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Under Pressure : Proper Breathing For Heavy Lifts

It may sound odd, but pressure is your best friend when you’re lifting heavy. We aren’t talking about the pressure on your back or shoulders though, we’re talking about the pressure in your abdomen. Learning to breathe correctly is vital when you’re going for big lifts, and it will keep you from straining your back. While weightbelts can help, adding this technique will increase your strength and stability.

“Think of a can of soda. When it’s pressurized and sealed, it’s very strong. You can stack several bricks on top of it and it won’t budge. But if you open the can and let that pressure escape, the weight would crumple the can underneath.”

There is a technique called the Valsalva Manuever, and it’s imperative to lifting heavy. The good thing is, you don’t have to be lifting heavy to practice it. We actually recommend practicing at home in front of a mirror. Aesthetically, the Valsalva isn’t pretty. If anything, when done correctly, it will make your belly look bigger. That being said, wouldn’t you rather your belly look larger for a 5 second lift, but put up much larger numbers?

Typically, when people breathe in deeply, their shoulders and chest will rise, and their belly will actually suck in a bit. We know you’ve been breathing for quite some time now, but you do need to reprogram yourself a bit for big lifts. You also don’t want to hold this breath for multiple reps. Exhale and reset for every rep during your lifts.

Below are two diagrams of how the Valsalva should look when preformed properly vs how people typically breathe during a large inhale.

To practice this at home, lay with your back on the floor, and place a small item on top of your belly button. Now, during an inhale, see how high you can get the item into your field of vision by filling your lower abdomen with air and holding it. Start practicing this a few times a day, and you’ll slowly see yourself able to press the object higher and higher. Raising that object isn’t possible without creating that internal pressure you need.

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