Valsalva & Belly Breathing
Valsalva belly breathing is where you breathe down into your belly and push your belly out while using the Valsalva maneuver. The Valsalva maneuver is attempting to breathe out while holding your breath by closing your throat (the glottis at the top of your trachea). The rationale for using this technique is increased intra-abdominal pressure from this sets up a solid core and midsection helping to protect the lumbar region of your spine.
This technique isn’t required for most exercises but is used for big compound lifts such as the squat, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press. In these lifts, a solid midsection is vital for coping with the substantial load placed on the lumbar region of your spine.
HOW I APPLY IT
When applying it in a workout, I make sure to set myself up and have a solid midsection before taking up the load of the bar. Just before I take up the strain of the lift, I take in a deep breath down into my belly. Then I attempt to breathe out while holding my breath by closing my throat and keep pushing my belly out. I maintain this pressure throughout the entire rep and set. At the end of each rep I let a little air out and top my lungs back up without losing the tension in my belly and midsection.
Belly breathing has taken a bit of practice to master. I didn’t want my midsection to crumble under the bar at any stage through a set so I learned it with less than maximum loads. I also limited each set to about 5 reps until I could establish it as a regular part of my workout.
Many incorrectly assume that training belts protect the lower back from behind. Instead, they provide something for the abdominal muscles to push against, protecting the lumbar region of your spine from the front. You should never assume that a training belt will protect your lower back from injury. They should also not be used to compensate for weak abdominal strength or during anything less than high intensity lifts.
Yes, I know you can only breathe air into your lungs and not your stomach, but the above description is easily understood. Going into the anatomy, belly breathing is where you expand your lungs by contracting your diaphragm down. This action pushes your organs down into your belly rather than expanding the ribs of your chest.
SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE
The Valsalva maneuver has its detractors. Some believe that the increased blood pressure as a result of the Valsalva maneuver poses too much risk and that it should never be used. In contrast to this, many of the highly informed and experienced lifters that I have consulted use the Valsalva belly breathing technique during the big compound lifts. The scale of this risk is going to vary from person to person. Therefore make your risk assessment by seeking medical advice before using the Valsalva belly breathing technique.
The Valsalva maneuver increases blood pressure substantially, and you should not attempt it where this rise in blood pressure puts you at an unnecessary health risk. Examples of a high risk is having any issue or potential issue with your cardiovascular function, or are elderly.