Optimizing our breathing by timing the rhythm of our diaphragm and our anterior core will be the difference maker in making long term strength gains in your barbell back squats (notably).
When we think of a squat… we think of dozens of coaching cues & programming strategies for how we can optimize our squat total. The squat is apart of the “Big 3” lifts which are fully represented in power lifting along with bench pressing and dead lifting. Dead lifting presents more demand to the body stress wise. But the squat is a far more technical lift than the deadlift. You cannot go in like a bat out of hell when you’re squatting. It takes cool, calm, and collectiveness when effecting executing your technique.
Issues With Coaching It
Many times lifters or novice coaches will go about correcting one’s squat by doing EVERYTHING but addressing the MACRO issue.
- Increase your thoracic mobility
- Strengthen the quads.
- Strengthen the glutes.
- Strengthen the hamstrings.
- Increase hip mobility.
- Strengthen the core in a regressed loaded position like dead bugs, planks, or hollow holds.
- Just throw boat loads of volume at the lifter. Because more volume = more progress (within reason!)
All of these reasons are ADMIRABLE attempts to improve one’s ability to squat effectively. Especially point 6 being a MAJOR coaching corrective. And in defense of it… you will need THAT part too in order to maximize your breathing. That is another blog for another day! But it still does not look at the big picture as to what the body needs in regards to the demand of the exercise.
Breathing is something we all do a lot of… about 15-20 THOUSAND times per day. More than any other muscle in the body! And if it is dysfunctional you can imagine how troubling this maybe? Our primary muscle for breathing is the diaphragm and it is close in proximity with the enormous musculature called our “Abdominals” (I say this with quotes to be a smart ass) I imagine EVERYONE knows what these are at this point?
The abdominals & diaphragm are incredibly close to each other when we look at body cavities. Whenever the diaphragm contracts (i.e. inhalation) the core musculature (refer to the bottom diagram) will not fully contract. The key is to utilize BOTH in sync with one another before sinking into the hole and burying it up to lock out! If you fully utilize your diaphragmatic breathing (breath through your belly!) and THEN contract your abs, you will literally FEEL your abs turn on for at a level you may not have previously ever felt.
When we breath we also tend to engage the muscles in our neck, pecs, and our upper back. Although these are a great next step to taking in more air and creating more tension… it should not the FIRST STEP! When we chest breath, especially at rest, we are hard wiring our body to use THAT as it’s status quo movement. It is a stress related breathing pattern. Many people have trouble with their shoulders and necks. And many of it can be traced back to a piss poor breathing pattern. If you’re consistently firing the upper back/neck to breath for 15-20 thousand times per day, you can imagine that this will get worn out over time, right? So if you are a great chest breather and now you are lifting weights this way…it MAY be like throwing gasoline on an open fire.
Solution to Chest Breathers
For my clients that wrote the book on stressful breathing patterns. I will oftentimes give them a corrective in between a set of squats in what we call a “super set”!
Squatting is a dynamic movement and requires a dynamic solution if there is pain or a plateau within the chain of getting stronger at it. Performing the movement should never be neglected unless of course there is 9-10/10 pain. There is always a SOLUTION if you are in pain or are plateauing. Think outside the box. I strongly suggest looking at macro areas like our core to seek the solution!
Coaching & Programming
I coach clients online and in-person who look to get stronger & leaner while becoming BEASTS at barbell squatting. I accept 3 new clients per month into my online coaching program. So email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me on my “contact us” right here on my website!