You may have heard someone say ‘brace your core’ before lifting. This common bracing cue is used to protect your body from harm while resistance training. However this cue can be improved by knowing how bracing works to protect your spine. Before we get into that we first need to address what the ‘core’ actually is.
The term ‘core’ is used to describe all the muscles in the trunk that have a role in stabilising the spine. These include the Rectus Abdominus, Internal and External Obliques, Transverse Abdominus, Spinal Erectors, Deep Hip Flexors, Pelvic floor and the Diaphragm. Latissimus Dorsi and Glutes also play a role in the bracing sequence. When all of these muscles are activated, you can then use your diaphragm to increase the intra-abdominal pressure as seen in the picture below. As you can see by the yellow arrows, all muscles of the core are working together to provide stability to the trunk. If you are a visual person like me, it might help to think of your core as an empty coke can. If an empty can is unblemished it is like the first picture. You can place many times its own weight on top; you can even stand on it. However, as soon as the can is jeopardised in any way, as indicated by the blue arrows, it will crumble.
In order to brace correctly, you need to be able to use your diaphragm to generate this intra-abdominal pressure. Most people breathe by expanding their chest, this limits the use of the diaphragm, instead you need to use your diaphragm by breathing down into your stomach. An easy way to practice this is to place your hands on your stomach, then try and move your hands by breathing into your stomach. Once you are able to breathe using your diaphragm, you are now ready to start bracing correctly.
So how do we brace to decrease the change of injury and increase our performance in the weight room? Follow the bracing sequence below:
- Stand-up straight with shoulders down and back.
- Squeeze your glutes to set your pelvis
- Brace your abs like someone is about to punch you in the stomach
- Diaphragmatically breath into this braced position