The core of your body revolves around the muscles in your abdomen, sides and back. Your core also includes the majority of your spine. If your core muscles are weak, your back is at a greater risk of injury from lifting. While heavy lifting in the gym or at work obviously requires a strong core, even simple tasks such as carrying groceries or lifting a child taxes your core muscles and your spine.
Core braces are deliberate training exercises that tighten your core to prepare for lifting. Bracing the core helps you stabilize the muscles in your abdomen and center your mass to create tension so that you don’t pull your back out. A common part of physical therapy following any back procedure, these core exercises offer a slew of features, not the least of which is protecting your back.
Other benefits of core braces include:
- Improved posture that relieves back pain and discomfort
- Enhanced flexibility, making turning and bending easier
- Better balance for preventing falls
- Greater coordination to execute complex moves smoothly
- An increase in mind/body awareness
- Reducing lower back pain, one of the most common back complaints
- Faster running speeds because your legs and hips do more of the action when your back is straight and strong
- General well-being and improved confidence
Core Braces Have Downsides
At the Southeastern Spine Institute (SSI), the physical therapy team works closely with your back specialist to create an exercise regimen that targets your specific needs. During your workouts at SSI or with a personal trainer at your gym, you may hear core tightening instructions that include:
- Pull in your belly.
- Try to touch your bellybutton to your spine.
- Tighten your abs.
- Squeeze your abs.
- Harden your core.
Called “bracing cues,” these instructions are designed to fortify your core to prevent back injury while you perform exercises. These core braces are used during weightlifting, abdominal crunches, sit-ups, squats and many other moves. However, when instructed to “squeeze your abs,” you may do what most people do and squeeze more muscles than just the ones supporting your back, such as the gluteus muscles and hamstrings.
Isometric exercises are designed to tighten and release various muscle groups. But when they’re all done at the same time, it negates the power you’re trying to develop. You’re not providing sufficient support for your spine. Since core braces limit your flexibility while you’re doing them, they hinder movement during certain activities, such as swinging a golf club. Core exercises even interfere with proper breathing, limiting their effectiveness if you try to do too much.
Get Professional Guidance
Work closely with your physical therapist at SSI. Get the advantage of practicing core braces with a professional trainer experienced in providing proper technique and instructions for maximum spinal stabilization. In this way, you protect your spine while building stabilizing muscles.
A proper breathing technique allows your diaphragm to act as an integral piece of your core. Done correctly, breathing further enhances your strength and strengthens your core muscles. Core bracing helps you prevent injury and strengthen the muscles surrounding your back. As a pleasant side effect, you also may develop a coveted “six-pack” if you follow directions and learn how to do core braces correctly.