How To Breathe
Common sense tells us to just keep breathing when working out and traditional advice tells us to breathe in on the negative and breathe out on the positive, both are great starting points. But breathing for powerlifting is different than breathing for aerobic movement or weightlifting. When you powerlift you are exerting maximum energy and force, proper breathing helps engage your abdominals which recruits additional power. When you push or strain you naturally hold your breath, think of how you breathe when you push your car or go to the bathroom. At its simplest when you powerlift you will breathe in as you move into position, hold your breath as you lift and exhale once the movement is completed. Watch any video of a competition powerlifter and you will be able to see this breath technique in action.
Why it Works
Take a deep breath, engage your body and notice how you feel ready for movement, you’ve just primed your body to be ready to perform. When you hold your breath during a lift you are holding maximum muscular tension in your abdominal and chest cavities, you are in effect harnessing all of your muscular power. Keeping your core engaged also protects your lower back as you begin to lift heavier and heavier loads. Being able to control your breath means that your body has plenty of fresh oxygen to maintain power, you’ll be able to recover faster and you won’t feel lightheaded after powerlifting. You will improve focus and concentration as well, by slowing down and only thinking about your breath, you will be more in-tuned with your body.
How To Do It
If you haven’t practiced any type of breathing technique you will want to practice to prevent hyperventilating, as you are going to learn a new way to breath. As you breathe in, hold your breath and exhale, you will use the glottis to control your breath. The glottis is the opening between the vocal cords and the larynx and is located at the base of the throat. You can place your hand on your throat and you will feel a slight vibration when the glottis is engaged, your breath will also be louder. This will feel awkward and uncomfortable at first, but like any other muscular movement it will get easier to perform overtime. You will also actively use the chest and abs: on the inhale your stomach and chest will expand, with your chest moving up and your shoulders pulling back slightly. As you exhale, the stomach contracts and the chest returns to a neutral position.
When You Start
Sit in a chair and simply notice the rhythm of your breath.
After a few minutes, begin to lengthen your inhale (6-10 seconds), pause for 2-5 seconds and then exhale (6-10 seconds). Use your Glottis to lengthen and hold your breath. If you feel light headed, return to normal breathing for a minute and then try again.
Keep doing this until your body adjusts and it feels natural to breathe this way, 1x or 2x 10-15 reps, a day for a week.
Transfer This Breathing Pattern to Movement
Once you can easily maintain breathing and holding your breath while stationary, it’s time to transfer the breathing pattern to movement. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t breathe and hold your breath for as long as you could while stationary, once you develop the co-ordination of breath/movement it will come back. You can make adjustments to this breath, in the deadlift for instance you can time your breath until you reach for the bar or until you have your grip established. Use a light load, or even move your body through the movement and breathe a few times with pvc. Increase the load as your body adjusts and the new breathing pattern feels more natural. When you use this technique, warm up your breath and body, by breathing/holding your breath a few times.
Adding the proper breathing technique to power lifting is just as important as the proper body position and gear. It also takes time to develop the co-ordination of breath and movement so be patient and know that the pay-offs are going to be more power.
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