We’ve all heard the coach or a fellow member of the gym yell out, “get tight” before you go for a big lift, but what does that even mean? Bracing and finding stability is one of the most neglected areas when lifting, which is unfortunate because it is arguably the most important aspect of movement. So often I hear coaches simply give the cue “tighten your midline” but never explain how or why we do that. This needs to be our number one priority when thinking about movement, how to brace properly to protect our spine and create stability.
One of the biggest misconceptions about bracing is the idea breathing creates tension. This is not true. Although breathing plays a role in bracing, there are several other factors we must address in order to be successful. The first of these being our posture. If we start in a bad position we will always be in a bad position. Furthermore, if we start with bad posture and then brace, we are just reinforcing poor positioning. Our optimal position is having the diagram and the pelvic floor running parallel with one another.
Once we have obtained this position, we can now brace properly to create stability in the trunk. This comes not from breathing deep but flexing and becoming rigid in the trunk. We are all familiar with flexing the stomach, but often times the obliques and lower back or forgotten. We must flex and push out all the way around our trunk, not just the anterior.
From here, we will pull our breath down, filling our lower abdominals first and then into our chest. Think of your trunk as a pitcher of water, it fills from the bottom up. The breath is the final piece to lock everything into place, but again, it is not where we find stability or rigidity.
This pattern of bracing is crucial for all kinds of movement, not just those that include a barbell. This is the foundation of all movement, therefore, it must become our greatest priority.