Have you ever noticed how you hunch your shoulders up when you walk? I bet it is worse at this time of year (assuming you are in Scotland just now, and reading this during our winter). We tend to carry ourselves around with our shoulders, building tension in them as we brace against the cold.
I would like to discuss a different type of bracing.
Your stomach has 4 layers of muscle. The Tranverses Abdominus, which is the deepest layer, runs parallel with the floor (or pelvis) and wraps around the body like a corset. It is principally this layer of muscle that offers support to the spine. The question is, how do you strengthen it?
Quite simply practice pelvic tilts, pelvic neutral and bracing.
Starting with laying on the floor, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Tilt your pelvis forward and then tuck it back. As you tilt the pelvis forward your low back will arch away from the floor, then as you tuck your pelvis under your low back will flatten against the floor. Rock back and forth between these two positions using the least amount of effort possible, without lifting the pelvis. These are pelvic tilts.
Then having rocked between the two extremes a couple of times, find the midway point between the two. This is pelvic neutral.
Whilst in pelvic neutral – brace. Imagine someone is going to push you over and you tense against it. This is bracing. If you tap your abdomen you will feel the deep layer of muscle under tension. This should be tight enough to hold you in position without restricting your breathing. Take two complete breaths whilst maintain the contraction, then relax everything and repeat the process.
Two supplementary notes on this. 1. If it is painful, do not do it and seek advice. 2. Form is more important than effort. Pay attention to the position and if you are unsure, seek advice.
Lastly and the point of the blog post is to use bracing and pelvic neutral whilst you are out walking. As you hold your strength in your lower abdomen, feel your shoulders relax..
Bracing can also be utilised whilst sitting (again feel those shoulders relax), during exercise (especially in the gym when it really is a pre-requisite to lifting anything), or even whilst gardening, oh hang on gardening IS exercise…
If you require it, please contact me via email, or the contact form on this website and I can email you a PDF, which has diagrams of the pelvic tilts exercise.
Oh yes, and you should do this exercise everyday.