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Other/Mixed Is there a trick or technique for keeping pressure out of your head during power breathing?

Other strength modalities (e.g., Clubs), mixed strength modalities (e.g., combined kettlebell and barbell), other goals (flexibility)

3letterslong

Level 5 Valued Member
I've never really mastered power breathing because I carry a lot of tension in my jaw and neck, so whenever I tried power breathing I worried I was going to give myself an aneurysm or something. I'm dealing with more stress than usual and suddenly I'm feeling certain exertions in my head when I never used to.

Is it just a matter of learning to relax everything above my traps?
 

Seamus Hayes

Level 3 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
This may sound strange- (pun not intended )
Some of my experiences making a deeper sound can make you contract your diagphragm more/ contract lower down around abdominals - An example/test is breath out while make a H sound until you’ve emptied your lungs fully to try and decend the diagphragm and ribcage and see where you feel it- this should help feel the abs and obliques, immediately inhale via the nose into the area you just felt the tension. A comparison of a higher sound would be - breath out fully making a C sound you may feel more neck. I’ve noticed when people do power breathing and the breath is being expelled moreso with their upper thorax/upper chest these will pressurise higher up causing more pressure around head, neck & chest. At the start of a set fully breath out & feel ribcage, obliques and core contract 360 degrees as the diagphragm decends to feel where you need to inhale. With exertion If I may a noise I try emphasise more of a H sound vs Ssss. Sounds more like a shhhaa! means you may let a little more air out, but you won’t over pressurise.
I have not performed Pavel’s breathing 2nd wind course, but I’m sure some great techniques to address this would be covered!
 

Bauer

Level 7 Valued Member
I've never really mastered power breathing because I carry a lot of tension in my jaw and neck, so whenever I tried power breathing I worried I was going to give myself an aneurysm or something. I'm dealing with more stress than usual and suddenly I'm feeling certain exertions in my head when I never used to.

Is it just a matter of learning to relax everything above my traps?
Very good questions. This is also a concern of mine.

I think you need to transfer the pressure to your midsection. At least this is my lastest idea on how to do it.

As Pavel says in various publications, perform the "anal lock" (imagine that "nature calls and it's number 1 and number 2"). With this in mind try power breathing.

Contrast this with another not-that-tasteful analogy: Don't do power breathing as if you try to prevent yourself from throwing up. (Where pressure goes upwards.) Try this and feel the difference -- at least to me it makes a difference. (I think it is not by accident that internal pressure is most naturally connected to bracing for a punch or preventing yourself from spilling body liquids...)

And then it is somewhat a matter of practice and getting used to it. Every new skill will at first be done with way too much tension in way to many body parts. You could try GTG power breathing to learn the skill of switching between tension and relaxation: Tense up in a short amount of time and then quickly shake it off and relax.
 

Bauer

Level 7 Valued Member
This may sound strange- (pun not intended )
Some of my experiences making a deeper sound can make you contract your diagphragm more/ contract lower down around abdominals - An example/test is breath out while make a H sound until you’ve emptied your lungs fully to try and decend the diagphragm and ribcage and see where you feel it- this should help feel the abs and obliques, immediately inhale via the nose into the area you just felt the tension. A comparison of a higher sound would be - breath out fully making a C sound you may feel more neck. I’ve noticed when people do power breathing and the breath is being expelled moreso with their upper thorax/upper chest these will pressurise higher up causing more pressure around head, neck & chest. At the start of a set fully breath out & feel ribcage, obliques and core contract 360 degrees as the diagphragm decends to feel where you need to inhale. With exertion If I may a noise I try emphasise more of a H sound vs Ssss. Sounds more like a shhhaa! means you may let a little more air out, but you won’t over pressurise.
I have not performed Pavel’s breathing 2nd wind course, but I’m sure some great techniques to address this would be covered!
That is a great observation!

Thinking about it, I think I have settled on an explosive and non-vocal "T!" sound for ballistics. This is somewhere in the middle between "TSS! and "HA!" - albeit with a little less tension.
 

Mark Limbaga

Level 8 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Are you familiar with the 3 tension principles?

