Bracing Your Core (I've Been Doing This All Wrong)

My sister is a brilliant personal trainer. Last week, she and I were face timing and I was telling her about the awful pain I’ve been having in my hip.

Through Facetime, my sister made me do a bunch of movements and tests and diagnosed my issue. Here’s what happened.

I’m sure by now you guys are tired of hearing about my back surgery, but believe it or not, two years later and this shit is still giving me problems.

My back surgery was on the left side of my spine. Over the last two years, as I’ve been “relearning” how to do exercises, I’ve been compensating my movements to avoid activating the left side of my lumbar. As a result, I jacked up my lower back, down my butt, across my left groin (called your psoas), and even into my knee.

My sister and I had our first session on Saturday and we spent an entire hour learning how to “engage my core.”

I’ve spent my entire life thinking I understood exactly how to brace my core for support. You frequently hear the term “suck your belly button to your spine” and I always figured that meant to literally suck in your belly. I’ve been totally wrong.

It took a good hour to practice the movements, but by the end of our session, I learned how to actually take my pelvis and tuck it under my body. In addition, I learned how to collapse my ribcage on top of itself. The end result is a perfectly neutral spine that runs all the way from my tailbone to my neck.

Throughout this year, I’ve been forcing myself to workout, but after each workout, I would be forced to suffer in pain the entire next day with nerve tingles in my back and hip.

I always thought it was something I was going to have to deal with, but it turns out that as I’ve been exercising, I’ve been squeezing my abs and my quads as a way to support myself. When in reality, I should have been using my glutes, my pelvis, and my ribcage. My abs automatically activate when I do this. It’s not about “squeezing your abs” as much as it’s about bracing your entire core.

Jules and I did an entire 50-minute leg and core workout yesterday and I feel no pain this morning. I really focused on holding the form through every single rep. It’s funny because in a lot of cases, squeezing your core is more exhausting than the exercise itself.

I can’t help but wonder how many more people are doing their workouts without using this technique and how many of them will develop bad hips and lower back problems.

This is very exciting for me. I feel like I have a new positive outlook. I can’t wait to keep practicing.