So you’ve been sat at work all day, notice your hunched forward and your shoulders ////////// are drawn towards the screen, posture is just a mess. Your reaction to this is to do the exact opposite and flex your spine all the way back, squeeze your shoulder blades together, push your chest out, now you are like, oh yeah my posture is sick…
Sorry to say it’s worse! You have gone from a highly compromised position, that causes compression of the spinal discs anterior portion, to another highly compromised position where your intervertabrle discs are compressed towards the posterior portion. In an ideal world your vertebrae should sit evenly on top of your discs, which they do right up until we hit primary school, and we begin to spend days on end within chairs! Which not only has a knock on effect to your spin, it effects your ankles, knees, hips, back, shoulders and neck! If your ankles don’t function correctly, your knees can’t move correctly causing you hips to rotate when your walk or run, which degenerates stability of the core, which affects your spinal position, knocking on to your shoulders drawing them forward and then neck, eventually your spending hundreds of your well earned pounds on running shoes which cushion your feet so that they can function is a completely non functional way, or spending your time at physio’s, chiropractors, osteopaths and so on and so on. (FYI not a dig at any of these professions! we need these people to help us understand how to function!) I could go on and on and on and on… and on… But how to we address our spinal position?
Learning How To Brace
What is bracing?
Bracing in a way is you hugging your spine. It takes activation of the deeper abdominal muscles and of your glute muscles, in order to create this tight wrap around your spinal column so that it is never in a compromised position, and if it is then it’s kept under control and as stable as possible. You have heard people say keep your back flat? in a way this is bracing. Its allows a nice straight path for power to be delivered from the bottom up. A great example is dead lifting, if you dead lift with a braced neutral spine, it allows for greater force generation (torque) across the kinetic chain, as everything is switched on at once, meaning no leak of power. What happens when you are not braced is shown in figure 3, as you can see there is a huge “kink” in the chain, so the weight of the bar, is no longer being spread across all of our body, it is now being localised in our lower back, our body is no longer working as one unit, so instead of the pressure being spread across all our vertebrae is being localised to a handful, which can cause a whole load of back issues.
Step 1: Setting your pelvis into a neutral position
Position hips directly underneath your hips
Feet facing forward, parallel with each other
Squeeze your glutes, setting pelvis into position
Without letting your feet turn, screw your right foot clockwise, left foot counter clockwise, feet should be facing forward
Step 2: Balance rib cage over pelvis
Keeping glutes switched on take a deep breath through your diaphragm (not your chest) and breath out untill all the air is expelled
you will feel your abs switch on, keep them engaged and breath back in
Step 3: Organise Shoulders
Palms facing forward, rotate your shoulders (extending your collar bone)
Not bringing shoulder blades together
Don’t allow for your rib cage to tilt or flare out
Step 4: set your head in a neutral position
Looking straight ahead
ears in line with shoulder
Try the bracing sequence out yourself! not only is it useful for when you’re in the gym, its useful every day at any time of the day! If you are seated take into account position of your hips, ribcage, shoulders and head!
Easy Technique to activate abdominal bracing & Alignment
Get someone to attempt to slap you in the stomach but you are not letting them do so, your body will automatically Brace your abdominals for impact. This is abdominal bracing, that is what you should feel when your braced!
To see if you’re in alignment while seated, place one thumb on your pubic symphosis (Bony process below abdomen) and one on your Xyphoid process (Lowest part of your sternum). Demonstrated in picture under How braced sitting should look.
Positions in relation to spinal pressure load (KG)
Just understanding the bracing technique will help you live easier, lift heavier, reduce risk of injuring your back doing the simplest of tasks, and keep your spine safe!
Hope I have helped!