Creating Internal Tension

How can Optimal Bracing Help You?!?!

Everyone can lift, but I follow up with the question, are you lifting with intention? In many cases, individual skim past the development of superior bracing to enhance performance. Look no further, in this article, one will learn how to prioritize bracing and create internal tension in positions that matter most! Just remember, it takes practice to develop premium bracing power but it's worth it. With that said, don't worry, with practice you will be on the winning edge of superior performance gains!



Developing acceptance of internal tension throughout the body can increase a variety of parameters for sport or training. Kota Tayashiki, Maeo, Usui, Miyamoto, and Kanehisa (2016) provide the ultimate suggestions based on previous research that a strong and stable trunk is useful in sport by contributing towards greater forces by the extremities. However, a variety of limitations can trigger a functional deficit such as miscomprehension of the movement instruction, poor neuromuscular coordination and recruitment, insufficient muscular strength or joint stability, and/or joint mobility (Kushner et al., 2015). It is critical to understand that the body has the ability to produce high activation via the deep abdominal muscles and it can be beneficial when practiced.


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Bracing is a Must!

The production of a co-contraction (aka bracing) of the core musculature is considered to be the most effective technique for increasing trunk stability (Kota Tayashiki et al., 2016). This co-contraction demonstrates an elevated intra-abdominal pressure that enhances stability and stiffness of the spine for muscle force generation such as weight training and sport (Kota Tayashiki et al., 2016; K. Tayashiki, Takai, Maeo, & Kanehisa, 2016). A study completed by Kota Tayashiki et al. (2016) showed that bracing had a significant impact on isometric trunk extension (p = 0.007) and hip extension strength (p = 0.002) and maximal lifting power (p = 0.026) when compared to a control group that did not practice bracing.


Additionally, Coenen, Campbell, Kemp-Smith, O'Sullivan, and Straker (2017) were able to show a 10.9% increase in maximum voluntary contraction in the internal obliques and lumbar multifidus prior to a bracing lift. Another study by Ishida, Suehiro, Kurozumi, and Watanabe (2016) explains that breathing expiration and abdominal bracing during an anterior load promoted trunk co-contracting and increased spinal stability. Thus, providing evidence that bracing can be a superior practice while performing movements such as a front squat. Abdominal bracing can also provide a significant attenuation during jump landing. Campbell, Kemp-Smith, O'Sullivan, and Straker (2016) quantified that bracing significantly reduced knee and hip flexion while increasing peak vertical ground reaction force during a drop-landing task.


CB3 Method



When going into a bracing method, a system is needed to prioritize movement integrity. Create internal tension throughout the body to optimize joint function which will transition towards superior movement quality. When integrating the "CB3" method into a training session, focus on a co-contraction to protect the hip joint, therefore contract the glutes and abductors. In addition to the hip joint, one must protect the upper extremity, the shoulder joint, therefore contract the chest and lats. Following the co-contraction, take a breathe in via the nose and brace the abdominal cavity. Then "back-off" the internal tension development by roughly 25%, which is an effort based solution. Its an estimated approach to backing off the tension, but utilize the best judgment for a 25% reduction.


The starting extremities that initiate the co-contraction is based on the position being performed. Our line of defense and protective measure should be the skull. Therefore, is your hands are touching the ground and the feet as well, start off by creating stability and protect the skull first. Afterward, create stability at the hip joint through the co-contraction of the glutes and abductors.


Co-Contraction

  • When starting the co-contraction of the hips and shoulders, start to grip the ground with your feet (if starting with co-contraction of the hips) or hands (if starting with co-contraction of the shoulders).

  • Hips = Equal glutes and adductor contraction (punch feet to the ground)

  • Shoulders = Equal lats and chest contraction (punch fist to the ground)

Breathe

  • Take a big breath in through the nose.

Brace

  • Brace the belly by adding to the fellow internal tension throughout the body.

Back

  • Back-off the total tension of the body by 25%.


Prioritized Positions

  1. Supine

  2. Prone

  3. Quadruped

  4. ½ Kneel

  5. Standing

  6. Movement Based


It is important to start with the extremities closest to the ground when creating tension throughout the body prior to starting a movement. In the instances where the upper and lower extremities are both on the ground, start with the upper extremities first. Afterward, go down the chain by co-contracting the hips. Then brace with the stomach. Further details will be listed below for each position.


