Workout of the Day:
Handstand Push-Ups or Handstand Holds
Perform three sets of max rep handstand push-ups (if you’ve got more than 3) or three sets of max time handstand holds
and then,
Four rounds of:
30 seconds of max rep push-ups
30 seconds of push-up position plank hold
followed immediately by four rounds of:
30 seconds of max rep squats
30 seconds of below-parallel squat hold

Is our super mobile Nichole properly braced?
Is our super mobile Nichole properly braced?

The Fundamentals – Bracing
Written by Mike Hom

If you had the pleasure of being part of our On-Ramp process, you will know how important the concept of bracing is to us coaches. In fact, if you have not attended an On-Ramp session, I highly encourage you to do so in order to practice some of the fundamentals that you might be taking for granted. If anything, sit in on an On-Ramp session to get a better understanding of what bracing is and why it is important.

This rather simple concept is easily forgotten by many people but holds some astonishing long-term repercussions. Let’s quickly discuss why bracing is important in a nice, simple flowchart:
Bracing Flow Chart on CrossFit Invictus Blog

So how do you do it?

To begin, imagine your entire torso and butt in 360 degrees. You want that entire column of your body to be just that: a strong, immovable column that does not bend, does not shift, does nothing but keep your spine neutral and wedded to your hips. This happy marriage is often overlooked in the chase for extreme lumbar extension. While we initially want people who have problems with lumbar flexion to learn how to obtain a lumbar curve, we also want them to think about their entire body, and in particular their spine and hips, as one happily married piece.

In order to make this happen, do the following:

  • Pull your shoulder blades down and back to stand as tall and proud as possible.
  • Inhale and pretend like someone is about to deliver a life-threatening punch to your gut and you need to brace yourself for this. What you will do is contract your abs, obliques and a whole slew of muscles that make up your 360 degree torso as hard as possible. You are doing this because you are trying to protect your internal organs and your spine from any irreparable damage caused by this potential trauma. (To tighten your brace, exhale and squeeze even harder, maintain that tension and inhale again.)
  • You should still be standing tall and proud – locking down your midline stabilizers should not cause your posture to change.
  • Squeeze your glutes (your butt) as hard as possible. This helps to keep your spine and hips wedded together.
  • Push your knees out to the sides and “spread the ground” by trying to kick your heels away from you as if you were trying to tear a piece of paper under your feet.

By this time, you should notice your whole body is about as tight as it can possibly get and you should feel like you’re working hard just to do this. This is the most extreme, dare I say ideal, bracing you can do. Aim to go through these steps in order to provide yourself minimum risk and maximum return while training. But beware, mastering the breathing takes some practice – so PRACTICE! Do it while you are warming up, going through basic movements, etc….

Just to provide yourself some individual feedback, try to do one air squat as you normally would. Now perform one air squat with the bracing process described above. You should feel more “integrated,” as if your entire body’s individual body parts are truly working in concert with each other.

Hopefully, everybody who reads this blog will learn to move their body with proper bracing and allow me to take the quotation marks off the word “integrated” in the future.

As always, big thanks to K-Star of San Francisco CrosSFit for the inspiration and knowledge to use the aforementioned verbiage!

  • Wink

    Great post Mike!

    I had the opportunity to take photos at the K-Star cert, and also tried to learn a few things as well. This technique for bracing was a light bulb moment!

    I think that some studly athletes do this technique naturally, and thus it is not discussed often, but it’s priceless.

    Since the cert I have made it a part of every lift and movement – the results have been outstanding!

    I feel much more comfortable picking up weight in all the oly lifts, that gives me some spare brain cycles to think about proper technique and not about my fragile back!

    Bracing can also be used to keep your body rigid during pullups and magically those chest to bars became a whole lot easier just by keeping my torso rigid.

    If you are unsure of how to properly tighten your abs, but still have some oxygen talk to one of the coaches and they will show how… it’s amazingly simple!

    Wink Out.

  • Cynthia

    I can attest that Wayne has the bracing technique down—he still has enough breath control to yell “STFU” in the middle of any workout!

  • Gonzo

    Gimpy, just read the blog on bracing. Thanks. Excellent way to break it down.


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