Discover What Abdominal Bracing Is

Abdominal bracing is a way to increase the spine’s strength and stability. Do you know about it? In this article, we tell you how to do it and its benefits.
Discover What Abdominal Bracing Is

Last update: 02 October, 2020

Experts recognize the importance of protecting the spine. The modern lifestyle and incorrect postures gradually damage this vital structure. Abdominal bracing is one of the techniques that help protect you from certain injuries. In this article, you’ll discover exactly what it is and what it’s for.

Firstly, we need to share some basic information about this technique. The term bracing means “to reinforce” or “to hold”. In sports, bracing strengthens the abdominal muscles and prepares the area for effort.

This technique consists of voluntarily contracting all the muscles of the abdominal wall, without pushing out. In other words, without inflating the stomach.

What’s abdominal bracing?

To understand how this technique works, imagine that the spine is like a tent. It has a long “pole” in the middle that stays stable thanks to a strong grip in all four directions. You fasten the central pole of the tent with four cords that you attach to the ground with pegs.

For its part, the back is supported by the paravertebral muscles from behind and the abdominal muscles from the sides and front. According to Al hacer el bracing (In English: When You’re Bracing), the muscles that surround the spine should be strong, to provide stability and resistance.

Thus, according to a study published by the European Journal of Applied Physiology, any gesture or movement will have a much lesser impact. For example, we could say that it’s firmly placing the pegs on the ground so the wind doesn’t blow the tent away.

A woman with toned abs.
Abdominal bracing consists of pressing the muscles of the abdomen.

The technique

With the abdominal bracing technique, you contract your internal oblique, external oblique, rectus abdominis, and erector spinae muscles. You do this just before performing a dynamic movement. Therefore, you work the muscles of your core or torso.

Doing this isometric contraction means that the muscles are contracted but not moving. It not only provides stability but also helps better transmit forces from the torso to the extremities. An example of this is your shoulder when you pick up a shopping bag.

You should do it not only when you’re training for a sport but also on a daily basis. If you always remember to brace before doing any effort or dynamic movement, you’ll protect your back.

A note on IAP

One of the elements you must be careful with in abdominal bracing is intra-abdominal pressure, also known as IAP. This is the force that’s generated inside your abdominal cavity when you make an effort to hold your breath.

For example, when you poop, you produce a lot of IAP to expel the waste in your intestines. Along with muscle contraction, IAP is the great factor that helps maintain back stability.

However, it isn’t good to work with large amounts of IAP. If you do it, you’ll weaken your pelvic floor. This is because IAP is similar to the pelvic floor muscles receiving small blows, making them loosen over time.

A woman doing ab exercises.

Therefore, abdominal bracing is contraindicated in people who suffer from problems such as urinary incontinence or those prone to prolapse. Even if you don’t have any pelvic floor-related pathology, experts advise taking precautions to prevent their appearance if you’re going to practice this technique often.

Pelvic floor contraction

A very good alternative is to opt for the method used in Pilates: contracting your pelvic floor while doing a movement. Pilates urges people to suck in their navel and contract their pelvic floor.

Well, abdominal bracing consists of contracting the abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor. For the latter, a common exercise is to interrupt urine stream, which involves contracting these muscles. However, consult a professional if you’re interested in trying these exercises out.

Abdominal bracing to help your back

If you take this small point regarding intra-abdominal pressure into account, you can practice abdominal bracing without fear. It’ll greatly help your back and will give you a point of stability to do a wide variety of exercises.

Finally, and although it isn’t a miracle solution by any means, don’t forget that contracting your abdominal muscles often will help you tone your body.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • K. Tayashiki, Y. Takai, S. Maeo et al. Intra-abdominal Pressure and Trunk Muscular Activities during Abdominal Bracing and Hollowing. International Journal of Sports Medicine; 37(02): 134-143; 2016
  • K. Tayashiki, S. Maeo, S. Usui, et al. Effect of abdominal bracing training on strength and power of trunk and lower limb muscles. European Journal of Applied Physiology; volume 116, pages1703–1713; 2016
  • A. Aleksiev. Ten-Year Follow-up of Strengthening Versus Flexibility Exercises With or Without Abdominal Bracing in Recurrent Low Back Pain. Spine; Volume 39, Issue 13, p 997-1003; 2014

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.