THE IMPORTANCE OF CORE STRENGTH

Brace Yourself: The Importance of Core Strength

We need to go back to the basics. As the fitness community and educational resources available rapidly expand, the foundations of physical health are being thrown to the side. How many times have you sat at your desk job, in your lecture hall, on the couch binging Netflix, for HOURS and complained of lower back pain? Wondered why your shoulders and body ache from carrying your backpack all day, walked into the gym confused why someone is lifting weight and wearing this uncomfortable leather thing around their waist. Core bracing: One of the MOST important building blocks to successful physical fitness that is miserably underlooked. 

As we grow older and begin to sit more and more, our posture goes completely down the drain. I see it in the students I’m sitting next to in class, people sitting on the bus, I notice this literally EVERYWHERE I go. A huge problem with this is anterior pelvic tilt (the forward tilt of the pelvis, rounding the lower back and pushing forward the stomach). THIS IS WHAT IS CAUSING YOU SO MUCH BACK PAIN! While there are many muscle groups involved in this problem that is overly tight or overused, a HUGE component of this is weak and underdeveloped abdominal muscles, which comes from a lack of proper core bracing. See where I’m going with this?

Abdominal bracing is completely separate from hollowing, the common cue is given to ‘suck your belly button into your back’. Bracing was developed by Dr. Stuart McGill, a Canadian spinal biomechanics professor, and is basically the tightening of all of our torso muscles, allowing ourselves to stabilize breath and spinal movement. Imagine you’re about to be punched in the gut. Keeping stiffness in our abdominal actually PREVENTS spinal injury, and is a natural cue that our bodies have, but something we begin to lose through age and adaptation to our sedentary lifestyles. Notice the tightness you feel in your torso when standing or walking that is completely released when you sit down, that is the core switching from ON to OFF instantly. Though we can’t change our circumstances and just start standing and moving all hours of the day, we CAN begin to assess our activity levels and ‘reteach’ our bodies how to keep our cores switched ON!

BREATHING – The control of breath and WHERE we are breathing from is essential to proper bracing whether you’re sitting or standing. BELLY BREATHING is the technique to use here, taking a deep breath from the belly rather than the chest to inflate the belly,  and then inhale and tightening the core. Practice slow and steady breaths and the ebbs and flows of tension

YOGA – I’ve found that slowing down and better understanding movement within the body not only helps with core bracing but total-body awareness! Breathing, feeling and releasing the tension, and muscle engagement is essential to yoga practice, and there are even movements such as ‘Cat-Cow’ that solely focusing on the bracing of our abdominals

BE CONSCIOUS – It’s easy to naturally slump over and relax when you sit down, walk with your shoulders slightly rolled forward and your gut hanging out. I urge you to be a little more conscientious of what your body is doing throughout the day. Are your shoulders rolled down and back? Is your chest staying lifted and tall? Are you keeping the core tight and braced as much as you can?  These are some things I remind myself periodically throughout the day when I’ve been inactive for long periods of time to keep my spine set and abdominals switched to that ON position.

Though it seems difficult, this becomes an easy concept to master and you’ll find that the more you practice and mentally check yourself to properly brace the core in daily routine, it’ll translate into other areas of life too! The way you FEEL muscles when lifting, the way you carry yourself when you walk into a room, the way people perceive you simply from the way you sit. Proper posture = the look of exuding confidence AND a healthy spine! It does and WILL make a difference in the way your body feels.

 

It’s easy to get caught up and overwhelmed with the complexities in fitness, hell half the time some of the things I hear these people are saying sound like they were pulled straight out of a kid’ fairy tale bedtime story. But I can’t stress how important, no not just important,  but ESSENTIAL it is to master understanding and technique of foundational tools like abdominal bracing not only to prevent serious injuries and rehab aches and pains, but to FEEL in control of your body and create the best version of YOU possible.

-Kaylin Hauge BS, CSCS

Disclaimer:  The author is not a physician or a registered dietitian. The contents of this article should not be taken as medical advice. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any health problem – nor is it intended to replace the advice of a physician.

References:

 “HOW TO: Perform Abdominal Bracing Correctly.” Vision Exercise Physiology, 4 Mar. 2018, visionexercisephysiology.com.au/perform-abdominal-bracing-correctly/. (Photo Used)

Graham, Author Kelsey Graham Contributor Kelsey. “Certified™: November 2018 – Spinal Stability: To Brace or Not to Brace?” ACE, www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/professional/certified/november-2018/7120/spinal-stability-to-brace-or-not-to-brace/.

Disclaimer: The author is not a physician or a registered dietitian. The contents of this article should not be taken as medical advice. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any health problem – nor is it intended to replace the advice of a physician.