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This article is about who a Corrective Exercise Specialist is and what a career as a corrective exercise specialist is all about.
I’ll be addressing the following key aspects:
- What is corrective exercise?
- The difference between corrective exercise, strength and conditioning, and physiotherapy
- Why would anyone need a corrective exercise specialist?
- Pros and Cons of corrective exercise
- How to become a professional corrective exercise specialist.
So without further ado, let’s jump right into it.
What is Corrective Exercise?
As the name implies, corrective exercise is a system of exercise science that improves the human body’s functionality.
This is achieved by addressing muscular imbalances, movement dysfunction, postural deviations, and movement compensations.
After conducting such an assessment program is designed for correct activation.
Corrective exercise operates on the principles of biomechanics and kinesiology to pinpoint anatomical weaknesses in the human body, which are then trained toward optimal function.
Corrective exercise works on two basic premises: identification and rectification.
Identification occurs during the assessment phase and is simply pinpointing where problems lie.
This shouldn’t be considered a diagnosis since corrective exercise isn’t aimed at medical intervention or healthcare practice.
It simply checks for the correct form through a set movement pattern.
Next is rectification, where a program with a corrective approach is designed and implemented.
This phase of corrective exercise is no different from a regular personal trainer program design and implementation, with the main difference being an emphasis on corrective exercise strategies.
Most members of the general population and even many fit and athletic individuals deal with imbalances, deficiencies, and deviations.
With this in mind, most exercise instruction has or should implement a degree of correctiveness and functional movement.
But when we speak of corrective exercise, it’s important to understand that we’re dealing with significant issues that may affect well-being in general.
A common issue in this category is spinal deviations, typically identified when reporting back pain.
Bad posture is often the result of poor lifestyle habits, especially those linked to sedentarism, such as excessive sitting or smartphone usage.
The term “tech neck” has been coined to describe the new phenomenon of forwarding tilting head posture due to people constantly looking downwards at mobile devices.
The lengthening of the posterior neck muscle groups and the shortening of the anterior ones has led to a generation of somewhat hunchbacked individuals.
Other common incidences requiring a corrective exercise program design include gait deficiencies, pelvic tilts, postpartum conditioning and revitalization, and improvement in the function of elderly individuals.
Two other exercise science practices are often seen as related to corrective exercise, but it is important to understand the differences.
That’s because it’s fairly easy and all too common to confuse them with corrective exercise simply because, in essence, they do instill a great degree of biomechanical correction.
I’m talking about physiotherapy and strength and conditioning.
The Difference Between Corrective Exercise, Physiotherapy, and Strength & Conditioning
As I’ve gone over corrective exercise in detail, it’s important to understand how it differs from two other exercise science practices with similar leanings.
Before we go into differences, let’s look at the similarities first.
The first similarity with all three practices is that they aim to optimize function.
Strength and conditioning are geared towards improved athletic performance, physiotherapy is aimed at improved post-injury/post-recovery function, and corrective exercise aims to improve or restore general function.
And that’s pretty much it from a similar perspective. So what are the differences?
To understand those, we’ll need to define what the other two are.
Strength and Conditioning
Strength and Conditioning is an exercise science practice aimed at improving athletic performance.
It works on two fundamental pillars.
The first is to enhance physical performance through strength, power, endurance, and agility.
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The second is to reduce injury risk, rate, and severity through flexibility, balance, and durability.
While strength and conditioning can be applied to general population groups, it’s more commonly applied to those with significant athletic or sporting goals on both an amateur and professional level.
I go into more detail on strength and conditioning as a career in a separate series of articles.
Physiotherapy diagnoses and therapizing biomechanical issues, often due to injury or trauma.
Damage to the musculoskeletal system inevitably results in a lot of function.
Physiotherapists isolate these problems and work on solutions to rehabilitate the damaged or injured movement systems to full recovery or the best possible outcome.
Because of this, physiotherapy is more of a sports medicine than an exercise science practice.
So, What Are The Differences?
Aside from the notable differences, you can extract from each definition, and there are a few important ones to consider.
One of those is that only strength and conditioning is a proactive practice, while physiotherapy and corrective exercise are reactive.
That means S&C is applied to build upon existing capabilities while physio and corrective are applied to address weaknesses.
