Corrective Complexes: The Secret to Feelin’ Good


by Michael Ranfone, CSCS.

As a manual therapist, I often use a multi-modality approach when treating clients for soft tissue problems.

The basic treatment protocol is to address any restrictions, restore lost range of motion, and reeducate the proper activation sequences in hopes the client can return to full function as soon as possible. These modalities can include Active Release Techniques (ART), Active Isolated Stretching (AIS), positional release, myo-fascial release, etc., but the real key to ensuring soft tissue quality is frequency.

Consider how much stress and tension your body absorbs everyday from poor postural habits, adaptive shortening, repetitive tasks, etc. Now, couple that with healthy doses of squats, push presses, sprints and plyometrics. There’s just no way a weekly manual therapy session can successfully mitigate all of this to allow you to push to your next level of performance.

At our center we have therapists to help fine-tune our athletes outside their regularly scheduled treatment sessions. More importantly, we employ a very simple and effective strategy called corrective complexes to ensure they’re getting the most out of their warm-up periods, as well as their training sessions.

Chances are you already use foam-rolling, range of motion (ROM) and activation drills. The only problem is, you’re probably not using them in an optimal format.

Sequence Matters

The warm-up sequence is no different from any other aspect of training: everything has a point and purpose. It’s like being told to include power cleans, lunges, and snatches in your program but having no clue where to put them to get the greatest benefit.

Corrective complexes are three pre-workout drills sequenced together to achieve maximum benefit in the shortest amount of time. This sequencing increases the effectiveness of the warm-up drills by producing a synergistic effect, not to mention the endless combination possibilities.

Corrective complexes are also simple to construct. Each of the three components should address the following:

Soft tissue quality
Mobilize and lengthen soft tissue
Activate the antagonist
Soft tissue quality will be addressed by implementing a foam roller, PVC pipe, or lax ball. Since excess scar tissue and adhesions can reduce ROM and strength of a muscle, we want to break down as much scar tissue as possible and induce a release so that the muscles will be more compliant to subsequent work.

After the restrictions have been reduced, the muscles will be more responsive to ROM drills. To that end, immediately following the rolling of a particular muscle or group, we take advantage of its newfound flexibility by taking it through specific mobility exercises.

The last component takes advantage of the law of reciprocal inhibition, which states that as a muscle contracts on one side of a joint, its antagonist must relax.

For example, if your hip flexors are tight/overactive, your hip extensors will not be able to fire completely. After the release and mobilization of a muscle group, all you need to do is perform a standard activation exercise or AIS drill (check out this article for more info) of its antagonist to reap the benefits of a complete muscle activation/relaxation sequence.

Sample Corrective Complexes


Pre-Work Drill Time Reps
A Lax ball plantar fascia and calf 30 sec. 
B Wall ankle mobility 10 per side
C AIS calf stretch/anterior tibialis activation 10 per side



Pre-Work Drill Time Reps
A Foam roll pec major/mino 30 sec. 
B Split stance shoulder mobility 10 per side
C Anterior pull-apart 12



Pre-Work Drill Time Reps
A PVC quad/hip flexor 30 sec. 
B Hip flexor mobility 10 per side
C Single leg hip thrust 10 per side



Pre-Work Drill Time Reps
A Roll thoracic spine 30 sec. 
B Roll lats 30 sec. 
C T-spine windmills 10 per side
D Band pulldowns 12


That’s it, simple and straightforward – find a restricted muscle, roll it, mobilize it, and then activate its antagonist.

Chances are you’re already doing many of these drills, but by following the principles of corrective complexes you’ll be able to more effectively treat muscle imbalances, decrease postural distortions, and receive more benefit from your warm-ups, in less time!

Move better, look better, perform better, feel better. It all begins with how you start!

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