5 Ways to Truly Brace Your Core

Did you know that there are several studies that have come out that have said planks should only be done for a max of 15 seconds? If you’re doing a plank 100% correctly (which most people are not) you’ll max out your core muscles in 15-seconds. After 15 seconds, bring your knees to the ground for :02, then back up for :15, for 15-second increments.


The main reason planks are done incorrectly? An ineffectively braced core. When the core’s not braced, you’re basically just hanging out in your joints while in a plank, letting the abs take the day off.

Last Friday I attended an all-day TRX training course to become Level 2 certified (and to teach TRX BLOCKS, which is sort of like a TRX’s version of Les Mills’ classes…but more on that on another day.) (I became TRX Level 1 certified in December – finally)


These things are my JAM, you guys. I don’t try and hide my geeky-ness about loving to learn everything I can about fitness. Put me in a room with someone who knows way more than I do, who’s going to share their knowledge with me?! I’m in heaven.

Anyway, what I want to share with you today doesn’t really have anything to do specifically with TRX, but rather, all workouts and all exercise pretty much done anytime – bracing your core.


Cue eye roll here – How many times have you heard the phrase “brace your core” or “engage the abs?” I get tired of saying it over and over and over, and I’m sure others get tired of hearing it repeatedly. Well, I’m here to tell you one more time Winking smile haha BUT – I’m going to bet you haven’t heard it explained like this.

While our TRX Master Trainer was telling us about how basically every exercise is a plank, she went over a drill on how to truly brace our cores. And I’m going to share it with you, because I thought it was a really cool drill worth sharing.

But first, let’s talk a minute about why it’s important to brace the core while doing almost every exercise:

  1. Proximal stability leads to distal mobility. This one’s most important, as it not only leads to more efficient movement, but it also prevents injury. If your core (abs, low back, and lumbo-pelvic area) is stable, other joints, like your hips, shoulders, knees, etc. will be able to move better.
  2. Enhances alignment. This one kind of stems off of #1, but if your core is truly braced, while doing, say, a squat, then your hips are much more likely to stay aligned throughout the movement.
  3. Prevents low back pain. One of the core’s main functions is anti-extension. If our core’s not engaged while doing big, multi-joint exercises (or even just a plank)

5 Ways to Truly Brace Your Core (all at the same time)


1. Crouch forward contracting your abs. Now extend backward, like you’re stretching your abs. Now try and do both at the same time. Don’t move much, right? Your body’s fighting to flex and extend at the same time, and the result is anti-extension and anti-flextion (psst…that means a stable core! Winking smile)

2. Bend over laterally to one side. Now bend laterally over to the other side. Now try and do both at the same time. Again, you’ll look like you’re just standing straight, but everything will be completely engaged and totally braced.

3. Rotate/twist and look over one shoulder. Now rotate/twist and look over the other shoulder. Now try and do both at the same time. This is an example of the anti-rotation function of core stability

4. Act as if someone is going to punch you in the stomach. This NOT the same as drawing the belly button in toward the spine or “sucking in” the stomach.

5. Finally, squeeze your glutes like you’ve got the winning lotto ticket between your buttcheeks and someone’s trying to take it! (weird, I know – never claimed to be normal.)

Now, do all of these 5 steps at the same time while performing your plank. Still not tough enough for you? Now pretend there’s magnets on your elbows and feet, and they’re drawing toward each other. If you’re doing ALL these things, you should be shaking like a leaf by 15 seconds Winking smile

What’s your go-to ab exercise?

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  1. Michelle says:

    This is why I love your blog – I ALWAYS learn something new (and because I like to dream about moving to CO)! I’m trying this today!

