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Breathing Behind The Shield

Breathing Behind The Shield

Breathing Behind The Shield

This month we are going to discuss the importants of pressurization and diaphragmatic breathing to increase your pressing power.

We all know that breathing is important, very important as it keeps us alive. But are you breathing efficiently to maximize your lifts?

 Drawing-in or bracing?

 These 2 methods have been discussed and written about over many years, but it’s very important to know the difference between them.


 Is a technique usually picked up from bad instructors who have no idea about abdominal activation and safety. The method comprises of drawing your tummy towards your spine or making yourself thin.

This technique raises the rib cage due to the incorrect filling of the upper lung compartments and the participant will naturally hold their breath. The abdominals aren’t strong in this position and are subsequently weakened resulting in an unstable lift or movement. This is useless if you want to lift or move a heavy object.

 Brace Brace Brace!

 Bracing comprises of simply making the abdominals hard.  Some people find it easy to brace their abdominals but, in my experience as a Kettlebell coach I have come across many people who have difficulty knowing whether their abdominals are braced. This could be due to poor motor function, weak abdominal wall or excess body fat.

A simple technique check this is to hold both nostrils closed and try to breathe out whilst pushing with your abdominal wall. Now try the same technique with out holding your nostrils closed. Easy!

 Breaking Wind

Breathing Behind the Shield is achieving the abdominal pressurization above and being able to talk and release a little gas whilst keeping the abdominals turned-on. And I’m not talking about breaking wind here!

Bracing is sometimes referred to as the Valsalva Maneuver. It can be described as the tension felt in the abdominals in preparation to receive a punch to the stomach or the same sensation when straining on the toilet. Lets hope none of us do that, but you get what I mean. The pressurization from this technique creates inter-thoracic pressure and strengthens the entire body in readiness to prepare for a lift. One thing it isn’t is holding the breath.


So which is the correct technique to use when moving a Kettlebell?

 Without going into complex anatomy, lets look at the role of the abdominals. Below are the 2 most important functions of the abdominals.

  1. Stabilization
  2. Rotation

We are mostly interested in stabilization as this is the most relevant to pressurization. When we mention stabilization in this context we are referring to the stabilization of the spine. This is the sole and most important purpose of abdominal bracing.

Without the spine being protected in this way lifting heavy is simply unthinkable and incredibly dangerous. With the ‘drawing in’ technique mentioned above the spine is not secure and stable leading to decreased lifting power and halted progression.

The ‘breath right’ party trick

Try this simple method to check if someone is breathing efficiently. Get your victim to place one hand on their stomach and one on their chest. Ask them to breathe in and note which hand rises first. More often the hand on the chest will rise first. We should not be breathing like this. But it is a common site of many of the clients I see, but it can be changed with a little thought.

With a quick look at an anatomical picture of a pair of lungs we see that the lungs are twice the size at the bottom than the top. Wouldn’t it be wiser to breathe into the bottom of the lungs to utilize that capacity?

So many people ‘shallow breath’ in this way, which will lead to inefficient cardiovascular performance and over many years, could result in high blood pressure with a contribution from stress related environments.

So, breathing from the abdomen and not your rib cage is known as Diaphragmatic Breathing. This is a much healthier way of breathing and can be used in self-healing circles.


Bracing is the best and safest method to achieve a stable lift or movement. Breathing with the diaphragm and not the rib cage increases your intake of oxygen and reduces the demand for it. Creating a better and more efficient cardiovascular system.

Stay Strong.

Training Tip

  1. Clean the Kettlebell.
  2. Before you press create pressurization with the Valsalva Maneuver.
  3. Once you get to the sticking point of the lift release some gas via a hiss.
  4. Do not release all your gas until you reach the lock out at the top of the press.
  5. Sharp breath in.
  6. Stay pressurized and tight and repeat the technique on the way back to the Clean position.
  7. Repeat.

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