Want to get strong, improve performance on your lifting game, set new PR’s in your session and generally get strong as hell? Then quite simply you need to learn how to breathe.
Breathing is one of the most over looked aspects of training in most weight lifting groups, way back when you started you were probably told by a coach or friend to breathe out on the push or pull and breathe in on the negative phase of the lift. Or more simply put, breathe out on the hard part, breathe in on the easy part. But that too soon left your mind and you started breathing shallow breaths all the time or worse not breathing at all. But this fundamental change will help you bring the focus back into the lift as well as allowing you to give more effort into the barbell and as a result lift more weight.
So what is the advice on breathing?
I have two tips for you:
1. Breathe in, hold, breathe out. What do I mean by this? Well quite simply put I want you to breathe in at the top of the lift, lower the bar down as you hold that breath and then as you drive up breathe out. But it comes in more ways than that.
Start at the top of the lift, unrack the weight for the squat or bench attempt. Set your stance or position the bar for the lift. Take a deep breath bracing as you do so through your core. Then descend, taking the breath with you to the bottom of the movement. Here we begin the drive exhaling and forcing the muscles of the core to work as we accelerate the bar to the completed movement. Repeat for every rep.
For dead lifts it’s a similar idea. Set up with the barbell adjust your grip and stance. Then drop your hips, take that big belly breath and pull that bar with all your might, maybe exhaling towards the top of the lift or waiting to lock it out before you release that tension.
When preparing for a heavy set of 1-5 reps this method is very effective. It provides the oxygen to help with the muscle contractions and energy needed to lift the weight. But also provides a lot of tension in your belly allowing you to brace and build pressure through your core and torso to help reduce the outside pressures of the barbell as it presses down upon you, especially in squat and bench press variations. As well as providing appropriate levels of tension to support good lower back and thoracic spine posture during a heavy squat or dead lift.
2. Belt breathing. I am assuming many of you own a weight lifting belt. And a lot of you probably strap it super tight right before a big lift, to protect you lower back. Right? Wrong! Now I’m not saying you don’t want to protect your back of course you do, what I am saying is you don’t want the belt to be really tight. You need room to breathe and use the belt to its full capacity. By giving yourself maybe an inch or so of wriggle room you can take a deep breath and brace your abs out against the belt using it to both stabilise and maintain pressure in your core musculature as you lift. If the belt is too tight you create two problems. The first being that it makes it super hard to take a deep breath. The second being that it’s almost impossible to contract your abs properly and thus you actually put more strain onto the lower back and spine as it now tries to do all of the work. When wearing a belt try to take a deep breath in, allowing the belly to fill up with air and pressure, hold that breath and use it to contract and force the abs into a rigid and secure position against the belt as you pull, or press hat weight each rep. And feel free to pause and reset the breath and tension on every rep, don’t worry about that one second pause between reps, it is more important to get this technique on point and protect your back and boost performance than it is to get a faster tempo between reps.
There is much much more content on breathing to help you PR your lifts online. Everything from warm ups for the lungs and thoracic muscles to hyperventilating prior to a lift or circuit and lung capacity work for performance. If you find these two tips help you PR leave a comment below and do make sure to check out other methods because trust me, if you can breathe right then you can improve performance across the board.
Looking for assistance work to add more weight to your lifts then check out these other pages for more info: