets sporadic low back pain from sitting at their desk for long periods. There could be numerous reasons why they are experiencing low back pain, but for arguments sake we are going to address this from a musculoskeletal perspective. The reason they could be getting their low back pain is if/when certain muscles are tight and weak, therefore creating an imbalance. This can be addressed by stretching/releasing the tight muscles, strengthening the weak muscles, and ultimately creating better mobility at specific joints.


From an athlete’s perspective they may want to increase their running speed but are worried of the risks of potential injury. This can be addressed by strengthening specific muscles used for running as well as creating adequate mobility to be able to move the joints within the desired range of motion. Ultimately this would mean they would have greater strength within sprinting biomechanics.

Prehab for surgery

It has been shown that prehab can reduce the recovery time from surgery, reduce complications and improve post-operative outcomes. An area of the body that involves surgery will often encounter a loss of motion, strength, and function. For example, if the injury location is swollen, the muscles surrounding it are prone to atrophy, which is a loss of muscle strength and size. This in turn can contribute to a loss of joint flexibility and motion and lastly, neuromuscular activation. This is the combination of your nervous system and muscles not effectively working together to permit movement, leading to a decrease in muscle activation.

Knee Pain

A structured prehab program will address all these aspects. Another benefit that is quite overlooked with prehab prior to surgery is the mental confidence achieved when individuals notice the small increases in muscle strength. The use of Prehab is more commonly used for orthopedic procedures than in other areas of medicine.

How do I get started?

The best time to start is now! Prehab does not need to be fancy, complex or include anny silly exercises. The right exercises for you will always work and following a structured plan is key. Having an experienced health and fitness professional such as your personal trainer assess you and direct you on the right path to a functional, robust and resilient body is the best approach!

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Anthony Ostrowsky

Anthony Ostrowsky

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