Mike does a great job here of staying tight through a tough squat for a big PR!
I was hanging out at my old gym the other day and girl was going for a PR on her front squat. She missed it three times, none of which had anything to do with effort, and was obviously preparing to try it again. At this point I didn’t want to watch her fail anymore, so I asked her if she wanted to make the lift or not? Confused, she softly replied that she did, and proceeded to look at me like a dog that had been kicked. To cut the awkward silence that followed, I explained to her the correct way to get set up for a squat and she made her PR on the next attempt.
We need to use our breath in a very specific way when we lift weights and this situation got me thinking that maybe an article outlining the proper technique would be a good idea. I'll use squatting as the basis for my example, though understanding and practicing diaphragmatic breathing, or "belly breathing," will help you with any lift.
When you squat, you need to get a good, deep breath in. This breath needs to go down low, into your stomach. How do you know the air is going where it should? Place your fingers inside your hip bones, low on your stomach and take a breath. Did you feel your fingers push out as you took your breath? Ok, good. That’s where your air goes.
Now, as you feel that air push out against your stomach, flex your abs down on that pressure to brace yourself. You just successfully created tension through the middle of your body. This is the same mechanism that allows rubber tires to support a heavy automobile. Keep this tension and move downward into your squat.
Sit your hips down and as you reach the bottom, where you will change direction, increase the tightness of your abs on that air, and start to stand. Maintain this tightness and start to hiss out a bit of air so you don’t get dizzy as you return to your starting position.
This part is important. The starting position of your squat is not a rest position. Stay tight. Keep flexing your abs and take a few small breaths without releasing your tension. Gather yourself and take a new breath down deep, brace against it and squat again. Repeat for as many reps as necessary.
As this breathing becomes more consistent, you can perform several reps on a single breath. Time and practice will allow you to determine how much weight you can move without needing to stop and get yourself a new one. Always remember to get your breath at the start and become stable before you move, and to increase the tightness on that air as you impact the bottom. This force of changing directions at the bottom will knock the air out of you if you don’t hold it strongly enough
Apply this breathing to any lift. Squats, deadlifts, presses, snatches and any other lift should be set up by taking a good deep breath and holding it. Timing the release of air with the completion of the lift is as important as holding it, so make sure to practice letting a little air out on your lighter sets until it becomes second nature. Effective breathing will allow you to lift heavy more safely and more often. This is how you get stronger. So, get focused on your breathing and the PR’s will be sure to follow.