Fact or Fallacy # 3: The stomach must be pulled in to stabilise the trunk!
Drawing in versus bracing as this has more recently been termed, is a topic of debate. It has been said that hollowing or drawing in of the abdominals preferentially recruits the transverse abdominus which stiffens the trunk during exercise. Is this the case? Well, as Siff consisely puts it
‘This fallacy can prove to be potentially dangerous advice during heavy lifting, because, the inward pull tends to flex the spine or reduce the degree of intra-abdominal pressure it can achieve the exact opposite of what it is intended’.
Siff’s advice is backed up by that of Stuart McGill, respected spinal researcher.
‘ Hollowing of the abdominal wall recruits the transverse abdominis. On the other hand an isometric abdominal brace coactivates the transverse abdominis with the external and internal obliques to ensure stability in virtually all modes of possible instability. In this way abdominal bracing is superior to hollowing in ensuring stability.
Hollowing may act as a motor re-education exercise following injury but does not ensure stability. Bracing activates all three layers of the abdominal wall with no drawing in’.
If you are still coaching clients to draw in their abdominals during resistance exercise I would strongly urge you to switch to bracing. Bracing is simply a tightening of the trunk musculature and includes erector spinae and anterior trunk combined. During heavy load resistance work I would also recommend incorporating the valsalva manoeuvre which further enhances stability by incorporating intra abdominal pressure producing a kind of Super Stiffness through the core.
For more info on any of these areas check out McGill’s books they are excellent reading.
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