Squat: Breathing Technique That Will Protect Your Back

By Ire | Exercises

Aug 04

When we talk about squat, breathing technique often gets forgotten. We seem to forget that breathing is also an important variable when learning how to squat correctly. Having the right squatting form serves many purposes. Most important one is to be able to engage muscles effectively in a way where we do not stress our joints more than necessary. We can use the intraabdominal pressure created by correct breathing to create stability and prevent our joints to move in the ways we don’t want. Therefore, correct breathing technique prevents and treats injuries which will allow us to keep progressing and move forward.

WHY SQUAT:

It is functional, multiple joint movement. Squatting involves our ankles, knees and hips to bend. That means that a lot of muscles are required so we can do that. That is why it is called functional. Functional movement feeds multiple birds with one seed. Also, DAT ASS (glues only activate if we go below 45 degrees).

Female resting on a bench during squat sets.

CORE STABILITY:

Proper breathing patterns during squat allow us to create stability in our core. Many personal trainers que that we should pretend that we are about to receive a punch in the stomach while we squat. With that comes a belief that improving core stability is built through doing abs-isolation exercise. However, what that is doing is building muscular strength, NOT stabilization.

STABILITY VS STRENGTH:

Strength – ability to generate force
Stability – ability to resisting force

To build bigger squat, you need to train both!

The Three Little pigs:
Once upon a time there were three little pigs. They have built one house each. One from straw, second from sticks. They built it fast and had the whole day to rest and dance around a fire. Third pig worked this whole time to build a house from bricks. All the sudden big bad wolf appears.

Barbell with weights on a rack

He went to the first house and climbed on the roof. House did not collapse so the wolf climbed down and started blowing. House was strong, but not stable enough to resist the force of wolf’s huffing and puffing. So, it collapsed. BOOM, first pig dead.

Wolf then goes to second house and tries to blow it away. It did not work. He then climbed on top and collapsed second pig’s house. That house was stable but not strong enough to resist weight wolf. Therefore, second pig also paid the price because he was lazy and didn’t build his foundation right.
Finally, wolf comes to third house. He first tries to blow it away, but nothing happened since it was stable. He found a ladder and climbed on top of it. Again, nothing happened. That was because house was also strong enough. Therefore; third pig did not die. He later found MuscleBulkers website and got into lifting. The third pig got jacked and nobody dares to fuck with him. All that, because he built a foundation that was BOTH strong and stable.

So, do not be like first and second pig. Getting a goal body takes time and we must look at things long term. Build stability through learning how to breathe correctly and build strength by doing additional abdominal exercises. That way, you will not be eaten by a big bad wolf who loves the smell of “hardgainers”.

Female in a half squat position

WRONG BREATHING PATTERN

1. Breathing into your chest – when we are asked to take a deep breath, we usually do this by breathing into our chest. This is clearly observed through shoulders and chest rise and weird face expressions that cause us to become light headed. This is just an opposite of what we want to achieve. Chest breathing is usually because we think that we should “breathe up”. We are programmed to think that our body should rise when we inhale. We must change this pattern by practicing “breathing down”.

2. 180-degree pressure – When we think about building pressure in our trunks, often misconception is to only push our abs out. However, that only creates 180- degree pressure during a squat. Breathing technique that we will learn, forces 360-degree pressure.

Imagine a circus tent only being tied down on one half (only 180 degrees). You are enjoying the show when all the sudden half of the tent gets raised in the air. That causes chaos and circus horses are running everywhere. Eventually one of them kicks you in the face and you decide you will never go to circus again. Imagine what would have happened, if the person who had to tie down the tent, would have done his job correctly. Tent would never get blown away and you would still like circus. Creating 360-degree pressure by breathing down and out prevents marks of horse’s hoof on our face.

3. Inhale all the way down, exhale all the way up – This is a way many personal trainers cue their clients. They were led to believe that breathing is generalized to all exercises. Just because you breathe a certain way during bench press, doesn’t mean you can just apply same principle to a squat.

Male preforming one legged squat. Squat breathing technique

PROPER BREATHING

Valsalva Maneuver (Hydraulic Breathing)
Exhaling against a closed airway. We experience that when we are trying to pop our ears after a flight. It also happens when we are doing a number two (especially if we don’t eat enough fibers)

REMEMBER NEXT THREE STEPS TO ACHIEVE VM:
1. Take a deep “breath down” through mouth and nose
2. Pull your belly in
3. Use your intraabdominal pressure to push against the force (PUSH 360!)

DURING SQUAT:
1. Big breath in (Follow steps above)
2. Squat down (DO NOT EXHALE AT THE BOTTOM)
3. Squat up (you can start exhaling towards the end of exhale, or not at all)

Strongman tightening his lifting belt

MAKE IT A HABIT

When you are trying this for the first time, you might find it hard to maintain this kind of breathing pattern for every rep. Just as doing accessory work to strengthen your abs, we must also do accessory work to work on stability. I would suggest adding following drill into your warm up.

90/90 Breathing
It is named like that due to our hips and knees both being at 90 degrees while lying down on our back with feet on the floor. I suggest you watching following video for a better visual representation:

CONCLUSION: Proper squat breathing technique

Hopefully this article can make you aware that breathing is an important part of lifting weights. It plays even bigger role performing functional exercises where a lot of stress is applied to our joints. Exercises like squat, bench or deadlift.

People experiencing lower back pain during squats should consider that it might be caused due to inability to stabilize their trunk. Creating stable trunk does not come through doing crunches, but through breathing correctly. Proper breathing patterns is a fundamental variable that must be mastered to avoid future injuries.

Ohh, while you are breathing, don’t forget to LIFT, EAT, SLEEP, REPEAT!

About the Author

Hey, my name is Ire.I am a Personal Trainer/ Strength Coach based in Stockholm, Sweden.When you don't find me in the gym, I will most likely be on a Track and Field stadium throwing around a discus.

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