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.

Coach Kstar

10 comments:

John said...

is there a special setting on your camera that you use to make a person's skin more red?

Adrian said...

Pretty sure it's the hard-ass-work setting that creates the red-face effect...

-Boz

Anonymous said...

Pam, those are some awesome pics! You are a badass! :)

Tamra said...

You are a Rockstar, Pam!

Matt said...

"Picture your niece taking a poo, bet she holds her breath as she pushes."

No, I'd rather not.

Ross Naughton said...

Metal.

Austin said...

That's an awesome pic. It should be a CrossFit poster... I'd buy it.

Anonymous said...

Picture yourself taking a journey through time and space, you have entered the crossfit zone. Holding your breath while pooing for time is todays WOD. Post time to comments

Lucas

FilthyBrit said...

Awesome pic and info!


One of the best illustrations of this that I've read is when someone emailed Mark Rippetoe arguing that your heart will explode if you hold your breath when lifting. Rippetoe's response (funny, as always) involved the following illustration: your car breaks down, you open the door and try to push it. Guaranteed that before each effort to push, you take a big breath and hold it while you push. This is instinct, because your body and mind know, through 1000s of years of human experience, that this is the safest way to handle a heavy load.

patrick CFO said...

Kstar and Adrian -

Just wanted to stop by and send out some belated thank you's.
Adrian, you "judged" me at the games for my c&j and it was more coaching than judging and I just wanted to say thank you. You're enthusiasm and encouragement was rad. Kelly, it was cool getting to see you down in aromas as well. I'm going to try and make it out to sfcf more often. I could hear you cheering for me on the C&J as well...it meant a lot, and helped a lot. Im still working on taking the ebrake off my porsche...

See you guys soon,
PM