MARCH 2, 2018
by Newell Estes

Breathing efficiently and bracing your core go hand in hand

Have you heard “brace your core”? it has been around for a while. When I started taking exercise more seriously and was given that particular cue I would be lying if I say that I completely understood why or how I was supposed to do that.

To no surprise, my core engaging abilities were not the best. My particular interpretation of the cue involved sucking in my belly and holding my breath. In my head, I think it went something like “suck it in”.

Most of us need to learn more efficient ways to breathe through exercise

I cannot recall the exact moment that I learned what bracing my core meant. But after some years of training and helping patients learn how to brace their own core, I have realized that more often than not we could still do a better job engaging our abdominal wall

In my experience, the majority of our patients have to be shown more effective ways to engage their core. However what I have more importantly realized is that our ability to breathe effectively is completely related to our ability to keep our core engaged.

How are core engagement and breathing-related?

Your intra-abdominal pressure (which changes throughout the phases of respiration) and abdominal wall contraction (core activation) are closely related. Some researchers have found that the contraction of the diaphragm precedes the movement of the limbs in the body. In fact, it is your diaphragm that should contract first before the abdominal wall/core are engaged.

The diaphragm is designed not only for breathing but also has a major role in trunk stabilization.

Learning how to engage the core

Because of the importance of the diaphragm on trunk stabilization, all exercises that are intended to help you engage your core should be cue with proper breathing.

This is why we love the dead bug and its variations as a way to teach you how to breathe more efficiently through movement. In some cases, we start with plain breathing drills. But our goal is always to progress you to a breathing efficient dead bug.