Are you Activating or Bracing?

The concept of core stability has been around for a few years now and is mentioned frequently in riding as the way to a better seat.

This is technically true however how many of us truly know if we are using our core correctly?

I find many people will “brace” their core in an attempt to hold their position. Brace…………….is that the correct way to activate and strengthen your core? I’ll help you out- no it isn’t.

Firstly let’s look at the core.






In order to correctly use our core we want to be recruiting the deeper Transverse Abdominis and our obliques. However when most people do a core exercise they recruit the Rectus Abdominis down the front. This is what pushes the abdominals out.

So how do we activate them correctly?

If you can, do this lying down but sitting will do if you’re at your desk (your boss won’t notice I promise). Once you have grasped it on the floor try it on your horse or a gym ball.

Put your hands at your hip bones and then bring them in about an inch. Gently start to contract the muscles under your fingers and imagine a small lift from your erm undercarriage-can you feel them? That’s your pelvic floor. This is step one.

I was going to add a picture of the pelvic floor but they are all a little graphic of the other stuff going on rather than just the muscles. Just think of a sling of muscles underneath you that holds everything up-even the fellas have got one it just doesn’t have a hole at the bottom!

Anyway once you have found your pelvic floor we will move on to those deep abdominals.

Take your hands to your waist. Imagine your waist pulling in towards your belly button and as you do so draw your belly button back to your spine. You should feel some muscles switch on here? That’s your oblique’s wrapping around and your transverse abs drawing back to spine.

This should feel like a drawing in of muscles rather than a pushing out. A pushing out is bracing and that is what we are trying to avoid.

Now you need to activate both sets of muscles at the same time –can you do that? Try holding for counts of 10 working up to a minute. Once you have got the hold try to make sure you are breathing too!

I know there is a lot to remember and it’s kind of tricky. Now you know why it’s so easy to do it wrong but I promise practice makes perfect and it’s absolutely worth the effort in being able to effectively use your core whilst riding.


I’m going to leave you to practice that for this week and next week we will take it a little further and start to move whilst in activation.

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