Bracing for Compound Movements

If we have been exposed to powerlifting in some degree or another , we have heard of the common phrases “deep breath”, “get tight”, and “brace into your belt”.  I want to preface this article by saying that all cues are not created equal, and not everyone will respond in the way you ideally want them to. With that being said, here are some slightly different ideas on cue-ing bracing before performing your common compound movements: Squat, Bench, Deadlift, Barbell Overhead press, and all iterations thereof.

If we perform bracing properly, we will feel like our spine is stabilized, it is easier to move your shoulder blades in the right position, you can viscerally feel your abs engaging hard, and it’s easier overall to engage the muscles you desire. Will it still be a fight and a conscious effort on your part to keep your bracing throughout the movement? Yes. That’s why we train, and that’s how we get stronger. Okay onto the nitty gritty.  How do we teach bracing at TrainLifeFit? You can go ahead and watch the video, or do a little bit of both. Read and watch :).

  1.  BREATHING: The most important thing for any human to learn period is how to breathe through the diaphragm. If you follow along with the video, the first thing we should understand is where to put our air. At first you will feel resistance via your chest and neck taking over. Why? Because we have been trained to suck our bellies in, and use our secondary breathing structures (chest, neck). So let’s put our fingers on our belly button and inhale air into this area through our nose first. Do you feel this rise? No? Your chest and neck are taking over? It’s all good. Close your eyes, and try again. Go slow and make it almost exclusively rising through your belly button. Got it? Awesome. Moving on. We are going to now inflate air into our sides. Think about your ribs expanding outward. You can put your fingers on your sides and breathe into your fingers. And last but not least, place your fingers on your abs and make that expand as well.  And then from here you can take your breath all the way up into your upper spine. It’s important to think of this style of bracing almost like a vase. You are breathing from the  bottom up. Now inflate air into all of the above mentioned areas, and hold your breath. Make sure when you are holding your breath, you don’t go back into your neck and chest.
  2. BRACING: What is bracing? It’s not a magical phenomenon that only the greats can do. However, some people have better access than others. And for this reason, we will give you some more internal cues that you can feel. It is tough at first to get this down, but the more your practice it, the better your movement patterns will become.

a) Kegel: Learn how to do this boys and girls :). It allows you to engage your deep pelvic floor muscles which align your spine and pelvis for the patterns you have to perform. We tell our clients to “pull their rectums into their belly buttons”. If you are doing it correctly, you will feel like your spine elongates, and your pelvis tucks under. You will also feel like your lower to upper abs turn on. If you only get this down after your deep breath, you are in a good starting place. However, if you want to practice dialing in your strength even more, read on.

b) Obliques!: To get these on, place your fingers on them, and think about pulling your fingers into the midline of your body.

c) Upper Abs: Last but not least, pull your upper abs into your back.

Now that you have inflated air into the right areas, and braced correctly, you are ready for the next step

3. REINFORCE:  Often the most overlooked, yet highly important part of the whole process is to reinforce what you created up there.  This means intensify your brace. Get those abdominal points we talked about above to fire more intensely. Remember, for a compound lift, you need to recruit as much from your midline as possible to perform the lift. If you don’t, then the slack is picked up elsewhere. Often times it’s your poor lower back :(.

Stay tuned for bracing with particular compound movements!

Best, Sumair

Sumair Bhasin