  2. That’s so interesting about the planks, but I’m also relieved to find out! I try to do 45 seconds of planks but often have to put a knee down in the middle cuz I’m shaking so bad. I’ll try doing 15 seconds w/2 seconds off now!
    Caroline @ Fighting For Wellness recently posted..BioSkin Ambassador & A Discount!My Profile

  3. I heart planks!! I”m going to be laughing all day about squeezing my butt cheeks now….
    Brittany @ Delights and Delectables recently posted..Baby D’s First SwimMy Profile

  4. I just laughed at number 5 – that’s one way to think about it! :-p
    Sam @ Better With Sprinkles recently posted..White Chocolate and Blueberry Cookies.My Profile

  5. I love me some planks! This was super helpful. Thank you!
    Amy recently posted..A Few Days in ParadiseMy Profile

  6. Planks are the #1 thing I see other people doing wrong all the time. I almost want to tell them that they’re wasting their time by not doing them correctly, but that would seem a bit harsh and rude. Love these tips!
    Sarah @ Blonde Bostonian recently posted..Spinning at The Handle Bar FenwayMy Profile

  7. You have explained this so well. Love #4 especially! Thanks.

  8. Ahh this is so interesting!! Thanks for the tips! I used to be able to hold a 5 min. plank or something, but as I’ve gotten STRONGER, I’ve been able to hold it for a much shorter amount of time. I’m probably juuuuust starting to engage the core correctly. 😉
    Alison @ Daily Moves and Grooves recently posted..Would You Rather {Vlog!}My Profile

  9. How interesting! I’ve always thought that the longer you hold your plank, the more you engage your core muscles. Thanks for sharing this! I always enjoy learning new things!
    Polly @ Tasty Food Project recently posted..Pineapple Curry Fried QuinoaMy Profile

  10. Such helpful tips! I tried all 5 tips and my abs were burning. Definitely going to try to keep all those in mind when I workout this evening.
    Jen recently posted..shrimp, the fruit of the sea.My Profile

  11. I love planks! I feel so strong when I do them. These are great tips. #5 cracks me up!
    Megan @ The Skinny-Life recently posted..Got Protein?My Profile

  12. This is SO interesting! I was wondering about this, because every time I do a plank and brace my abs the correct way (or at least how I have been taught to do it the correct way), I can’t hold it nearly as long as when I’m not working my abs as hard…haha…makes so much sense!

  13. Thanks SO much for the tips! I always hear group fitness instructors telling members of a class to “engage their cores,” but I never truly understood what this statement meant. I finally get it now! As for my favorite ab exercise, I’ll have to go with the Swiss ball pike. It’s always a challenge. :)
    Brianna K. @ Hungy Gator Gal recently posted..Quick Bicep & Tricep Blast WorkoutMy Profile

    • It’s a vague term that gets thrown around while assuming everyone knows what it means! Sometimes I think instructors don’t even know what it means ;-P

  14. planks…. that i’m now going to shorten the length and work on form!
    Linz @ Itz Linz recently posted..Breastfeeding Support GroupMy Profile

  15. Great clear and concise explanation! One thing I love about listening to (or reading) other trainers is hearing the lingo that they use to describe an exercise. We can always learn from each other. Thanks!
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted..Opening New Doors for the FutureMy Profile

  16. we love plank!!

    and so jealous we hope to get a TRX certification!!

  17. These are some great tips- thanks for sharing!!
    Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine recently posted..15 Minute Quick Strength WorkoutMy Profile

  18. I love this! I have used tip number 5, just haven’t used the magnet visual which I am going to have to borrow from you. I love all of these examples. Such a great way to visualize, connect the mind with what the body is doing and do the workout right. Thanks for sharing! I can’t wait to have my classes try these tips out!
    Tara | Treble in the Kitchen recently posted..Travel Workout RoundupMy Profile

  19. Wow… just, wow. !!!

    This is how my pilates trainer used to take me through planks (different words, same meaning/results), and since she moved away, I’ve moved away from really doing them properly. Saving this page!! Thanks!

  20. I love the visual of trying to twist slash bend slash move in different directions at the same time to brace your core! I also love that the glutes come into play…with a winning lottery ticket to boot! Haha

    So about planking challenges for time…yay or nay?
    Amanda @ Diary of a Semi-Health Nut recently posted..SHN Eats: Minnesota FoodMy Profile

    • Haha! Gotta love the visuals 😉
      If I had to choose, I’d go ahead and say nay based on latest research.

  21. Great tips! Not always easy to do


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