Mastering the Valsalva Maneuver: Techniques and Benefits

The question seems almost silly, as if we were asking if we could blink. But the way he breathes when he’s sitting at his desk is very different from the way he has to breathe when he’s running or when he’s squatting on his back with 300 pounds. And we’re not just talking about breathing harder when you’re tired.

Your breathing is much more powerful than you think, because that deep breathing is associated with many essential structures of your body, including the spine and chest. It may seem impossible, but the way you breathe can do everything possible to prevent back pain and make you much stronger during squats, deadlifts, presses and almost any exercise imaginable.

Before finishing another workout, you need to know if you have been breathing badly and what you can do to make a small change that will give you awesome results.

The power of your breath

Most fitness tips don’t provide instant gratification. It takes many repetitions and sets, sometimes for several years, to change your body.

And although no workout will immediately reduce fat or make you more muscular, there are some techniques that can magically have an immediate impact on the quality of your workouts and sensations. The Valsalva maneuver, a means of breathing, is one of these techniques.

One reason it has such dramatic effects is that for most people, the way they breathe during exercise is completely neglected.

When you learn about training, almost everything focuses on the usual dubious. :

How much weight do you use?
Repetitions and trials
Selection of exercises
What equipment to use
These are all important elements of training and exercise. But that covers everything you do. They tend to avoid how to do it.

While there is no shortage of explanations about exercise that you can find online, it is rare that tips on proper form provide a detailed explanation of how to breathe.

But the way you breathe during different exercises can make the difference between staying pain-free and making more progress. Enter the Valsalva maneuver.

To understand how and why this technique is the key to avoiding back pain and a huge gain in strength, it’s time for a quick test.

The Soda Can Test: How to know your spine is safe

To understand why it is important to breathe well, it is enough to think about a can of soda. When pressurized and sealed, it is very durable. You can stack several bricks on it and it will not move. But if you open the box and let this pressure escape, the weight would crumple the box underneath.

Don’t forget to breathe the same way: do it right and you won’t be able to stop, do it wrong and you’ll be dejected.

Proper breathing can turn any exercise into a safe and effective movement. Think about it: No one wonders if exercise is “good” for you, but many people discuss whether certain exercises should be avoided because of the health risk.

For example, you may know that squats are one of the best exercises for building strength and building muscles. Or you can consider it as an exercise that causes back pain. This means that many of them avoid squats (or avoid performing them with extra weight), although in reality the problem is not the exercise. This is how they taught you to perform the movement.

The Power of Your Breath

To understand how you breathe, it is important to visualize the diaphragm in two different parts.

Its diaphragm divides its interior into an upper (thoracic) and a lower (abdominal) cavity. Think of it as the muscle that drives breathing. When you inhale, your diaphragm presses against your abdominal muscles, drawing air into your lungs and creating more space for you in your body.

“The lungs fill up like a vacuum as soon as the diaphragm drops,” says Dr. Kathy Dooley, a chiropractor and professor of anatomy in New York City.

However, a number of things, such as poor posture, can prevent the diaphragm from doing its job effectively.

“When the abdominal muscles grab the diaphragm, they won’t let you breathe,” Vranich says. “When you take a big inspiration, you need to take it with your shoulders, because your diaphragm is in a hurry.”

So, what should it look like? If your stomach moves outward when you inhale, it is a sign that your diaphragm is working properly.

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