A couple nights ago I was talking to one of our members, Pat, about mid-line stabilization techniques.  Pat is attending the Mid-Line Strength & Stability Clinic on the 18th, and we were talking about all the opposing information floating around about mid-line stabilization.  Yogis tell you one thing, powerlifters tell you something else, and physical therapists will tell you something completely different from the first two.

The big thing Pat and I talked about was the need for a different strategy depending on the demands of the activity.  There’s no such thing as a bad exercise, it all depends on the context you are performing it in.  And there’s no one right way to stabilize your spine.  The strategy will change depending on the situation.

And this brings me to the Valsalva Maneuver…

By definition (in the context of lifting), the Valsalva Maneuver is the act of holding your breath to increase your intra abdominal pressure, creating a rigid mid-line and strong, stable spine.

This technique should be used when going for big lifts in the 1-5 rep range, or in any situation where a short, powerful burst is necessary.

The Valsalva Maneuver is essential for hitting big lifts.  When done properly, it’s not unrealistic to see a 5% or 10% increase in your lifts, PLUS an immediate improvement in technique.  Your spine loves to be protected and will reward you for your effort.

There are a couple things to realize when trying to perform this technique:

1) Just holding your breath is NOT the Valsalva Maneuver.  You MUST breath into your diaphragm to get the spine protecting, core strengthening benefits of this technique.  How do you know if you are breathing into your diaphragm?  When you take a deep breath, your shoulders should NOT rise, and your stomach should rise and sink with each breath.  This takes some practice if you aren’t used to it.

2) Hold your breath for the ENTIRE lift. Or at least until you are 100% sure you’ve made the lift.  The moment you start exhaling, you start losing tension in your body.  This could be the difference between a missed and made lift.

3) The Valsalva Maneuver is meant for activities of short duration.  Your blood pressure briefly sky rockets then plummets when performing this technique.  This means there is the potential to pass out.  Don’t let this scare you.  Just BE SMART.  If you get stuck in a lift for more than a few seconds, dump it.  And if the weight is light enough to crank out reps, you don’t need the type of mid-line of 100% steel awesomeness the Valsalva Maneuver gives you.

As always, shoot me an email if you have any questions: rob@crossfitdoneright.com.

The inner workings of the Valsalva Maneuver.

The inner workings of the Valsalva Maneuver.