The Easiest Way to Get Stronger

What’s the fastest and easiest way to lift more weight today than yesterday? It’s not simply adding weight to the bar, sure you might improve on your 1 RM lift but I’m talking about is being able to consistently lift heavier weights in all exercises for 5 or more reps not just a max effort.

The secret is your breath. When lifting a sub-max weight many people either hold fail to breathe or just let it all out in a big exhale. The problem is this causes a relaxing reflex rather than a bracing reflex. When doing a 1 RM lift or close to it you will naturally inhale and either brace or forcefully exhale because if you don’t the weight won’t budge. With sub-max however it’s easy to forget about the breath.

By inhaling quickly through the nose and getting the air down in the abdomen and ALL the way around you (3D breathing) you can use your core more effectively to produce bracing and tension. This causes more muscle fibers to fire which makes you stronger. This effect is called feed-forward tension. The more muscle fibers fire, even those in your toes will make your overhead press (for example) a little easier.

If you inhale before exertion then exhale forcefully getting the ribs down (think crunch without actually moving) just before or as you are lifting you are creating a “can” to push or pull from. The can is your “core”, all the way around your body from the top of the chest to the pelvic floor.

Breathing this way is commonly referred to as Paradoxical breathing you typically exhale as the arms move away from the body or on effort then inhale as they come back. Anatomical breathing on the other hand happens naturally. When your body compresses the air should go out, when your body expands or opens the inhale should occur.

When lifting for power or strength Paradoxical breathing should be employed to not only make you stronger but also to use your core to provide a solid base of support and protection. Anatomical breathing on the other hand is used with lighter (relatively speaking) weights or doing long sets. An excellent example is seen in kettlebell sport competitions. The breathing is more relaxed and coincides with the movement.

Let’s look at the swing and both methods of breathing. First in paradoxical breathing you’d exhale hard on the back swing and exhale hard at the top and brace throughout. This is great for doing short sets of heavy swings up to about 12 reps. Over 12 reps and you aren’t using max weight anymore so you’d switch to Anatomical breathing.

With anatomical breathing you’d allow the chest to compress, forcing an exhale. As the bell comes up and the chest opens the air will come back in by itself. You are creating a vacuum effect on exhale and as the chest open the air is drawn in naturally. This is great for high reps sets where you need to be more relaxed and fluid in your movements.

Paradoxical breathing is great for short max effort work, anatomical breathing is best for high rep movements like the swing and kettlebell sports lifts; snatches, jerks, and long cycle where you have to last for 10 minutes.

To learn more about proper breathing sign up today for our “Breathe Like a Baby” workshop this Saturday June 8th from 10:15 – 11:45a

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