ARE YOU BRACING DURING LOADED MOVEMENTS?
One of the most prevalent pitfalls in the fitness realm revolves around a fundamental concept: bracing during movements. Unfortunately, it is a concept often neglected, under-taught, and frequently overlooked.
Bracing entails the intentional inhalation and engagement of core muscles before lifting an object. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the lower back muscles and spine. While the abdominal six-pack muscles are part of the core, this term encompasses a broader spectrum of muscles in the lower torso and hip region crucial for stabilizing the spine. Many individuals unconsciously brace to some degree, yet the key lies in mastering the art of proper bracing.
How to Brace:
Take a massive inhale and force the air into your lower abdomen. You need to hold this breath throughout the lift. You can exhale and retake a breath once the lift is completed before the next rep.
Expand your abdominal wall by engaging your core. When we teach this, most take the inhale and inflate their chest. While this is great for getting oxygen, we do not want to inflate the chest, we want to push the air downward. This creates outward pressure to stabilize the body.
Application and Best Practices:
A useful drill involves practicing the simultaneous inhalation and outward expansion of your belly. A simple test is to place both thumbs on the outside of your abs and observe them moving outward as you inhale. When should you employ this technique? The answer is straightforward – all the time. Continuous bracing is imperative, though the intensity of bracing varies. Consider your bracing as a versatile knob with multiple percentage settings. It ranges from a subtle 5% when walking to a robust 100% during heavy deadlifts.
An insightful analogy is to think of your body like a can of coke. If the can of coke is full with the top unopened, it is strong. You can stand on the coke and nothing will happen. Because it is more outward pressure than the pressure that is pressed upon it. But once you open and empty the can, it becomes weak. If stood upon, it will flatten. Don’t let your body be an empty can of coke.
If breathing and bracing present challenges during your workouts, consider consulting a Strong coach. They can guide you through techniques and strategies to overcome these hurdles and optimize your performance. Elevate your fitness journey by mastering the art of bracing.