What is Prehab?


I posted on Facebook the other day that I had managed to achieve my recent mini goal, to lift the whole stack of 190kg on the leg press machine before I go into hospital for surgery on Monday. Someone asked was lifting hefty weights not all wrong for a sprint athlete? My coach replied with the word prehab.

What the devil is prehab?

I had not heard of the term so I decided to google it and see what I could find out.

Here are some definitions:

‘a form of strength training to prevent the injuries before they occur’
‘a method involving certain strength building and mobility improving exercises which are performed in the weeks leading up to surgery’
‘prehabilitation has been used to train athletes, specially those who are prone to injury’

I am not prone to injury (this is my first injury in the 5 years I have been a triathlete). I am not preventing an injury, so we must mean the second definition.

There seems to be some distinct elements to this prehabilitation.

Mental prehabilitation

This is about preparing the patient mentally for the trauma of surgery.

We discussed the possibility of leaving the surgery, we discussed the timing of the operation in the triathlete training calendar, and this was the optimum time of year by far. We discussed the rehab time scale, how long till i can swim, bike, and run again, and how long till I am back to full strength. I cried, I moved on. It is preventing me from training to my full potential, so it’s a no brainer. I have coped with ACL reconstruction, this will be easy!

Physical prehabilitation

This aspect of prehab is about enhancing functional capability: increasing fitness, activity level and strength to expedite the healing process.

My coach has given me a programme since I came back to training after my post season rest, that has seen me focus on strength and endurance, it seems. My swim training has been focussing on muscular strength, isolating muscle groups by using drills, paddles and pull buoys combined with a bit of speed. The running has been removed, and replaced with a tough tough strength set in the gym focussing on just legs. I have been lifting sets of 6 reps, with weights as heavy as I can manage, first both, then single leg. Due to the injury, I have been using machines instead of my usual free weights. The cycle training has been either long, or fast!

Mortensen writes that studies show the best prehab ‘should include components of plyometrics, movement training, core strengthening, balance training, resistance training, and interval speed training.’ The best approach, he goes on to write, is two legged, progressing to single legged.

Will it work? Has it worked? Only time will tell! The theory is sound though!

One Comment on “What is Prehab?

  1. Pingback: NoBloPoMo: Summary of topics covered this November « Melanie Ryding – Ryding2Health BLOG

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