What’s the very first thing you should do when you’re preparing to lift a weight in an exercise set?
Lock your core!
It is so important to learn how to recruit the deep abdominals through a co-contraction of the transversus abdominis/TVA (as discussed in depth in our TnT Abdominal workout DVD titled Core Galore, The deeper truth about abs). This key movement will offer protection and stability to the lower back throughout all exercises and everyday life movements (especially important when you’re going to get up from a seated or lying position, etc…) and should be practiced regularly throughout your day and maintained throughout exercise.
To perform this ‘draw-in,’ ‘brace,’ or ‘abdominal hallowing,’ a person must practice this technique with the spine in neutral position and without involving the expansion of the ribcage and lungs and then maintain it while breathing naturally; not an easy or natural feeling practice in the beginning!
In the “set-up” position before a lift, locking the core is the number one focus followed by a shoulder distance or athletic stance (one foot spaced just ahead of the other), shoulders should not be hunched up by the ears, but pressed down and back slightly, with knees slightly bent to absorb shock and prevent joint trauma.
Don’t hold your breath (something common with beginners) and try to exhale on the harder part of the movement; the concentric phase when the muscle is contracting and generally, when you’re working against gravity. Holding your breath during exercise can increase (or in some cases, decrease) blood pressure and intra-abdominal pressure and can cause retina trauma (in extreme cases) as well as rob you of your strength. Oxygen exchange is required for burning fat and staying safe when exercising. Therefore, make a conscious effort to develop a natural breathing pattern during all exercise and exertion.
These basic foundational principles are instrumental in keeping you safe during exercise and in preventing injury.