Your torso is divided into two chambers:
– The thoracic cavity, which is the chest and upper back.
– The abdominal cavity, made up of your stomach and abs.
The two regions are divided by the diaphragm, a sheet of muscle and fibrous tissue that rises and falls with each breath we take.
At least, it’s meant to. One of the things we forget to do as we go through modern life is how to breathe properly. If you watch a newborn breathe, you can see his or her rib-cage rise and fall each time they take a breath. But as we age, this is lost to us.
In lifting, the act of breathing and creating a brace through the two cavities is critical, especially as the load approaches maximal (heaviest possible for the person)
Picture a Coke can, still sealed. The can has pressure applied to it from the top down. It won’t crush because it’s chamber is filled. Now take the same can but empty. It can easily be crushed down.
You might hear me say “brace your core”. A few people envision this as drawing their belly button back to their spine. The reverse is actually true. The brace begins with the breath, and rather than simply breathing in, one should breath down.
Draw the breath in sharply through the nose or mouth and cinch in the mid-section, creating an environment of internal pressure to combat the external load that is placed upon it.
Weightlifters wear those big beefy belts for this reason. Not only to they provide reinforcement for the trunk, they give the lifter a physical cue that tells them they are creating an adequate brace in order to lift with.
Consider the deadlift. The trunk is absolutl has to be as tight as possible for a good lift. If the cavities are full, then this provides additional assistance to move the weight in the first place. Without that brace, picture the lever on a crane as being made of rubber. It’s just not going to cut it.
Simply practicing the breathe and brace by itself will actually do two things:
– Provide you with a solid brace to add to your lifting toolbox
– Decrease your stress levels through mindful breathing