Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The Diaphragm Plunger
The ultimate goal under athletic and real world loading is to be able to keep our spines in a neutral and stable position. Imagine if you will, that your spine is contained in a rough cylinder of meat, not unlike a hotdog with a toothpick running down the middle.
To create stability, we want our athletes to tighten up their trunks as if they were squeezing their spines in a 360 degree direction, aiming the contraction force inwards, there by crushing the toothpick. The human body has a few different integrated muscular and soft-tissue systems that make this possible and remarkably effective.
To take care of the bottom of the meat tube, we need our athletes to pull up on their pelvic floor, and we accomplish this by cuing them to "pull sphincter to belly button."
The last piece of the equation then, comes from getting our athletes to jam their diaphragms down thus "capping the tube". This pressure from the diaphragm comes from taking an enormous breath and holding it during the performed movement (old school name is valsalva). Not only does this make the spinal system initially stable, but breath holding also increases spinal rigidity during peak movement compression by effectively supporting the hotdog from the inside, through the rising compression force of the air trapped in the lungs. In effect, taking that big breath and holding it allows for internal trunk support to augment the external support we are already generating. This is good.
If you have a heart condition should you hold your breath? Maybe not. But humans hold their breaths all the time as a normal stabilizing strategy. (Picture your niece taking a poo, bet she holds her breath as she pushes. Or a pregnant woman pushing during childbirth. Or a man with back pain breathing in short gasps.) Bottom line is that holding your breath during movement and effort is normal and functional. So let's make sure we are doing it right. Besides, when you take that big breath and compress it under load, you also temporarily supercharge your nervous system which does things like; temporarily raises blood pressures (this is good as you want blood to keep getting to your tissue when stressed ....bad if you have congestive heart failure) and increases neural output by creating nervous system overflow.
Bottom line, take a discreet, distinct big breath before you lift on your next squat, press, clean, deadlift etc. And, don't let it out until you are sure you are in the clear. Too often, we see athletes miss the tail end of what would be successful lifts because they breathed out and lost trunk tension.
Go hold your breath and PR. Your spine will thank you.
at 6:00 AM