The science, and art, of bracing

When it comes to weightlifting, one of the most critical errors we see on a regular basis is a lack of bracing in the set-up.

Every lift—be it a squat, a deadlift or a clean and jerk or a snatch—like every golf swing or rugby tackle, for that matter, should use its own set up and routine to ensure you’re stable and ready to hit a good lift. The same routine should be followed even with light weights engrain the habit into your mind.

Before going any further, let’s talk about what it means to brace and why it’s important for lifting:

Bracing essentially means engaging the entirety of your core to create stiffness.

In this Breaking Muscle story, weightlifting coach Will Fleming explained more:

“The core has two functions: The first is redistribution, as in redistribution of tension. Think of this R like a suspension bridge. The cables themselves are not tight to begin with, but they can support the weight of the bridge below through a redistribution of tension, like in a plank. The second R is redirection, as in the redirection of force. Power that is created in the lower body can only be moved along the kinetic chain through a core that is tight,” Fleming wrote.

For our purposes, what you need to know is your core needs to be tight as you lift in order to maximise your output, and to avoid injury.

One easy way to ensure you’re tight and ready to go during your set-up is to break the process into smaller pieces in your mind, essentially creating a check list, before you start your lift.

Something like this: 

• Squeeze your butt cheeks together

Pull your rib cage down

Tighten your stomach like you’re preparing for a knockout blow

Breathe into your stomach

One great example of someone who lifts the same way every time, and who is always tight, tight, tight is the weightlifter Lu Xiaojun. Check out these snatches which show 3 lifts two successful and one miss.

In short, he does a wonderful job of meticulously ensuring every time he steps up to the bar he is in his most ideal position possible. Even when he fails, he is still braced and in control. This also reduces his chance of injury.

How do you know if you’re not bracing properly while lifting, and just in life? 

Three signs include:

• You have bad posture

You suffer from lower back pain

You tend to extend your spine when you lift


If you think this is you and you need some help figuring out this bracing stuff, talk to your coach.

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