T Nation

Core Bracing


#1

Hi guys, I can't find precise answer on this question anywhere, so have to ask here:

Do I need to brace my core during every exercise? Or I should let my abdominals adapt themselves to the load without thinking about it? Or I should maybe consciously try to activate them as little as possible?
Lets take this Lying Leg Curls for example, how should my abs behave while performing it?


#2

[quote]beginner91 wrote:
Hi guys, I can’t find precise answer on this question anywhere, so have to ask here:

Do I need to brace my core during every exercise? Or I should let my abdominals adapt themselves to the load without thinking about it? Or I should maybe consciously try to activate them as little as possible?
Lets take this Lying Leg Curls for example, how should my abs behave while performing it?[/quote]

If you want to protect your lumbar spine during load bearing activities that stress your spine, it’s probably a good idea to learn to brace your core. Your erectors help to a certain extent. If your goal is to get strong then it will only help to recruit more muscles.

It isn’t really necessary during leg curls in terms of safety. But if you’re holding on to something and creating tension throughout your body helps to lift more, then why not try it?

I have gone years without learning to brace properly when I started lifting. My abs did not adapt and learn to maximally contract itself - I had to focus on it for a period of time until it became automatic when getting tight. It’s possible to get stronger without bracing properly but you lose out on strength potential and it will become a limiting factor at some point.


#3

This is one of those things where common sense will answer your question. Bracing your abs will protect your spine, so do it whenever you support a heavy weight. Squats. Deadlifts. Overhead presses. Leg curls? Pushdowns? Nope, not necessary.


#4

Yes your abs should be firing during lying leg curls (and during pushdowns, for that matter), and you shouldn’t be trying to consciously change that.


#5

So many different answers…

[quote]nighthawkz wrote:
This is one of those things where common sense will answer your question. Bracing your abs will protect your spine, so do it whenever you support a heavy weight. Squats. Deadlifts. Overhead presses. Leg curls? Pushdowns? Nope, not necessary.[/quote]

So I should not brace my abs on purpose? I should just let them naturally brace?

Does bracing have to do something with preventing hernia? Or it maybe increases risk of getting one?


#6

[quote]beginner91 wrote:
So many different answers…

[quote]nighthawkz wrote:
This is one of those things where common sense will answer your question. Bracing your abs will protect your spine, so do it whenever you support a heavy weight. Squats. Deadlifts. Overhead presses. Leg curls? Pushdowns? Nope, not necessary.[/quote]

So I should not brace my abs on purpose? I should just let them naturally brace?

Does bracing have to do something with preventing hernia? Or it maybe increases risk of getting one?
[/quote]

Brace purposefully and forcefully. Gorge your lungs with air, push it into your belly, and clinch your abs as if you’re about to take a blow to the stomach.


#7

[quote]beginner91 wrote:
So many different answers…

[quote]nighthawkz wrote:
This is one of those things where common sense will answer your question. Bracing your abs will protect your spine, so do it whenever you support a heavy weight. Squats. Deadlifts. Overhead presses. Leg curls? Pushdowns? Nope, not necessary.[/quote]

So when performing “curls and pushdowns” I should not brace my abs on purpose? I should just let them naturally brace?

Does bracing have to do something with preventing hernia? Or it maybe increases risk of getting one?
[/quote]

edit


#8

[quote]beginner91 wrote:
So many different answers…
[/quote]

Not really. I said bracing on isolation exercises is not necessary. We all agree on the importance of bracing during heavy spinal loading as a way to protect your spine. Bracing on smaller stuff, IMO, is a mixed bag. You may be able to use more weight, you may lose your focus on the target muscle. Try both and see which one works better for you.


#9

Ok, so brace on compound exercises, don’t consciously brace on isolation exercises?

If only I could remember how were I lifting before discovering all those bracing, stiffening, tensing stuff. It would be much easier.


#10

[quote]beginner91 wrote:
Ok, so brace on compound exercises, don’t consciously brace on isolation exercises?

If only I could remember how were I lifting before discovering all those bracing, stiffening, tensing stuff. It would be much easier.[/quote]

It’s personal preference for isolation exercises. You choose.

You do have a choice for compound movements as well but we’re all in agreement that the benefits of bracing far outweighs the consequence of not doing it.


#11

I think I’ll just keep bracing my abs throughout all exercises.
I mean, I just tried doing biceps curls (that is isolated exercise, right?) with core almost relaxed. It is impossible.


#12

[quote]beginner91 wrote:
I think I’ll just keep bracing my abs throughout all exercises.
I mean, I just tried doing biceps curls (that is isolated exercise, right?) with core almost relaxed. It is impossible.

[/quote]

That’s good, but I think you may be confusing bracing with just being rigid (or hell, maybe I am, haha). I think of bracing as a very aggressive way of to force rigidity, such as doing the steps I listed above. Could just be semantics though.


#13

[quote]beginner91 wrote:
I think I’ll just keep bracing my abs throughout all exercises.
I mean, I just tried doing biceps curls (that is isolated exercise, right?) with core almost relaxed. It is impossible.
[/quote]

Relaxing your core on purpose is silly and dangerous.


#14

[quote]TX iron wrote:
That’s good, but I think you may be confusing bracing with just being rigid (or hell, maybe I am, haha). I think of bracing as a very aggressive way of to force rigidity, such as doing the steps I listed above. Could just be semantics though.[/quote]

Hm, then is my bad lol. I was thinking that being rigid is just being braced lighter. I mean the difference is only in intensity of bracing. Ok, we got it.

[quote]knokkelezoute73 wrote:
Relaxing your core on purpose is silly and dangerous.
[/quote]

Yes, it is unnatural. I wasn’t relaxing it, but I was trying to activate it as little as possible while maintaining basic rigidity. Which is pretty much the same I guess.