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How Do I Brace My Core and Why?

Another guest blog post from our very own Coach Sara.

Sara goes into some very good information here about learning to brace your core and why it can be so effective in our training.


First, ANATOMY… Stay with me, I’ll try to make this entertaining!

You can think of the core as a can of your favourite beverage (zevia, coke, beer, whatever tickles your fancy). The top of the can being the diaphragm, a very important muscle that keeps you breathing, spanning like an umbrella from your spine, all around your ribs to the front of your chest. The bottom being the pelvic floor, those crucially important muscles helping you out when the bathroom line is about 5 people too long! We have the cylinder, which is made up not only of the abdominal muscles, but also the obliques, spinal erectors and quadratus lumborum (QL). Last but not least, and debatably the most important in core activation, transversus abdominus- an abdominal muscle that runs 360 degrees horizontally around our torso that, when working, acts similar to tightening a belt around your waist!

"WHY do I need to brace my core? My coach won’t stop talking about this one!”

The purpose of bracing the core is to be able resist being forced into undesirable positions, in order the keep the integrity of the spinal column (vertebrae and discs) and spinal cord (life line) intact. For example, to keep the back from rounding in a deadlift, or to be able to keep the torso from overextending when weight is overhead. Being able to brace your core can also enable you to maximize your strength potential! A solid wooden dowel is waaaaaaaaay stronger than a soggy old pool noodle.

HOW-TO: The idea is to increase the pressure in the abdomen, and then use all of the “core” muscles listed above to resist against that pressure we just added! Do it with me…

1) Breathe in through the mouth like your sucking on a straw, lips in an “O”

2) Feel the belly button rise, with the chest moving minimally

3) Squeeze your core muscles against that air in your belly like you’re going to SNEEZE

For 1 rep max attempts, we want to hold that big breath from the beginning, hold through, then release once we are completing the repetition. For barbell cycling, or moderate loads for more than 1 repetition, we need to learn how to find that maximal compression, relax about 50%, and continue to breath through the resistance… Oxygen to supply the muscles while having the compression to support the spine and hold good positioning.

DRILLS that you can integrate into movements you already know. Goal: Learning to breath while bracing!

To be honest, the real answer here is repetition. Practice this breathing under low fatigue (not in the middle of a WOD). For example, take two minutes before class, lay on your back with your knees bend and just breathe while creating tension in the abdomen, or even when warming up your air squat, back squat and/or deadlift. USE those lighter weights to get inside your body and feel the support. If this still isn’t making sense, a hack that Coach Mike suggests is to have a lifting belt just tight enough to have a little breathing room around the abdomen, and practice breathing into and bracing against the belt. But, more on the pro’s and con’s of lifting belts to come ;).

Once we can make the conscious practice become habit, our bodies will respond and rely on this support under high loads and high fatigue.

Sara Long, RMT + Coach at CFVC



WARMUP: Rowling 3 x 150m

WOD: Whacka

This wod will be done with a partner, and you both should share the same bar if possible! Work quickly through your rounds, but keep an eye to pace out your effort for the full wod!

Rx: 6 rounds each person (going in relay fashion):

5 power cleans (95/135), 10/15 cal bike, 15 wallballs (14/20)

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