Abdominal bracing occurs when you contract the muscles around your spine, creating a rigid midsection. You must brace what you want to protect, and in this case, you are protecting your spine. This is important while performing daily tasks and even more important while exercising. Whether you have a barbell on your upper back for a squat or a trap bar in your hands for a deadlift, if you don’t brace properly, you are at risk for injury.
Bracing properly allows you to create the stability needed to be able to lift heavier loads safely. But it’s not just about flexing your abs. Bracing requires you to engage your entire trunk (abdominals, pelvic floor, diaphragm and spinal erectors) to create stability between the shoulders and hips. It should feel like strong lines of tension connecting the bottom of your chest with your hips.
One of the most common misconceptions about bracing is that you can engage it by sucking in your stomach. What that does is remove the intra-abdominal pressure from your midsection, which is the exact opposite of what we want to accomplish. Intra-abdominal pressure is defined as a steady state pressure in the abdominal cavity.
Men's Health helps illustrate how intra-abdominal pressure can help better stabilize your midsection.
Imagine that your upper body is an empty plastic water bottle. If there is no cap on the water bottle (no pressure, no bracing), it takes almost no effort to bend the bottle whichever direction you would like. But if you put the cap on top (air pressure, bracing), it is almost impossible to bend the water bottle.
This is the same type of mechanism we are trying to use in our training. The core is an energy transfer junction. No matter what type of training you are doing, you need to know how to properly brace your core and to what extent.
Schedule an appointment with one of our physiotherapists to learn proper techniques to engage your core and prevent future injuries while improving your overall life and workout performance!