Prevent Injuries With Corrective Exercises

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Because MMA athletes work so hard to become faster, stronger and more powerful, they are often hesitant to use valuable training time on mobility drills and foam rolling exercises. Can these drills really add value for combat athletes, or are they better suited for other sports?

Combat athletes literally take a beating five to six days a week in preparation for their next match. When athletes put their bodies through that type of punishing training, their bodies protect themselves by adapting to find the path of least resistance. These tiny adaptations can create strength imbalances throughout the body that sabotage performance or lead to injuries. That's where mobility drills, or "corrective exercises," come into play.

Corrective exercises use movements that amend the adjustments the body has made, thus realigning joints and improving stability. Although they won't help you lift more or punch harder, corrective exercises are just as important to your training as high-intensity circuits, because they help prevent injury.

MMA fighters often suffer from nagging repetitive movement injuries like calf and hip tightness, which can be prevented with corrective exercises. I recommend starting corrective training with the following four exercises to help improve upper back mobility; then move on to other areas of the body.

Foam Roller Flexion/Extension

  • Lie down with feet flat on ground
  • Insert foam roller under shoulder blades and place hands on opposite shoulders
  • Keeping butt on ground, let head fall down and slightly roll
  • Roll three to four times before moving foam roller lower down spine; repeat process
  • Perform second set with hands on either side of head
  • Perform last set with elbows spread wide

Sets/Reps: 3x3-4 per area

TRX T-Spine Extensions

  • Bend over and extend arms with hands in TRX handles at about hip height
  • Keeping back flat, let head and chest fall toward ground

Sets/Reps: 1x6-8 per side

Thread the Needle

  • Get into a crawling position on floor, evenly distributing weight on hands and knees
  • Keeping hips level, extend right arm high above head; hold, then reach right arm through left arm and leg
  • Repeat on opposite side

Sets/Reps: 1x6-8 per side

Side-Lying Chest Openers

  • Lie on side with top knee resting on foam roller
  • Keeping knee in contact with foam roller, reach top hand around body toward floor

Sets/Reps: 1x6-8 per side

Watch a video demonstration of these corrective exercises below. For hip mobility, I recommend the Core-Tex. Check out these videos for hip mobility Core-Tex exercises.

Doug Balzarini, CSCS, MMA-CC, is a personal trainer and strength coach in San Diego, Calif. He works with the Alliance MMA fight team, where he trains UFC champion Dominick Cruz, Phil Davis, Brandon Vera, Travis Browne, Alexander Gustafsson and others. Visit for more information.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock