Watching many people lifting around the gym, I wonder how much time they spend thinking about and practicing the core elements – bracing and breathing – of any exercise. I watch faces go deep red/purple because people do not breathe through an entire rep and I see hips and shoulders shift when leg exercises go from downward to upward motions.
Without proper bracing and breathing, you can hurt yourself at the gym – especially as you increase weights. For example, you could:
Poor Bracing and Breathing
As I’ve been building strength in deadlifts and back squats and, as the weights increased, my body would shift and I would lift my hips first instead of having a full body upward movement. This resulted in two problems – lower back ache and collar bone discomfort. When the shifting was identified, I paid more attention to what my body was doing when it occurred. Typically my breathing was off – I would exhale at the wrong time – which would affect my bracing, making me shift.
How I’ve Been Fixing It
Instead of simply pushing through the discomfort, I have taken the past few months – yes months – to work on improving things. I started with basic adjustments – reducing weights or shifting to body weight equivalents for example. Something else I decided to do was increase my core exercises, do more total body workouts, and increase my cardio. I workout 5-6 days a week and 4-5 of those days have included several core-focused exercises. For the cardio aspect, I have stuck with the treadmill and the Fitbit Coach app. 5 days a week, I do 1 or 2 treadmill workouts that have me varying speed and incline. What I love about the Fitbit Coach, is that there is music in the background (based on my settings) and a person coaching me as I walk. This coach has me checking my form and breathing in every workout. This has helped increase my cardiovascular health, while tightening my core and making me aware of how my body moves.
My isolated weight exercises, while seated or standing, with dumbbells or the barbell have increased. I can either do more reps comfortably at a faster pace (should I chose endurance) or I can lift heavier weights with proper form. I am more quickly aware of when my form is off, so I can pause and reset my core and breath before attempting the next rep.
The best result? I am more comfortable with the weights and I am getting leaner at a nice, steady pace.
Keli Hay is a certified personal trainer using her weight loss success to help others.