Supine

  1. Grip the ground with your hands.

  2. Co-contract the chest and lats for upper extremity tension. Additionally, push the back of your head into the ground.

  3. Co-contract the glutes and adductors for lower extremity tension. Additionally, push the back of the heels into the ground.

  4. Take a breath in and contract through the belly, then slightly breath out to release a small percentage of tension.


Prone (aka Pillar Bridge)

  1. Grip the ground with your forearms and elbows.

  2. Co-contract the chest and lats for upper extremity tension.

  3. Co-contract the glutes and adductors for lower extremity tension.

  4. Take a breath in and contract through the belly, then slightly breath out to release a small percentage of tension.


Quadruped

  1. Grip the ground with your hands and fingers.

  2. Co-contract the chest and lats for upper extremity tension.

  3. Co-contract the glutes and adductors for lower extremity tension.

  4. Take a breath in and contract through the belly, then slightly breath out to release a small percentage of tension.


½ Kneel

  1. Grip the ground with your feet and toes.

  2. Co-contract the glutes and adductors for lower extremity tension.

  3. Co-contract the chest and lats for upper extremity tension. Additionally, punch the ground by making a fist.

  4. Take a breath in and contract through the belly, then slightly breath out to release a small percentage of tension.


Standing

  1. Grip the ground with your feet and toes.

  2. Co-contract the glutes and adductors for lower extremity tension.

  3. Co-contract the chest and lats for upper extremity tension. Additionally, punch the ground by making a fist.

  4. Take a breath in and contract through the belly, then slightly breath out to release a small percentage of tension.


Movement Based

  1. Grip the ground with your feet and toes.

  2. Co-contract the glutes and adductors for lower extremity tension.

  3. Co-contract the chest and lats for upper extremity tension. Additionally, punch the ground by making a fist.

  4. Take a breath in and contract through the belly, then slightly breath out to release a small percentage of tension.

  5. Perform the movement such as the KB RDL example in the pictures above.


Therefore, the research above provides substantial evidence that abdominal bracing can be useful for improving performance in weight lifting and sporting tasks. Abdominal bracing should not be viewed as a technique utilized to optimize spinal stability but also an internal tension generating that can enhance the quality of movement through force absorption. Although the change may be small, it can provide a significant influence on loads in training or biomechanical alterations for prevention.


Enhance Position Faults to Increase Performance! - Dane Bartz

Reference:

  • Campbell, A., Kemp-Smith, K., O'Sullivan, P., & Straker, L. (2016). Abdominal Bracing Increases Ground Reaction Forces and Reduces Knee and Hip Flexion During Landing. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 46(4), 286-292.

  • Coenen, P., Campbell, A., Kemp-Smith, K., O'Sullivan, P., & Straker, L. (2017). Abdominal bracing during lifting alters trunk muscle activity and body kinematics. Applied Ergonomics, 63, 91-98.

  • Ishida, H., Suehiro, T., Kurozumi, C., & Watanabe, S. (2016). Comparison between the effectiveness of expiration and abdominal bracing maneuvers in maintaining spinal stability following sudden trunk loading. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, 26, 125-129.

  • Kushner, A. M., Brent, J. L., Schoenfeld, B. J., Hugentobler, J., Lloyd, R. S., Vermeil, A., . . . Myer, G. D. (2015). The Back Squat Part 2: Targeted Training Techniques to Correct Functional Deficits and Technical Factors that Limit Performance. Strength and conditioning journal, 37(2), 13-60.

  • Tayashiki, K., Maeo, S., Usui, S., Miyamoto, N., & Kanehisa, H. (2016). Effect of abdominal bracing training on strength and power of trunk and lower limb muscles. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 116(9), 1703-1713.

  • Tayashiki, K., Takai, Y., Maeo, S., & Kanehisa, H. (2016). Intra-abdominal Pressure and Trunk Muscular Activities during Abdominal Bracing and Hollowing. Int J Sports Med, 37(2), 134-143.

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