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Brace Yourself

By Marcus | In Anatomy & Physiology | on August 15, 2012

We’ve touched on the topic of bracing a number of times in past posts, but it can be a tough concept for some to grasp. During almost everything we do, we trainers will tell you to ensure you’re bracing your abdominals properly. However, did you know that the way you brace for a handstand pushup is not the same as you should for a back squat?

When you brace for a back squat, you want to actively breathe in using your diaphragm (see Sean’s recent post) which will result in your belly pushing out. Many people, especially women, feel self-conscious when asked to practice this style of breathing. The vast majority go about their day trying their damnedest to suck their guts in and I’m going to ask you to resist that habit — at least while within the gym. Here is a quick demo of what I’m going to ask people to try during warmups today prior to doing box squats:

As you can see, the goal is to start the breath from the stomach. While Ruth and I posted our thoughts on weight belts a long time ago, I would have to revise my stance on the use of belts slightly. They are an excellent tool for learning how to brace your abs while using diaphragmatic breathing.

I was reading an article over on T-Nation by former Westside Barbell powerlifter Dave Tate where he makes some great points about proper bracing and the use of belts, specifically when it comes to box squat preparation.

Dave on how to set up for a box squat:

…expand your abdomen as much as possible. When you pull air into your body it should be into the diaphragm, not the chest. Expand your belly and push it out against your belt. This will stabilize and support the lower back and not elongate the spine. If you’re having a hard time trying to figure this out, then wear your weight belt one notch loose and push into it with your belly so it becomes tight…

All the power of the lower body is transferred through your core to the barbell. If this core isn’t tight the power will “get lost” so to speak and never travel to the bar.¬†While I don’t agree with the use of a belt for the majority of training, I do believe in the use of belts to teach a person how to use the abdominals while squatting. The belt is a training aid in competition, so you must learn how to use it to its fullest advantage.

Hopefully this helps you get the idea of what we mean by pushing your abs out and bracing during the squat. This idea helps further protect your back by using your abdominals as a support from the front. Give it a try during today’s box squats and ask any of us trainers if you still have questions!

WOD 08.15.12

Box Squat 5×3

3 rounds for time:

  • 20 KB Snatches
  • 15 Wallball Shots
  • 10 Toes-to-Bar


2 Comments to "Brace Yourself"

  • Anna says:

    August 15, 2012 at 1:32 PM -

    Don’t forget to vote for the Leftovers for best team name at the Shakedown.


  • Do You Even Brace Bro? | Intrepid Athletics says:

    September 24, 2014 at 5:01 AM -

    […] Even when we are not forcing our midsection to hold tension it is always doing work. Post have been written on this in the past. This group of power movers have the job of holding our core up much like the […]

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