Breathing for strength training

Correct breathing during weight training, circuit training, CrossFit, Five20 or any other type or MRT (Metabolic Resistance Training) can help reduce the risk of injury, back niggles and increase power output, by increasing intra abdominal pressure which helps support the spine and pelvis.

While there are many methods that exist to stabilise the spine, increasing intra abdominal pressure is one of the best.  It involves maintaining a neutral spine, taking a deep intake of air and bracing, by pressing against the abdominal walland not letting air escape through your nose and mouth, this is is also known as the valsalva manoeuvre.

This method is used for heavy compound movements such as squats and deadlift. Once the lift is complete, the lifter maintains a suitable amount of pressure through the abdominals and takes another deep breath, braces and performs the rest of the lift, lowering or performs another rep. Sometimes you'll see lifters exhale through pursed lips at sticking points.

With lighter loads, you should be able to maintain a suitable amount of abdominal pressure to support your spine and pelvis, whilst breathing deeply.  This takes time practice, and finding a rhythm for the exercise your performing.  Take the kettlebell swing for example, a movement that's posterior chain dominant, requires the flexion and extension of the hip joint, and permanent abdominal pressure, whilst timing your breathing.  Inhale at the top of the swing or on the eccentric part, then exhale on the concentric part (the upward phase). 

How to do it.

1. Engage your pelvic floor muscle (the muscle you use to stop yourself peeing).

2. Take a deep intake of air, that should fill the stomach.

3. Increase pressure by pressing outwards at your abdominals. Like your pressing against a belt.

You should feel you spinal erector muscles engage, and your pelvis should feel more stable.

4. Complete your movement.  Exhale through pursed lips using your abdominal muscles to force air out if you are stuck at a sticking point.

If you are doing a Five20; or some type of metabolic resistance training and the weights are lower, then a slightly different approach is needed.

1. Engage your pelvic floor muscle (the muscle you use to stop yourself peeing).

2. Increase pressure by pressing outwards at your abdominals, like your pressing against a belt.

3. Breath deeply, brace and exhale on the effort.  Some timing and practice will be needed for this.

Some lifters like to exhale during the effort of the lift, but should be done through pursed lips. This is to ensure abdominal pressure remains, and the spine is protected.  This is personal preference and there is no right or wrong way, it really is down to the individual.

If you do Five20 workouts, metabolic resistance training, circuits or CrossFit, then learning how to brace during lifts and workouts is vital.