Updated: Jun 6, 2020
When it comes to training the core, many people automatically think sit ups, bridges and leg raises. While these things have their place, training your ‘core’ is more complex than the 6 pack you see in the mirror.
The abs do make up part of the core but too often people disregard other structures and muscles such as the TVA, pelvic floor, obliques, erectors, diaphragm, lats and hip flexors. Luckily for you, it’s easily trainable and you’ll be able to incorporate it into your training immediately. I’ll go through some of the benefits of breathing and bracing when lifting and then teach you how.
Transfer of energy
By bracing our core, we create more stiffness through the midsection of the body. The increased tension helps us transfer the power created in the lower body up through the core into the upper body. Increasing your intra-abdominal pressure minimises the leakage of energy you’ve created enhancing your ability to lift heavier weights. Try lifting a heavy barbell off the floor with no tension through your core and you’ll
a) hurt yourself or
b) won’t be able to lift it off the ground.
Minimise injury risk
By bracing correctly, we increase the pressure in our abdomen which reduces the load thats put on weaker structures such as the lower back. In something like the trap bar deadlift where there is significant load going through the back it’s important that our midsection takes some of this load.
How to brace
Lay flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. With two fingers find the ASIS (pointy part of your hips toward the front of your body), now move your fingers down a few centimetres and you should feel a small valley.
Next step is to pretend you were in the bathroom taking a pee, try to stop the stream (also known as a kegel), you should feel a slight bulge push out into your fingers, this is the TVA increasing intra abdominal pressure. Our aim is to take a deep belly breath then brace and you should feel a large amount of pressure build up in your abdomen when lifting.
The trap bar deadlift seen in this video is a great exercise to practice breathing and bracing. Notice the breath I take before each rep and the tension created through my core (look for the crinkles in my singlet on the last rep). Practice with lighter weights first, don’t try this for the first time on a 1 rep max. Start light, focus on your belly breath, stop the stream and lift.