Are you looking for abdominal bracing exercises to strengthen your spine?
Do you want to avoid lower back or prolapse problems with safe core abdominal exercises?
These Physical Therapist videos and information teach you abdominal bracing exercises for controlling your spine and protecting your pelvic floor.
Read on now to learn:
- What is abdominal bracing
- What causes your core abdominal muscles to stop working well
- Unsafe abdominal bracing technique to avoid
- Safe abdominal bracing technique to practice
- When to use abdominal bracing
- Abdominal bracing exercises to do at home
What is Abdominal Bracing?
Your trunk is shaped like a cylinder. The walls of your trunk cylinder are formed by the muscles that wrap around your trunk.
Abdominal bracing is a core exercise where the muscles surrounding the trunk are gently activated.
This abdominal bracing video gives you a great introduction to abdominal bracing and shows examples of core abdominal exercises (subtitles only – no audio).
Video courtesy of Muscleandmotion.com
Strength & Core Workout for Women (Download or Hard Copy)
Strength & Core video is a pelvic floor friendly core exercise workout with Physiotherapist Michelle Kenway
This whole body workout that strengthens your core abdominal and pelvic floor muscles in addition to whole body strength and posture training.
Strength & Core Benefits
Strength & Core Workout includes exercises designed to:
- Exercise safely and avoid injury
- Train core abdominal muscles
- Strengthen pelvic floor muscles
- Strengthen and tone hips, butt and thighs
- Improve posture
- Strengthen back muscles
- Body weight management
Note: The abdominal bracing exercises demonstrated in this video can be modified for pelvic floor safe exercises. If your pelvic floor is weak or at risk of injury with prolapse problems or problems scroll down to further reading for pelvic floor safe exercise modifications for Forward Plank exercise.
The core muscles involved in abdominal bracing are your:
- Abdominal muscles (surrounding your trunk in layers)
- Spinal muscles (run along the back of your trunk)
- Pelvic floor muscles (at the base of your trunk)
- Diaphragm (at the top of your trunk cylinder)
These muscles stabilise and firm your trunk forming a girdle of support when they all contract and work together well.
This corset makes your spine rigid and stable helping to keep your back strong, prevent back injury and promote recovery after injury.
The muscle corset also controls and maintains pressure within your trunk.
Correct abdominal bracing protects your spine and prolapse.
If the pressure within your trunk is too great, this can overload a weak pelvic floor causing or worsening pelvic floor problems including prolapse or incontinence. If your spine is vulnerable to injury too much pressure within the trunk can cause lower back disc injury. This is why correct abdominal bracing technique is vital to help protect the spine and pelvic floor from injury.
What Causes Abdominal Muscles to Stop Working Well?
The abdominal muscles can stop working well with:
- Overstretching e.g. pregnancy or being overweight
- Abdominal surgery
- Slumped forwards posture
- Lower back pain
- Lack of exercise
- Incorrect abdominal exercises
- Intense upper abdominal exercises at the expense of the deep inner core muscles (e.g. abdominal curl exercises).
Unsafe Abdominal Bracing Technique to Avoid
Bracing the abdominal muscles incorrectly can cause back and pelvic floor problems.
Abdominal bracing is not the same as intense abdominal hollowing that is sometimes taught in Pilates.
Contracting the abdominal muscles too strongly with abdominal hollowing can cause 2 problems:
- The lower back can flatten out or become rounded. This poor posture increases the risk of lower back injuries.
- If your pelvic floor is weak, intense abdominal contraction can force your pelvic floor downwards causing it to stretch and weaken increasing the risk of prolapse worsening, incontinence and/or pelvic pain problems.
Safe Abdominal Bracing Technique
Bracing the abdominal muscles correctly can encourage the spinal and pelvic floor muscles to work well too.
This video teaches you how to correctly brace your deep abdominal core muscles
To correctly brace your abdominal muscles:
- Keep the inward curve in your lower back (avoid rounding your lower back)
- Breathe normally throughout
- Lift and squeeze your pelvic floor muscles
- Very gently contract or tense your abdominal wall (the area below your briefs)
- Try to keep your pelvic floor and lower abdominal muscles contracted together
- Relax your abdominal muscles after maintaining your abdominal contraction for 12-15 seconds at a time.
Note: Correct abdominal bracing is never an outward bulging action of the abdomen. Rather, it’s a subtle in draw of the lower abdomen.
When to use Abdominal Bracing
Use the correct abdominal bracing technique to protect your spine and pelvic floor during loading activity.
Typically you would use the technique described above immediately before and during lifting and/or bending forwards. For example safe lifting the washing basket, getting the shopping out of the car, lifting the pram or moving pot plants.
It’s not practical or appropriate to keep these muscles contracted all the time such as when you walk. Use your protective corset muscles (i.e. abdominal and pelvic floor muscles) when you need to protect your spine, then allow them to relax and recover.
Abdominal bracing exercises will help you strengthen your core muscles and improve control for when you do need to use them.
Abdominal Bracing Exercises to do at Home
There are a number of exercises you can practice at home to train your core muscles used for abdominal bracing.
These core exercises include:
- Pelvic floor exercises
- Alternate arm and leg raise exercise (i.e. Superman exercise)
- Heel slide exercises
- Side plank
- Forward plank – modify this exercise to reduce the load on your pelvic floor by doing this exercise kneeling rather than on your toes. This also a nice way to modify this exercise when first starting out if you suffer from lower back pain.
For more information on these exercises please refer to further videos and information below.