I don't use intense power breathing but use an "internal" form of power breathing
 

Boris Bachmann

Level 7 Valued Member
Pulling the breath low (I don't know if I'd call it breathing into the belly but some do) and holding it there is part of it. As mentioned above, allowing some air to escape during exertion is part of it too - you probably don't want to kiai loudly in the middle of a crowded commercial gym, but yeah...

This video is friggin' old, but when I made it no one was really talking about the subject. It's dated, but some of it is still solid (go to 3mins in to cut to breathing and maybe turn on the subtitles if they are an option to avoid my deadpan presentation):

 

Steve W.

Level 8 Valued Member
I've never really mastered power breathing because I carry a lot of tension in my jaw and neck, so whenever I tried power breathing I worried I was going to give myself an aneurysm or something. I'm dealing with more stress than usual and suddenly I'm feeling certain exertions in my head when I never used to.

Is it just a matter of learning to relax everything above my traps?
I think there are two issues here. The first is pressurizing your abdomen vs your head. keeping the pressure in your abdomen/chest (intra abdominal and intra thoracic pressure) is a skill that helps stabilize the spine and generate and maintain overall muscular tension. I wouldn't say there's any "trick" to it, but there's a skill to holding the pressure in more at the epiglottis level than with the mouth and nose.

The second is what you mean by "power breathing." From your description is sounds like you might be trying to generate pressure by trying to blow out against resistance, as if you were trying to blow up a balloon. This is directing the pressure up into the head, generating sinus pressure, instead of compressing it down into the abdomen. But my understanding of power breathing is that it isn't a way of generating or increasing intra abdominal pressure at all. If you wanted to maximize intra abdominal pressure you would just hold your breath throughout a lift (which is how a lot of people do lift). Prolonged breath-holding tends to cause a spike in blood pressure, followed by a drop in blood pressure, which is potentially hazardous. In Power to the People, Pavel felt the need for a disclaimer about talking to your doctor before holding your breath while lifting (although Pavel does advocate breath-holding as a technique).

Power breathing enables you to gradually release intra abdominal pressure while maintaining muscular tension, instead of abruptly relaxing. It's a way of exhaling while maintaining pressure and tension, not a way of increasing pressure and tension.

For instance, on a press, instead of holding your breath all the way to the top or relaxing and losing tension, once you get past the sticking point, you gradually release the pressure against resistance, making the "Tssss" sound with the tongue against the roof of the mouth (not allowing the pressure into the head and holding it back with compressed lips).
 

Don Fairbanks

SFG II
Certified Instructor
I've never really mastered power breathing because I carry a lot of tension in my jaw and neck, so whenever I tried power breathing I worried I was going to give myself an aneurysm or something. I'm dealing with more stress than usual and suddenly I'm feeling certain exertions in my head when I never used to.

Is it just a matter of learning to relax everything above my traps?
A breathing behind the shield exercise taught at my SFG I. You lay on the ground and have a similar size student stand on your stomach while you recite your name, telephone #, and address. You could practice with an appropriate size bell, while relaxing your neck and face and reciting something.
 
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Brett Jones

StrongFirst Director of Education
Master Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Beast Tamer
@3letterslong

Are you performing power breathing in "isolation" as a drill by itself or as part of an exercise?

The diaphragm forms a roof that contains the pressure in the midsection—dial down the power breath to a level you can control in the midsection.
 

Pantrolyx

Level 5 Valued Member
In the "brown fat activation" technique from Wim Hof, I find that consciously focusing on tensing the fists, shoulders and chest while at the same time pushing the shoulders downwards, makes it quite easy not to tense my neck and head.
 

North Coast Miller

Level 8 Valued Member
Exhale down into the pelvic girdle, back pressure provided by the lower abs and obliques - don’t let the pressure build around the lungs.

Let off enough air that it doesn’t generate static Valsalva level pressure. You’ll feel it some in the head but should be relatively minor.
 