Another difference lies in the fact that out of the three, physiotherapy is the only one that falls under medical practice. At the same time, the other two don’t claim any medical validity despite also being under the health sciences.
That’s not to say physios are doctors because they typically aren’t. Still, their scope of practice and expertise very often overlaps with that of healthcare professionals such as orthopedic surgeons and radiologists, to name a few.
They often have a referral network with such professionals and may even share a practice with them.
One last difference is the qualification process.
A degree in a relevant field is necessary or strongly recommended to pursue a career as either an S&C specialist or a physiotherapist. At the same time, one must obtain a corrective exercise certification.
Who Needs A Corrective Exercise Specialist?
Well, almost everyone could do with the services, or at the very least, the knowledge of corrective exercise.
That’s because, as I mentioned, everyone has some form of imbalance, compensation, or deviation.
This is especially true in the modern age, where humans are more sedentary than ever, and the need for physical therapy is rising.
Our bodies are either stationary or subject to the same positions for an extended time.
Your body is designed to be in a near-constant state of change, change of position, and change of motion.
When this doesn’t occur, deviations and imbalances set in.
For most people, there aren’t any major concerns regarding such inadequacies with the human machine, but focused intervention is required in other instances.
So which cases would corrective exercise need to take center stage?
Training kids, especially in prepubescent and high-growth phases, is where corrective exercise can benefit.
That’s because applying corrective principles in this way assists in the optimal development of the human body.
When a child’s musculoskeletal system undergoes growth and development, especially in the final phases before adulthood, the process can lead to deviations and imbalances as a natural consequence.
If potential problem areas can be isolated and addressed, the results can make the difference between a body addled with all sorts of functional issues and a pure athletic machine.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have corrective exercises applied to senior or elderly population groups.
This aims to improve quality of life, prolong independence, and increase “healthspan.”
Healthspan is a term used to describe a human body’s functional timespan throughout its lifetime.
While lifespan describes the total lifetime, healthspan describes useful or viable functionality within that timeframe.
Corrective exercise helps seniors or those approaching their elderly years to maintain a degree of self-sufficient functionality into the end phases of their lives.
Being independent and self-sufficient ranks highly on people’s aspirations in their senior years.
As a once independent and capable individual, the decline in functional ability with age can be harrowing and cause tremendous psychological and emotional distress.
A comprehensive way to maintain physical function for an extended life is an amazing benefit.
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The postpartum or postnatal phase of motherhood is a very sensitive and precarious time in a woman’s life.
While joy, love, and hope for the future play a dominant role, a powerful sense of insecurity and dissatisfaction often sets in and manifests as postpartum depression.
This is largely due to hormonal fluctuation but is also a feature of a self-conscious sense of inadequacy regarding a woman’s physical functionality and appearance.
Corrective exercise can be implemented to address many of the issues mothers face during this time.
While many of them stem from body image, many of a woman’s insecurities result from functional discrepancies.
A common one is a decline in pelvic floor conditioning, typical after childbirth, especially in women with multiple children.
This disrupts many normal aspects of life, including athletic performance, sexual performance, and urinary continence.
Addressing such issues in female clients greatly affects mental and physical health.
These are just a few examples of scenarios and population groups that can see massive benefits from corrective exercise, but overall, most people need correction.
Pros and Cons of Being a Corrective Exercise Specialist
As with any career path, there will always be benefits and drawbacks.
It’s important to understand what you’re getting into when pursuing a career in corrective exercise.
So let’s look at the pros and cons so you can decide if this is the journey for you.
Doesn’t Require Extensive Credentials
One of the benefits of pursuing a career in corrective exercise is that you don’t need any extensive qualifications.
You need to certify through an accredited agency.
My top picks for corrective exercise are:
Of this bunch, I would strongly recommend going for a NASM certification.
That’s because the central focus of this institution is corrective exercise.
Any other fitness and sports science careers require you to qualify with tons of experience and other supporting credentials.
Helping to Improve Quality of Life Directly
Many professions in fitness offer a valuable in-demand service, but not many are specifically geared towards long-term lifestyle improvement.
That isn’t to say a good personal training or nutrition service cant have long-term effects because they often do.
Rather, I’m saying that these services are very often used as temporary fixes.
