Ouch! My back! How often does this happen when you’re lifting heavy things? What was missing?
Spinal stability… whoops, sorry, I left my nerd glasses on…
Bracing. That’s what was missing from that otherwise awesome deadlift. I can remember doing “correct” deadlifts (hips back, low back arched, knees slightly bent…) yet my back still protested. What gives? I wasn’t bracing my core properly. (By core I mean the anterior and posterior musculature between the ribs and the pelvis.)
See, the abs aren’t just there to look good (as much as we think so) but they’re there, in conjunction with the obliques, lats, quadratus lumborum and all those other “core” muscles, to help create the intraabdominal pressure to protect our beloved spines. When done properly, the brace should feel like, well, a brace around your midsection. It should feel like your midsection has just turned to a stone pillar or this Colossus:
A common mistake I see is people “drawing in” as in pulling their belly button in and holding their breath. BIIIIIIG no-no (I used to do it too and I have the spinal injuries to prove it)! Drawing in does very little for stabilizing and protecting the spine. For you nerds in the crowd, read about it here and here. For everyone else, just brace out, it’s mo’ betta.
So how does one go about bracing? Check out this excellent video by Jim Laird as he explains how to go about learning how to brace like a beast.
We’ve started incorporating these drills in with our athletes here at SAPT and we’re getting great feedback. (He’s right, the athletes do look at you like you have a flower growing out of your nose when you explain it, but they understand why we’re making them do it when they start pwning big weights!)
Note: after working with females and being one myself, the “pushing” out and breathing out is often difficult for us. It just is mentally uncomfortable for some as it makes us feel “fat” (I’m including myself in this camp). Trust me, 1. you don’t look fat nor will this make you stomach look bigger when you’re not bracing and 2. protecting your spine while picking up heavy things (which overall will make you leaner anyway) is WAY more important that a temporary pushing out of your stomach. I think about pushing my belly button out and down (as well as pushing into your back as Jim explains in the video) and that helps me brace more effectively.
That’s it. Go forth and BRACE!
ANNND, look what happens when you turn 5 years old… SAPT is having it’s FIRST EVER 25% off sale!