What is bracing?
Bracing is the conscious act of stabilizing the lower spine against load and extraneous movement.
What is Inner Abdominal Pressure?
IAP is created by the diaphragm descending into the lower abdominal cavity during an inhale creating an outward expanding pressure through the internal organs and tissues. That outward expanding pressure is met by the abdominal wall and thoracocolumbar fascia creating a stiffness that allows for stability of the spine and proper body alignment.
How do I go about achieving IAP?
1. Understand proper breathing mechanics. On inhalation the diaphragm descends into the lower abdominal cavity causing the belly to expand. This is easiest achieved by laying on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your knees pointing to the ceiling. Place your hands on your belly, near your navel. As you inhale feel your belly expand upward and outward. Next place your finger tips on the inguinal crease, where your torso meets your legs. Breathe into that space, feeling the expansion of your body pressing out into your fingers. Once you can readily achieve expansion in these areas, move to your sides creating expansion there, as well as your belly. Finally, after achieving expansion in three directions, out the front, down into the pelvis, and out into the sides, create expansion out through your low back into the floor. When properly achieved you will feel you pelvis shift into a neutral position, your low back flatten into the floor, and the muscles there lengthen. You have now created an outward expanding pressure in 360 degrees
2. Once you can create that 360 degree expansion on your inhale, your job is to learn how to hold that pressure independent of your breath. It’s a little tricky at first and initially you may find yourself starting with more shallow breaths, but once you mastered that tension you’ll find you can maintain it and breathe naturally and comfortably, even maintain a conversation while keeping that pressure.
3. Start mastering this position with Dead Bugs and Dead Bugs with Heel Taps. Once you have mastered that pressure from your back now experiment with other positions. Try all fours and side lying. Attempt to keep that pressure in a Hover Plank, a traditional Front Plank, and in Side Planks.
4. Now that you’ve got a good handle on keeping that pressure in a static position start playing with movement. A squat is a perfect place to start. begin with bodyweight and progress to Goblet Squats, Rack Position Kettlebell Squats, Zercher Squats with a sandbag, and then Barbell Squats, including Zercher style, Front Squats, and Back Squats. Don’t limit yourself to any one movement. See how the bracing affects your performance in all kinds of movements and all kinds of positions. Your ultimate goal is to get to a state where the bracing “just happens” as a consequence of movement, also referred to as unconscious competence or mastery.