In one of our recent articles titled “Warm Up Before Warming Up“, we talked about using the 90/90 breathing drill in your pre-workout warm-up to improve your breathing mechanics, reposition your pelvis, and decrease the tension in your neck. This drill is also great for learning how to brace your torso for any heavy lift you can think of… squatting, deadlifting, pressing, jerking, cleaning, snatching, etc…
Every day, we witness athletes *kinda* bracing their abs for a lift, but failing to breathe in the process, or taking a big chest breath and not bracing their core. Breathing properly is a major piece of the bracing puzzle, and if you can’t do it right, you can’t brace the right way. And, since you don’t want your core to fold under heavy loads, then learning to breathe and brace to create massive amounts of tension is your ticket to lifting heavier weights.
Ideally, your core is a cylinder creating 360 degrees of pressure, equal front to back and side to side. Bracing is about using your diaphragm to fill your trunk with pressure. Try this… place your hands on your obliques, just above the crest of your pelvis. Now, tighten your stomach as if someone is going to punch you, then breathe into the lowest points of your stomach, forcing as much as air as possible into your lower belly. As you continue to force air to your belly, you should begin feeling that air move your hands, then your ribs should expand laterally as well. You should be feeling the air move up your back and chest, filling the rest of the cavity with tension-creating goodness. You’re trying to use your diaphragm to create a wave-like pattern of air, moving from bottom to top. This process of moving air from the bottom to the top of your torso is the key to creating tension.
Now that you’ve learned how to brace and breathe to create tension, you can add a weightlifting belt to act as a feedback mechanism for you. The belt helps you feel the tension created in your obliques and lower back via breath, without having to leave your hands on your hips during every lift. BUT!… The belt shouldn’t be so tight that it does all the bracing for you, allowing you to ignore your diaphragm. The belt is a tool to help you brace. It doesn’t replace the bracing.
Is reading hard? Is it too difficult to understand the description of bracing via words alone? Skip ahead to about 2:25 in this video from Chris Duffin to learn how to better brace.