There is a key component of strength training that we often overlook.

Many of us go through the mental checklist of key posture cues before each lift.  For some this is a quick body check, for others it is a detailed inventory of all their limbs and positions.  I personally run through a gazillion items before each lift!

  • Foot Position?  Check
  • Grip?  Check
  • Lumbar curve?  Check
  • Chest up?  Ahem...way up!?  Check
  • Shoulder blades engaged?  Check
  • Head position?  Check

This list increases or decreases depending on the lift, and how challenging the movement is for me!  For example, a squat of any flavour has me doing a gazillion and one checks.

But there is one element we often forget.  Breathing!  Yes, that thing we do everyday without even thinking.  When lifting, especially when trying for a PR, this little unthought of element is crucial to the success of your lift, and the health of your spine!

Conscious Breathing during strength training actually makes you stronger.  People commonly think that they should breathe in or out during a lift.  Not so kids!  It is in fact the exact opposite.  The very act of holding your breath is what keeps your body in a safe stable state, leading to high fiving PR's and healthy backs!

This breathing is refered to as Bracing.  Bracing is not a shallow chest breath.  It requires you to take a deep breath into the diaphragm, making your belly large, and locking it in there.  Girls, forget your vanity - deep belly breaths are hot!  This act of breathing in, and using that breathe to lock and stabilize the spine, is your ticket to safely lifting some crazy loads off the floor!

Check out CrossFit Invictus' post on how to properly brace.  As they state, this is something you need to practice.  Start incorporating it into the Overhead Squat in your warm up and feel the difference between a "loose" squat and a "braced" squat.

Next time you see someone with a beautiful full belly making a strange face during their lift...chances are they have done the Brace Check!