I’ve been transferring content from StandUpRight.ca into my mobile app this weekend. While working on the back pain essentials section I realized that in all the 27 previous posts, I missed core bracing. This is a serious oversight on my part that I must correct, forthwith.
The Core Brace
First off, what is the core brace, and why is it important? I’ve described the core as a corset, a band of muscles around your midsection that functions to keep your guts in place, and your upper body erect. It is the second half there that is important for posture, keeping your upper body erect.
Your core keeps the stack of tubes and balls that is your spine erect. Think of a plastic pop bottle. When full of pop and compressed CO2, it is stiff and hard. When empty, it is soft and pliable. Your core needs to be the full bottle, not the empty.
In short, if you want to have good posture, you must train your core muscles to be able to hold your posture erect. We’ve covered that extensively in things like bridge, dead bug, plank and a host of core specific exercises.
The thing is, those exercises train the strength and endurance of the core, but do not teach the brace. Let’s do that now. Bracing the core is the simple action of engaging all of the core muscles at once. To brace your core standing:
- Make karate chop hands
- Place your middle fingers, palms up just under your ribs, anywhere along the lower rib line
- Push your fingers into the squishy bits
- Now, using your abdominal muscles, push your fingers back out
- If you are having trouble pushing your fingers back out, cough to teach the muscles what to do
- Try again until you can push out on your fingers
- Do this in several places to make sure all the muscles around your core are working
This is the vertical core brace. Your first action in learning to hold proper posture is to learn to do this.
Another way to learn to brace your core is to do so while lying on your back. To brace your core lying down:
- Begin, by lying down prone on your back, prone.
- Raise your knees until your thighs are vertical (you can test this by placing your palms on your knees, elbows straight)
- Raise your shins to be parallel to the floor
- Your entire core should kick in here
- To make sure it does, try to lift your tailbone 1mm up off the floor
- Check to make sure you’re still holding a neutral spine
- Doing all of this will force your entire core to kick on
This is the prone core brace. Your first action in learning to hold proper posture is to learn to do this.