Get Stronger Via Breath Control
Ever watch someone lift really heavy? If yes, you may have noticed that they take a massive gulp of air first. They might do a weird panting thing, of which I am guilty, or they seem to be pushing their bellies out as far as they can.
Granted, getting your breathing and bracing correct won’t get you stronger but it will prepare your body for a bigger, heavier weight in a more sufficient manner.
Not many people will have heard of this, some people might think they’re doing it but not quite, and others might do it and not even realise what it is or how it is actually helping them.
The straight up definition of this is : –
A forced exhalation against a closed airway. (Thank you, Wikipedia).
If you think of whenever you’ve tried to pop your ears, where you have held your breath, pinched your nose and forced your breath against all this. Voila, your ears pop and you are now no longer death. This is the same idea.
As well as being an excellent way to pop your ears this manoeuvre will help to get tighter and strongerr in an exercise. You might think that breathing in and holding it will make your core tighter, and you wouldn’t be wrong but there is a larger physiological response going on here also.
When you do this, your body goes through 4 stages –
- An Initial Pressure Rise. – The pressure will increase within your chest and force the blood out of pulmonary circulation and into your left atrium. So, out of your lungs and into your heart.
- Reduced Venuous Return and Compensation. – The blood returning from the body to the heart is then impeded by the increased chest pressure. Stroke volume is reduced and the output of the heart goes down. The compensation is where your blood pressure rises.
- Pressure Release. – The pressure on the chest is decreased. Blood can now re enter the heart and the cardiac output begins to increase.
- Return of Cardiac Output. – The blood has been effectively dammed up outside the heart, but now rushes back in. This causes a massive increase in cardiac output.
The increase in blood pressure will basically turn your body on and ready to fight against a weight put against it, as well as stabilising and tightening your core.
When you have a barbell across your traps and are about to squat a new personal best, it will be incredibly difficult to pinch your nose to obstruct your airflow. Instead, take a big breath in (into your belly, more on this in a mo), then place your tongue at the roof of your mouth. This sounds simple, but try it. Try to release air without moving your tongue.
How to Brace/Use a belt sufficiently.
I know a lot of people uninitiated into the strength world might see a belt as a crutch which will just keep your back tight and support it through the movement. But it has more uses than this.
In order to effectively brace, you need to take a big deep breath in, direct that breath into your core. Not just into your belly to expand it but also to push out to the sides under your ribs too. This will build sufficient intra-abdominal pressure, keeping your core and back tight while you lift that new PB.
Once you have this breath in the correct place, you then place your tongue to the top of your mouth, as I wrote above, as this will keep that breath there, as it can’t go anywhere else.
You may see some disparity in the prices of belts. A good powerlifting one will range from £80 to £160, and maybe even to close to £300.
The idea is that they do offer support to your back and core but also are stiff enough to create even more intra-abdominal pressure via bracing.
So, let’s say you have a swanky new belt on, before you lift go through the same stages as before. But rather than just pushing the air into your belly and out to the side, push all of that air straight into the belt. This will make you feel tighter and support you massively throughout your lifting.
How To Get Started Using Breath Control
Obviously, I’m postulating for you all to hold your breath during training and there can be some dangers with this.
Don’t Do It All The Time.
I know this seems silly, but a lot of people will brace and hold it there for high rep sets. Depending on how close to your max going you might only be able to brace for one rep, maybe you could push it to two or three. But, at first I would suggest that you retake your breath on every rep.
Even with resetting this breathing technique on every rep you will have to be careful. It has a major physiological effect upon your body in terms of what it does to your musculature, heart rate and even your hormonal response.
It is tiring. When you are first trying it, take your time and if you need to, lower the intensity of your workout until you are proficient at it.
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On a squat, you will want to take your big deep breath in before you descend with the bar. You can then release the breath on the ascent. Not too early though, or else you’ll lose your tightness.
On a bench press, take the breath in before the descent again, maintain that tightness until you press and start to release on the way up.
With a deadlift, you’ll want to do this just as you take the slack out of the bar, after you set up and before you pull. You can let it out at the top, don’t let go of the bar though, that’s rarely cool.