Another way I’ve built abs has actually been through "abdominal bracing".
This is something that is RARELY ever taught.
DID you know that "engaging your core" to stand and sit is COMPLETELY different than "engaging your core" when you lift weights?!
In my last ab blog (tip #2) I talk about the importance of proper posture sitting & standing to keep tight abs & a strong core. Standing & sitting to engage your core is called "abdominal narrowing". Abdominal narrowing is when you “drive your belly button to your spine”.
If you were to squat while narrowing your abdominals, it would essentially be a guarantee to injure your spine because this stance de-stabilizes your spine WHEN bearing weight.
SO, let's unpack "abdominal bracing" during your lifts & how this builds stronger ABS.
Looking at the ab muscles high level, we have 3 layers to them. The outer layer is our rectus abdominis (think 6 pack), which runs horizontally down from our ribcage to our pelvis. In the middle, we have our external and internal obliques, which run diagonally from our lower ribcage to our pelvis. And finally we have the TrA (transverse abdominal), which runs horizontally beneath the other layers.
“Abdominal bracing” not only activates ALL these layers of abs, but it also gets the small muscles in between each vertebrae, and the latissimus dorsi (lats). Properly bracing during your lifts WILL give you solid, strong abs.
How to abdmoninally embrace:
Envision what you would do if you were to prepare yourself for someone to punch you in the stomach. You would tense your core to brace for the impact. You would not suck in, but rather flex your abdominals.
Steps by step- abdominal bracing:
- Keep your hips under your lungs.
- Breathe in (deep, diaphragmatic breathing)
- Tighten up (squeeze ALL abdominal muscles & brace as if you were to be punched in the stomach)
- Then slowly breathe (whilst keeping these muscles tight)
Keep a slight bend in your knees when standing to lift . Keep your legs hip-width apart (athletic stance)
No No's to abdominal bracing
- Don’t stick your chest up
- Don't stick your bum out.
- Don’t pull your belly in/suck in.
- Don’t tilt pelvis (curve your back out)
When to BRACE yo-self with the weights:
- Sitting (arms, shoulders, back, legs, chest)
- Lying (chest, legs)
- Standing and curling
- Really anything!
Practice makes perfect!
Memorize bracing your abs before hitting the weights.
Two ab exercises to get your mind-muscle connection going before hitting the weights!
Exercise 1: Lying down or standing:
- Place your hands around your waist.
- Flex/tense your stomach
- Increase the contraction so that you feel your sides stiffen.
- Hold contraction for 10 seconds.
- Repeat 5 times.
Exercise 2: The Plank
- Assume a modified push-up position with your elbows bent 90 degrees (elbows & forearms touching the floor)
- Position your elbows directly underneath your shoulders and look straight toward the floor.
- Your body should form a perfectly straight line from the crown of your head to your heels.
- Keep your back straight. Do not stick your booty up in the air. Do not let your back weaken and bend towards the floor.
- Keep your feet hip widths apart
- Hold for as long as you can!
Your abs will be bracing the entire time! Remember to keep your body tight! Squeeze your abs, lower back & booty the entire time you plank!