9 Prehab Exercises To Do Before A Workout

They'll help you ward off body aches and injuries.

Your guide to prehab exercises and why they're so beneficial.

While the idea of “prehab” sounds super official — so official that you might associate it with Olympians and pro athletes only — the reality is that anyone can benefit from doing a few prehab exercises, especially before a big workout.

Prehab, aka prehabilitation or preventative rehab, borrows techniques and exercises from physical therapy and applies them in a proactive way, says Samantha Deutchman, NASM-certified personal trainer and co-founder of Yoga Strong. “Instead of being ‘reactive’ and waiting until you sustain an injury to address [a problem], prehab’s intent is to enhance your physical function to help resolve compensatory habits before you get injured,” she tells Bustle.

Whether that means strengthening the muscles around a joint to prevent knee pain or sorting out your spine so that you can ward off aches and walk around with good posture, prehab is all about making you feel good before you ever feel bad. “Prehab exercises are typically low-impact and focus on the range of motion, flexibility, and strength,” Michael Jones, CMT, a certified personal trainer and movement and mobility specialist, tells Bustle.

People at risk for injuries (like athletes) or those who do a lot of high-intensity workouts might benefit most from prehab, Jones says. Deutchman adds that prehab moves should most definitely be performed before a workout, but can be done every day since they’re gentle and help fortify your body for a better and pain-free exercise session. Ahead are nine prehab exercises the experts recommend.


Bird Dogs

Jones is a fan of adding this Pilates move to prehab routines. “The bird dog is a great way to improve balance and coordination,” he says. “It also strengthens your core muscles, including your abs, back, and hips, and helps to stretch the erector spinae, rectus abdominis, and glutes.”

- Rest on your hands and knees in a quadruped position.

- Make sure your hands and knees are both hip-width apart.

- Inhale and engage your abs.

- Exhale and push one arm forward and the opposite leg out behind you.

- Balance as you stretch your limbs away from one another.

- Inhale and lower both to the ground.

- Repeat with the other arm and leg.

- Do 3 sets of 12.


Cossack Squats

According to Jones, adding this squat variation to your pre-workout routine can help boost your hip and knee mobility. “The cossack squat builds lower body strength and improves mobility,” he says.” “It targets the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves while also involving the core and back. It also gives the hips, knees, ankles, and adductors a stretch.”

- Stand with your feet wide apart.

- Transfer your weight onto one foot.

- Lower your hips back and squat towards that side.

- Dive the hips forward to stand back up.

- Repeat on the other side.

- Do 2 sets of 10.


Face Down Leg Lifts

“Hip openers like face-down leg lifts are a great way to release hip tension and improve flexibility,” says Jones. “The benefits of doing them can be felt in the low back, hamstrings, glutes, and even the shoulders.”

- Lie face down on a mat.

- Stretch your legs out straight behind you.

- Raise one foot off the floor.

- Hold for 5 seconds.

- Lower your leg.

- Repeat with the other leg.

- Lift and hold for 5 seconds.

- Do 2 sets of 6 lifts on each side.



The cat-cow yoga pose is an ideal prehab move for a tight back. “Learning to move your thoracic spine through extension and flexion not only helps reduce stiffness, but also teaches your spine to move more freely and efficiently,” Deutchman says.

- Come onto all fours.

- Place your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips.

- On an inhale, drop your core towards the ground.

- Arch your spine, lifting your chin off your chest for cow pose.

- On an exhale, push into your hands to round your back, spreading your shoulder blades wide.

- Tuck your chin to your chest for cat pose.

- Repeat this motion for 5 to 10 breaths.



Clamshells are another great prehab exercise because they help activate the piriformis and encourage external rotation in the hips to prevent knee pain,” Deutchman says.

- Lie on your left side with your knees stacked, right leg on top of left leg.

- Bend both legs 90 degrees.

- Lift your top knee slowly and with control until it’s parallel with your hip.

- Lower to return your right knee back to the stacked position.

- Repeat 3 sets of 10 on each side.


Sumo Squats

Deutchman also recommends doing sumo squats before a workout. They’re another type of squat that helps increase your range of motion and stave off the risk of knee injuries, she says.

- Start by standing with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders.

- Turn your toes slightly out.

- Slowly squat down.

- Push your hips back.

- Keep your chest up and knees pointed out.

- Stand back up to return to the starting position.

- Repeat 4 sets of 10 reps, resting for 1 minute between each set.


Dead Bugs

The dead bug is an exercise that helps stabilize your core by encouraging a posterior tilt. “With a posterior tilt, you are more likely to have better posture and reduce the likelihood of lower back pain,” Deutchman says.

- Lie on your back.

- Extend both your arms and legs toward the sky.

- Lower your right leg towards the ground while simultaneously extending your left arm behind your head

- Return to the original starting position.

- Repeat with your opposite arm and leg.

- Keep alternating sides until you do 20 repetitions.


Shoulder CARs

“Short for controlled articular rotations, shoulder CARs help you express your full range of motion and increase joint stability,” says Deutchman.

- Start by standing or sitting.

- Raise your right arm in front of you to shoulder height with your thumb up.

- Grip or squeeze your right hand to hold tension in the arm.

- While keeping your arm straight and maintaining tension, start to slowly raise your arm overhead.

- Once your arm is overhead, externally rotate your shoulder by flipping your thumb down.

- Make sure you are still keeping that grip in the right hand.

- With your palm facing outward, slowly lower your arm behind you into extension.

- Once you reach the full range, return to the starting position.

- Repeat 5 reps on each arm.


Single-Leg Clock Reaches

Exercises done on a single leg, like the single-leg clock reach, can help improve your balance, proprioception (or the body’s ability to sense movement), and foot stability, says Deutchman — all skills that come in handy in sports, exercise, and life in general.

- Start by standing on your right leg.

- Once you find your balance, start to reach your left foot in front of you as if you’re touching 12 p.m. on a clock.

- Return to the starting position.

- Reach towards 1 p.m., then 2 p.m., and so on.

- Make sure you aren’t using momentum, but instead controlling each position as you tap around the “clock”.

- Repeat on the other leg.

Studies referenced:

Durrand, J. (2019). Prehabilitation. Clin Med (Lond). doi: 10.7861/clinmed.2019-0257.

Yoo, G. (2014). Effect of the Individual Strengthening Exercises for Posterior Pelvic Tilt Muscles on Back Pain, Pelvic Angle, and Lumbar ROM of a LBP Patient with Excessive Lordosis: A Case Study. Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 26(2), 319-320.


Samantha Deutchman, NASM-certified personal trainer, co-founder of Yoga Strong

Michael Jones, CMT, certified personal trainer, movement and mobility specialist