Fit to Ride – Abdominal Bracing

Julie Luther on the chest press.

By Julie Luther

In our core training series, we will now look at learning to control your core through abdominal bracing.  Bracing is used in all kinds of sports from football to cliff diving.  It is really easy to learn, the finesse comes in when we keep our shoulders out of it and learn to breathe with it. The best thing about bracing is with daily practice, your body will naturally begin to brace for almost any activity, thus making you stronger without you even having to think about it. 

Let’s begin with bracing against resistance while standing.  Simply stand in your “horseman’s stance” and have someone try to gently push you over from each side and the front and the back.  Notice your torso as they do this, your body should naturally tense up.  Now try to breathe through it and keep your spine tall, your shoulders down, and your head lined up with your spine.

You can also do this exercise with a weight in your hands.  Hold one dumbbell out in front of your body with your arms straight and your hands clasped together to hold the weight.  A 3 – 8 pound dumbbell is plenty of weight.  Now, slowly lower it about a foot then lift it back up, then take your arms slowly from one side to the other, then combine the movements to go up and down while moving the weight side to side.  Again, breath throughout the movements and avoid tensing your shoulders.  These movements should be slow and controlled.

Now get creative with this exercise; sit in a chair or a fit ball, stand on only one foot, or how about adding some movement while you are bracing. See the video below for a fun movement-based bracing exercise.

Stand with your feet together and your hands clasped with your arms straight out in front of your shoulders.  Have someone stand to your right and gently push your hands towards the left as you tap alternating toes out behind you.  Keep your breath moving and your shoulders down.  Your partner should only have to push against you with maybe 10 – 20% resistance, and of course do both sides. 

Core training should be done everyday for a minimum of 10 minutes, as well as building on the number of exercises we are learning.  Pick and choose just a few each day. 

Julie Luther is an Exercise Physiologist, corrective exercise specialist, and dynamic flexibility certified personal trainer, as well as an equestrian.  She owns PurEnergy fitness Center in Greensboro, NC and has been helping folks reach their fitness goals since 1985. You can reach her at and check out her website at


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