When we lift something, particularly in the gym, we want to create full body tension. Creating this stiffness, not just in our abs, but everywhere in our body, is an upgrade to movement quality, strength and will aid in protecting our lower backs.
A common question around the gym is to do more “core stuff.” While the intention is there, the person is mislead in believing only core exercises that make your core sore are effective in creating strong abs. I want you to think of your core, not just as your abs, but your entire trunk. Everything that isn’t an arm or a leg. Whenever we are creating tension and stiffness in our bodies while moving is a core exercise. It’s an opportunity to practice using it and therefore strengthening it.
Bracing is using your body in conjunction to create rigidity. Basically, trying to hold a plank with your mid section while you’re doing something like a reverse lunge, sled march, squat or deadlift. Most of you know what a plank feels like. The disconnection is that we need to apply that feeling to most exercises we’re doing in the gym.
Let’s say you’re going to do a goblet reverse lunge. Once you pick up your kettlebell, take a big breath in. When you exhale, prepare for someone to punch you in the stomach. This should feel like you’re holding a standing up plank. From here, a take breath in and breathe into the brace. Use the tension in your trunk as feedback for a good breath. It’ll be hard to maintain. You’ll need to keep reminding yourself, every rep, until it becomes natural.
This will make you stronger and safer in the gym. Questions about bracing or strengthening your core? Let me know in the comments below.