After presenting at dozens of conferences, writing hundreds of articles and a few books it has become clear to me yet again that the message is just not getting out there. Maybe this is my fault; maybe I was trying too hard not to offend my peers and for that I am sorry. I'm sorry because the information that you need to stay injury free is not getting to you.
Just the other day I read an article from a public safety fitness person with excellent credentials. What this person was touting and recommending on how to protect the back and stay injury free is flat out wrong! There I said it: wrong. This individual and many others still teach the drawing in maneuver aka pulling the belly in to the spine, as a way to tighten the core. This technique however has been proven again and again to only contract one muscle: one.
There are roughly ten muscles directly involved in stiffening the spine and four specifically for contracting the abs. It makes no sense to recommend a technique that will actually make the abs weaker and leaves the spine unstable. Yet most of you are afraid to change; to accept that what we know has changed. There is a better way to do it. It's been proven by numerous studies yet professionals continue to teach a less effective and even dangerous technique because they simply do not realize that science and research has advanced.
There will be two types of people reading this article: those who have never sustained and injury and those who have. To those uninjured few, your time will come. I do not say that to sound like a doom and gloom type, but statistically a career in public safety leaves you open to injury. To those of you that have had an injury, specifically to the lower back or knees, what we are about to discuss will help. Either way please accept that you are not bullet proof: you are human and you need to understand that there is a way to have a truly strong core doing much less work than you realize.
The technique that I am talking about is called an abdominal brace. If you are about to take a blow to the stomach what is your natural reaction? To tighten up; to stiffen. If, on a primal level, your body already knows what to do why would you even consider forcing the opposite type of contraction? My educated guess is that there are so many people that are unaware of the benefits of bracing the abdominal wall and they still believe that pulling the belly in is the way to go. Nothing is more terrifying than someone who does not know that what they know is wrong.
At a recent conference an officer asked me why this would help him in his job. I told him that when your body knows how to maintain a stiff spine, which is the net effect of bracing the abs, you will posses better balance, better body control, protect the spine and use less muscular energy doing it. When you know how to brace the abs all your workouts are better because now you are truly using your core to exercise therefore making you a better tactical athlete. When you know how to brace your abs lifting, jumping, climbing and running are more efficient making you faster and stronger. When you know how to brace your abs your chance of winning a physical confrontation, especially when it ends up on the ground is better because your body control and center of gravity are better. To top of all those benefits your breathing is more controlled which makes marksmanship more consistent. If bracing your abs can do all that how on earth can anyone argue that pulling your belly in is better?