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Barbell Return to BB & Pelvic Floor

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ward718

Level 1 Valued Member
Hey gang -
35yo female, 5'6'', 128#, no current body comp known. Looking for some training advice regarding form.

I had my first child in December, 2015, and despite having a relatively uneventful pregnancy and delivery, had to undergo 4m of physical therapy to improve general pelvic floor function. PT also addressed symptoms from a neuroma on my left obturator internus. It should be noted that I have had Ulcerative Colitis for 25 years, so my abdomen and pelvic region are no stranger to inflammation. My neuroma is still present, but rarely flares up.

I have been cleared to exercise for quite some time (and have been doing so), but I avoided BB work b/c I was not confident in my ability to brace effectively/safely.

After hitting a few fitness benchmarks, and with increased confidence in my pelvic floor, I started working KBs back into my routine. After a few months, I added S&S. Most recently, I started the Quality a Mile Deep program and have been enjoying returning to the barbell after nearly 2 years away.

So with this increased awareness of what my deep pelvic muscles are doing (or not), I want to know if there are truly any differences in supporting that area during KB work versus BB. In my limited formal BB training, it seems like it's more about "pushing out" the TVA to as opposed to "bracing". Am I wrong? I don't want to create any harmful patterns as I return to BB work, and certainly don't want to undo any of the rehab that I have done.

DL + Squat videos available on request.

Other notables:
*Last FMS (prior to pregnancy) was 20/21.
*Endurance athlete prior to pregnancy (runner since '93, triathlete since '03), but plantar fasciitis has halted my high-impact activity.
*Currently lifting 4d/w, swimming 1d/w, pilates 1d/w, indoor trainer (bike) 0-3d/w
*Hope to improve BB form and return to running 2-3d/w (and maybe back to racing?); also want to sign up for TSC.
 

jca17

Level 6 Valued Member
Hi!
I'm looking at the bolded part of your comment and what follows after it. What is meant by "pushing out the TVA", and what is your current idea of "bracing"? Just to get on the same page with terminology, and know what you would consider different about bracing.

From the way I would use those terms, I think of "bracing" along the lines of back expert Stuart McGill, where it's really a co-contraction and stiffening of the entire core area: pulling up through the pelvic floor, flexed tight through the abs and obliques, back through the TVA, stiff in the lower back, down through the diaphragm.
I think that kind of bracing is what StrongFirst teaches. If that's the kind of bracing you're thinking, then I imagine you're looking at the difference where you'll see some people really press out through their abs and expand, almost like they're letting their TVA go. StrongFirst doesn't teach that kind of brace. The cue is that you should feel your abdominal wall get stiff and tight, but not pressed out in an exaggerated way. They would teach the same principle from body weight, to barbell, to kettlebell. Then there's the idea of controlling the amount of tension in your brace for the task at hand. For barbell, I tend to feel like I'm cranked up to 11 the whole time for deadlifts and squats, whereas for something like a kettlebell swing, I'm always keeping enough tension to maintain a stable spine, but there are points where I pulse through the tension, like the moment of acceleration at the bottom, or the plank at the top. It's kind of dynamic and I'm still very much a beginner at it.

Maybe this helps, but maybe I missed the distinction you're getting at. Let me know :)
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Team Leader Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Sinister
Welcome, @ward718 ! That's an excellent question.

I can say I don't know of any difference in technique for bracing in KB vs BB. I do it pretty much the same, and have picked up what I know from KB course and cert, and barbell course. But I think I know what you mean about the increased emphasis on "pushing out" for barbell. Breath in, push the air down into the lower abdomen until you feel a bit of pushing out all around (front, sides, and back), and maintain that pressure. I do the the same thing for kettlebell, maybe just not quite as much because the loads are usually less.

Interested to hear other inputs. And I hope you stick around and keep us posted on your journey!
 

ward718

Level 1 Valued Member
Hi!
I'm looking at the bolded part of your comment and what follows after it. What is meant by "pushing out the TVA", and what is your current idea of "bracing"? Just to get on the same page with terminology, and know what you would consider different about bracing.

From the way I would use those terms, I think of "bracing" along the lines of back expert Stuart McGill, where it's really a co-contraction and stiffening of the entire core area: pulling up through the pelvic floor, flexed tight through the abs and obliques, back through the TVA, stiff in the lower back, down through the diaphragm.
I think that kind of bracing is what StrongFirst teaches. If that's the kind of bracing you're thinking, then I imagine you're looking at the difference where you'll see some people really press out through their abs and expand, almost like they're letting their TVA go. StrongFirst doesn't teach that kind of brace. The cue is that you should feel your abdominal wall get stiff and tight, but not pressed out in an exaggerated way. They would teach the same principle from body weight, to barbell, to kettlebell. Then there's the idea of controlling the amount of tension in your brace for the task at hand. For barbell, I tend to feel like I'm cranked up to 11 the whole time for deadlifts and squats, whereas for something like a kettlebell swing, I'm always keeping enough tension to maintain a stable spine, but there are points where I pulse through the tension, like the moment of acceleration at the bottom, or the plank at the top. It's kind of dynamic and I'm still very much a beginner at it.

Maybe this helps, but maybe I missed the distinction you're getting at. Let me know :)
Thanks so much. Great description!

I brace as you describe, for both KB and BB work. And I just read in Steve's comment, the cue to push out often comes with belted lifts...which is where I have heard the cue to "push out" from non-SF instructors. Glad to know I am not doing any potential damage!
 

Zack

Level 6 Valued Member
@ward718 glad to hear you're progressing with training!

The overall bracing strategy need not change from KB to BB, though the intensity might!

Curious, what are your specific strength/fitness goals?

Diaphragmatic breathing is the foundation of core bracing/activation. I'm sure you're probably familiar with 90/90 breathing -
And if you want to go down the rabbit hole, check this out -
Speaking to Steve's point, the push-out cue has its roots in belted lifting and is sometimes applicable in un-belted situations, but only after McGill style brace is mastered.

And hope you're having fun with your almost-two-year-old!
 

ward718

Level 1 Valued Member
@ward718 glad to hear you're progressing with training!

The overall bracing strategy need not change from KB to BB, though the intensity might!

Curious, what are your specific strength/fitness goals?

Diaphragmatic breathing is the foundation of core bracing/activation. I'm sure you're probably familiar with 90/90 breathing -
And if you want to go down the rabbit hole, check this out -
Speaking to Steve's point, the push-out cue has its roots in belted lifting and is sometimes applicable in un-belted situations, but only after McGill style brace is mastered.

And hope you're having fun with your almost-two-year-old!

Great resources and a reminder that it all starts with the breath. Thanks, Zack!
---
My general strength goal is to be overly prepared for an SFG1 course in December. I have no specific strength goals just yet; I want to get through the Mile Deep program to get a solid pulse on what I can do in good form and go from there. I have always focused fitness goals around racing, so my plantar fasciitis has hindered that somewhat. Just trying to maintain a respectable amount of aerobic endurance while allowing that inflammation to subside.
 
Steve,
Thanks! That was my assumption; should have included that in my original question.
So then, no, we don't teach bracing that way, but we also don't teach lifting with a belt. There's nothing wrong with lifting with any gear that you choose, but the fundamentals of lifting ought to be learned, and practiced at least some of the time, with no gear at all. That is, in fact, what a lot of high-level, geared lifters do, i.e., start a cycle at lighter weights and with no gear and then add gear as they closer to competition.

For myself, I deadlift with no belt and feel like it gives me more of the carry-over-to-the-rest-of-life that I want.

-S-
 
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