For example, while nutrition coaching can lead to lifelong good habits, it is often just a service used to achieve a temporary goal, such as weight loss for an event.
Corrective exercise has far-reaching and prolonged positive effects.
This fact can provide corrective exercise specialists with an elevated sense of purpose and job satisfaction.
Forms a Strong Foundation to Branch Into Other Fields
Because corrective exercise is such a complete approach to biomechanics, kinesiology, and exercise science, it can form an excellent foundation for other branches of exercise science.
Practices such as strength and conditioning and physiotherapy lead significantly to the core principles of corrective exercise.
Having a corrective exercise certification or qualification is often a good way to gain entry as a candidate in many sports science and sports medicine programs.
Of course, you would have to fulfill other criteria, but it is a solid foundation.
I’ve covered salary and income in detail in a separate article, so check it out here.
Regarding corrective exercise, the salary outlook is comparatively low compared to personal training.
According to several sources such as salary.com, comparably.com, and indeed.com, corrective exercise specialists net an annual average income between $40k to $50k.
For perspective, on average, personal trainers in the United States earn around $62k per year.
With such a specialist focus, there would be a much higher value premium.
The problem isn’t the value of the service; it’s all about supply and demand, which brings us to our next con.
Relatively Low Demand
Because corrective exercise is such a narrow focus and nuanced approach to fitness coaching, it doesn’t rank high in popularity with the fitness market.
The fitness market is individuals or consumers who purchase from fitness brands and service providers.
Personal trainers, nutrition coaches, and yoga and pilates instructors are the more common service provider categories in health and fitness.
Corrective exercise specialists are only truly sought after by the most knowledgeable or discerning trainees, a number which probably represents a minute portion of the entire market.
When people sense something is wrong with their functionality, they’ll usually seek the help of a physical therapist or a massage therapist instead of a corrective exercise coach.
In other words, you would need to know what corrective exercise is and why you need it to solicit the services of a corrective exercise specialist.
How To Become A Corrective Exercise Coach
I spoke briefly about the process in terms of certification and which certifications I would suggest.
I also have a full article highlighting the best corrective exercise certifications, which you can check out here.
In essence, to be a corrective exercise specialist, the first thing you need is passion.
Having a passion for human anatomy, biomechanics, and kinesiology is your first prerequisite, albeit an informal one.
That’s how I got myself to where I am today, passion.
This thirst for knowledge will naturally lead you toward discovery and competence with the principles and practical applications that govern corrective exercise.
While a degree isn’t necessary for this field of exercise science, it can be very beneficial.
Going through a degree program such as my Masters in Kinesiology affords you a hands-on, front-row view of all the protocols, methodologies, and scenarios in which effective corrective exercise works.
A degree is also a good way to leverage your reputation with the perception of expertise and dedication, the natural benefits of getting a degree.
After realizing your calling and securing the relevant credentials, it’s simply a matter of setting up shop or searching for employment opportunities.
I have a whole article speaking about the career process of a corrective exercise coach, so be sure to check that out after you’re done here.
A corrective exercise is a unique approach to fitness.
Not everyone needs to improve their jump shot or shed 20 pounds of body fat. Still, in some way, whether big or small, almost everyone must correct muscle imbalances, deviation, or compensation.
No human body is perfect functionally speaking, nor will it ever be, but corrective exercises such as flexibility or strength training can at least help people achieve a better way of being and doing.
I hope you found this article engaging and informative; if you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to drop a line in the comment section below, and I’ll get right to them.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do I become a corrective exercise specialist?
The standard approach is to certify with a corrective exercise specialist certification through an accredited certifying agency.
What is a corrective exercise?
Corrective exercise is a health and fitness practice that uses human movement and biomechanics principles to improve physical function and correct imbalances and deficiencies.
What is a CES certification?
A certification with a focus on corrective exercise assessment and instruction issued by NASM (NASM-CES)
What is an exercise specialist?
A health and fitness professional specializing in exercise techniques using principles of biomechanics and kinesiology to help clients.
What is the difference between a corrective exercise specialist and an exercise specialist?
They are both operating on the same principles, with the only difference being that a corrective exercise specialist is more focused on correcting things wrong with the human body’s normal function.