Properly breathing and bracing is one of the most misunderstood aspects of a strong lift, but one that can play a major role. We’ve all either done it ourselves or have seen it at one time or another. Someone unracks their squat or sets up for their deadlift, they go to take a big breath to build tension and their chest gets full of air and the bar shrugs up on their shoulders. While this may seem like a great way to get tight, it is actually doing the complete opposite. What we actually want is too pull air deep into our diaphragm while expanding that pressure downward and outward into our abdominal muscles, obliques, and our lower back.
To understand this a little better, let’s break it down with a little bit of anatomy. When we take a breath before a lift we want to fill our diaphragm, not our lungs. Our diaphragm is located underneath of our lungs in the bottom portion of our rib cage. When done correctly, filling the diaphragm and keeping it locked in throughout the entirety of the lift can keep you in a strong and proper position and can allow you to lift more weight safely. When the diaphragm is filled and pressurized correctly, it can help connect the major muscle groups of our upper body to our lower half. This will help to build a tremendous amount of tightness and rigidity from head to toe.
When it comes to explaining and better understanding this method, I like to use the soda can analogy. Take an empty soda can and place a small dent in the side of it. Now place that soda can on a table and push down on it with your hand. There’s a 100% chance that it collapses with little effort. This is equivalent of breathing high into your chest. Now take another soda can without a dent in it. Place it on the counter and again try to push down on it with your hand. There’s a chance you wont even be able to collapse it this time. You have now successfully filled your diaphragm and braced completely. Which one do you think is better for a big lift?
As mentioned in the video, a simple and effective way to practice this technique is with a small micro mini band around your mid section. Be sure to place the band above your belly button as that is where you will get the most expansion from your diaphragm. This is also where you should place the center of your lifting belt if you wear one. Focus on taking a breath and pushing it downward and outward. While practicing this, be sure to look at yourself in a mirror. If your shoulders rise when you take your breath, then you are taking your air up into your lungs and your chest. Revert back to the soda can analogy. Continue to take your time and focus on your breathing and bracing every session and you will notice an immediate and sustained carryover to the quality and performance of your lifts for years to come.
Stay strong, friends.