Improving Breathing and Performance (Part 3): How to Breathe and Brace Without Loss of Mechanics During High-Rep Movements
In Part 1 of this series, I discussed how mouth breathing can alter head-neck control. In Part 2, we talked breathing during max effort. And as we discussed, holding your breath (with appropriate mechanics) is a natural, physiologic method for maximizing spinal stiffness and force output under very heavy loads. However, holding your breath during repetitive movements is not only metabolically costly, it is also mechanically inefficient - and most of our daily movements involve the need to breathe under sub-maximal load and for more than one repetition. So for Part 3, we need to establish how to breathe during high-repetition, serial movements without loss of mechanics.
To move more efficiently we need to have a global bracing strategy during high-rep movements (which, face it, submax repetitive movements are what make up daily life and most athletic movements) in which spinal control is never lost and efficiency is high.
Think about breathing into a steel canister - this will allow breathing to occur where it's most effective (the diaphragm) without having to reconstitute spinal stiffness after each breath. The goal is to never lose position nor stiffness, while still being able to breathe under load. Chest breathing will accompany this when demand requires it - and that's okay to supplement the diaphragmatic breathing - but a proper bracing strategy will always apply. This will take some time and mental energy to master during training but will pay dividends in terms of injury prevention and performance (which are synonymous in my opinion).
There a ton of advanced breathing assessments and techniques out there but we can lop off a lot of dysfunction if we follow this basic principle of an appropriate and reproducible breathing/bracing strategy.