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Are you bracing when lifting?

Most lower back injuries occur during a lifting activity, and most of the time it's not from heavy objects, it can be as small as lifting a shopping bag. Most patients we see at the clinic have heard of ‘engaging their core’ or ‘bracing their abs’ but don’t actually understand what it means, therefore when having to do more strenuous tasks like lifting, it is more than likely that this is not occurring, leaving your body open to injury.

The reason for bracing is to cause rigidity within the spine to reduce the likelihood of injury during certain tasks. A lot of professionals will call this lack of bracing a ‘weak core’ and it is probably something that you have heard in the past.

The muscles that support the spine are very rarely weak, due to them being consistently used throughout every day life, for example, if our abs were ‘switched off’ or ‘not working’ then we would literally topple over.

What many of us need is the ability to utilise these muscles in the correct range of motion through many different planes of movement (bending/twisting/carrying etc). Therefore to allow these muscles to do their job more effectively we need to consistently train these types of movements. There are 3 main ranges to train;

1. Anti-extension

2. Anti-rotation

3. Anti-lateral flexion

Firstly though we need to know what it feels like to engage those bracing muscles and build that mind-muscle connection. So here are my favourite tip’s to teach you how to brace properly.

  1. Lie on your back, knees bent and palms face down

  2. Gently push your hands down into the floor

  3. Squeeze or pull your belly button down towards the floor by tensing your abdominal muscles and squeezing your bum (2).

  4. Hold for 10-15 seconds and relax

  5. Repeat for 3 sets of 5 repetitions

Once you are confident with this exercise you can begin to load this movement and use it through daily life. Of course not lying on your back but you can do it whilst walking or sitting at your desk or add it into your gym routine through static holds with weights or carrying objects whilst walking. These areas of ‘Core” training are greatly under-utilised, especially because it has a great transference into our daily life.

If you feel this is something that you may need help with please get in touch or visit us for an assessment by clicking the link below.


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