Core Bracing Helps Your Back

Throughout my time as a trainer, I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard: My goal is to become ……. Oh but I also really want to have a nice defined core….

To be fair, this is great and all but, I always try to take my clients a step further. Abs are great, particularly for making you look like a badass, but they are also important for your health.

Abs are a part of the main muscle groups that makes up the core. Which is basically the abdominal muscle belt (including muscles in the lower back). The core is important for a healthy spine.

What is even better for the health of your spine is movement. Lots of times, the clients we see at CLIENTEL3 sit at their desk for long periods of time. Often, I’ve had clients tell me: “I know I need to sit up straight so I can get rid of this back pain.”

This is somewhat true, but research has shown that what is really unhealthy about sitting is the lack of spinal movement. There is “bad” posture, where you’re crossing your legs, loading one side of your hips more than the other, putting constant pressure on one shoulder etc. etc.

The Answer is Core Bracing

Having been a couch potato myself and a student for most of my life, I can definitely understand why it is hard to stand up every 45 minutes and move around. But I think I’ve got a good first step to help you work on this issue: Bracing.

You’ve probably heard of that word while watching someone PR on their squat or deadlift. But bracing is a concept that I found to be easy to do whenever and wherever I am. It helped my back feel so much better. I wouldn’t call it a form of meditation but focusing on your breath and slowly being introduced to core bracing properly does quiet my mind down and helps me focus. So now that I have been rumbling about core bracing, let me tell you what it is and some easy steps to get you started on mastering this beautiful skill.

PS: I would like to also mention really quickly that this is a hard skill to master and will take practice and consistently. So those steps are not ones you can do one after the other in one day or a week. Each step will probably take 1-3 weeks if not more (for the last step, I am still working on it myself) to get it right but that is the beauty of it. Take it slowly, don’t skip a step, it’s not a race. Don’t pressure yourself, just try to do the step you are on every day for 2-3 minutes at a time and you will be already be helping your spine to be healthier.

What Structure of the Body Are Being Engaged:

Whenever I learn a new concept, I personally like to visualize it so I can better understand what I am supposed to feel and where I should be feeling it. The video below covers the structures involved from 00:00 to 1:32 min. (They do go over some good ab exercises after 1:32 min but they do not touch on breathing and how to properly brace while using that breath.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=94&v=n0Inw5ooUmU

What is Core Bracing:

As I briefly mentioned earlier, it is about that abdominal muscle belt. What we are trying to create is a stable and strong core by engaging the abs and by creating internal pressure in your entire core while still breathing. When you go from being passive to bracing, it actually helps your vertebrae of your spine to move and also those little joints that are located between the back of your rib cage and your spine to stay healthy.

First Steps to Learn How to Properly Brace:

I am going to get you started with the basics that prepared me to learn how to brace during my lifts or daily tasks.

Step I

Remaining wherever you are: sitting, standing, lying on your back, doesn’t matter.

Turn all your electronic devices onto airplane mode, do not disturb, whatever it is that you do. Set a timer on your phone or watch for 2 minutes or 3 if you’re feeling ambitious. Place your hands on your belly. Close your eyes. Take breaths until the timer goes off:

  • inhale slowly into your stomach, focusing on creating your best baby belly, feel your hands rising
  • Exhales slowly, forcefully letting go of all the air you have left in your lungs. This should cause your core to engage, shakiness is good too
  • After every breath, don’t stop, directly try to refill this belly with as much air as you can
  • Try to remain relaxed, don’t tense up by raising your shoulders or contracting your jaw. Keep every part of you as passive and relaxed as possible.

The day those breaths feel natural and easy to control for the entire 2-3 minutes move on to step II

Step II

Remaining wherever you are: sitting, standing, lying on your back, doesn’t matter.

Turn all your electronic devices on airplane mode, do not disturb, whatever it is that you do.

Set a timer on your phone or watch for 2 minutes or 3 if you’re feeling ambitious. Place your hands this time on the side of the curve right on top of your hips. Take full breaths:

  • Now try to bring the air during each inhale towards the back, side and front core creating a small rise at your fingers and bringing the palm of your hands further away from one another.
  • After inhaling, pause, try to contract your core for 2-3 seconds
  • Exhales slowly, forcefully letting go of all the air you have left in your lungs. This should cause your core to engage, shakiness is good too
  • Same rule as step I, try to create a flow and stay relaxed

Step III

Once, twice or as often as you can, while walking somewhere, watching TV, biking, cooking, I would like you to try to recreate what you were doing during the previous step. This time, instead of letting your core engagement go after holding an inhale, I would like you to breathe normally while maintaining the pressure you have in your abdomen including the engagement created in your core.

It could go something like this:

  • First three inhale, warm up, taking breaths just like in step II
  • Keep breathing this way, but for the next 4 slow exhales try to keep your core engaged. If you need to, take a break after each exhale, do not stop breathing, just relax your core but keep with the flow of the inhale, still expanding the belly.
  • Repeat until the exhale + engagement of the core becomes easy
  • Once this feels natural, switch to breathing normally and try to maintain abdomen pressure and an engaged core.

With those few steps, you can create some movements in your spine to help with back stiffness and overall health of the body. You are also breathing fully and slowly which could bring you to find more “Zen”. Give these steps a try, let us know what your thoughts are on them and also if you find tips that could help others, please feel free to share them!

If you are having issues or feeling like you aren’t doing it properly, go and book a session with one of the trainers at CLIENTEL3, we would love to help you!