Hello! Welcome to the first installment of the Accelerated Wellness blog! Today we are going to go over proper bracing techniques.
First we need to understand what the "core" is and what structures make it up. First, the obvious bony structures of the lumbar spine and the bony pelvis. Second, the abdominal musculature controls the movement of the lumbar spine, lower ribs, and pelvis. The rectus abdominis (think 6 pack) gets all the fanfare but it would be very weak and ineffective if it weren't for it's partners in spine, the transverse abdominis which lies directly below it, and the internal & external obliques. Often neglected in the core discussion is the erector spinae group, particularly the multifidus. This group works hard to keep us standing upright and the multifidus is important in proprioception. Furthermore, the pelvic floor muscles (yes the ones that control pooping and other functions) make up the bottom of the core. Topping it all off is that all-important breathing muscle, the diaphragm. Using your breath as part of the bracing sequence is a powerful tool. So powerful, in fact, there will be a whole new blog post about it in a few weeks. Stay tuned.
Anatomy is best learned visually so here's picture:
Much has been written about abdominal bracing, over complicating the idea. To visualize the think of the abdomen like a keg of your favorite beer: round on all sides and flat on the top and bottom. It is important to activate all the muscles at the same time in order to maintain a neutral spine. Some powerlifting methods stress arching the lumbar spine in order to maintain tightness; this is incorrect and dangerous. Worst of all, it sacrifices stability and therefore the athlete will have trouble locking out a deadlift or hitting depth in a squat. Not good. As shown in the following image, the first spine is in the proper position. Note that the diaphragm and pelvic floor are parallel and the abs are braced properly in the image on the far left. The other images demonstrate common bracing faults.
It is worth noting that the image demonstrating proper core bracing also demonstrates good spinal alignment - a topic for a later date.
The bottom line?
Next time you're lifting weights, moving a couch, or picking up the laundry basket be sure to brace the core properly. Keep in mind the cue "be a keg" and stay tuned for future tips and advice! Thanks for reading!