Max.Sehr

Level 5 Valued Member
This may sound strange- (pun not intended )
Some of my experiences making a deeper sound can make you contract your diagphragm more/ contract lower down around abdominals - An example/test is breath out while make a H sound until you’ve emptied your lungs fully to try and decend the diagphragm and ribcage and see where you feel it- this should help feel the abs and obliques, immediately inhale via the nose into the area you just felt the tension. A comparison of a higher sound would be - breath out fully making a C sound you may feel more neck. I’ve noticed when people do power breathing and the breath is being expelled moreso with their upper thorax/upper chest these will pressurise higher up causing more pressure around head, neck & chest. At the start of a set fully breath out & feel ribcage, obliques and core contract 360 degrees as the diagphragm decends to feel where you need to inhale. With exertion If I may a noise I try emphasise more of a H sound vs Ssss. Sounds more like a shhhaa! means you may let a little more air out, but you won’t over pressurise.
I have not performed Pavel’s breathing 2nd wind course, but I’m sure some great techniques to address this would be covered!
That's an amazing observation. I also feel some tension at the neck during power breathing. After trying this example i felt the difference immediately. For me i especially feel it during the C sound and the usual tss or tsaa i use during swings etc..
But when i use a deeper sound like a hmmm the tension is much less in the neck.
Also, the tip from @Pantrolyx greatly reduces the tension in the neck when i tried.
Awesome thread.
 

3letterslong

Level 5 Valued Member
This may sound strange- (pun not intended )
Some of my experiences making a deeper sound can make you contract your diagphragm more/ contract lower down around abdominals - An example/test is breath out while make a H sound until you’ve emptied your lungs fully to try and decend the diagphragm and ribcage and see where you feel it- this should help feel the abs and obliques, immediately inhale via the nose into the area you just felt the tension. A comparison of a higher sound would be - breath out fully making a C sound you may feel more neck. I’ve noticed when people do power breathing and the breath is being expelled moreso with their upper thorax/upper chest these will pressurise higher up causing more pressure around head, neck & chest. At the start of a set fully breath out & feel ribcage, obliques and core contract 360 degrees as the diagphragm decends to feel where you need to inhale. With exertion If I may a noise I try emphasise more of a H sound vs Ssss. Sounds more like a shhhaa! means you may let a little more air out, but you won’t over pressurise.
I have not performed Pavel’s breathing 2nd wind course, but I’m sure some great techniques to address this would be covered!

You know what? Your idea about feeling the muscles as you inhale and exhale is really useful to me. I'm still working on the pressure in my head, but that was the first time I felt something powerful in my core.
 

3letterslong

Level 5 Valued Member
Very good questions. This is also a concern of mine.

I think you need to transfer the pressure to your midsection. At least this is my lastest idea on how to do it.

As Pavel says in various publications, perform the "anal lock" (imagine that "nature calls and it's number 1 and number 2"). With this in mind try power breathing.

Contrast this with another not-that-tasteful analogy: Don't do power breathing as if you try to prevent yourself from throwing up. (Where pressure goes upwards.) Try this and feel the difference -- at least to me it makes a difference. (I think it is not by accident that internal pressure is most naturally connected to bracing for a punch or preventing yourself from spilling body liquids...)

And then it is somewhat a matter of practice and getting used to it. Every new skill will at first be done with way too much tension in way to many body parts. You could try GTG power breathing to learn the skill of switching between tension and relaxation: Tense up in a short amount of time and then quickly shake it off and relax.

You've hit the nail on the head. I think there's supposed to be some kind of lock above the diaphragm as well, which keeps the pressure out of the head. But I've never heard anyone talk about it.
 

3letterslong

Level 5 Valued Member
Pulling the breath low (I don't know if I'd call it breathing into the belly but some do) and holding it there is part of it. As mentioned above, allowing some air to escape during exertion is part of it too - you probably don't want to kiai loudly in the middle of a crowded commercial gym, but yeah...

This video is friggin' old, but when I made it no one was really talking about the subject. It's dated, but some of it is still solid (go to 3mins in to cut to breathing and maybe turn on the subtitles if they are an option to avoid my deadpan presentation):

That was a great video! I'm not sure it addresses the pressure in the head, tho. I actually think I've watched this video before when I did a youtube deep dive on power breathing trying to figure this out.
 

3letterslong

Level 5 Valued Member
I think there are two issues here. The first is pressurizing your abdomen vs your head. keeping the pressure in your abdomen/chest (intra abdominal and intra thoracic pressure) is a skill that helps stabilize the spine and generate and maintain overall muscular tension. I wouldn't say there's any "trick" to it, but there's a skill to holding the pressure in more at the epiglottis level than with the mouth and nose.

The second is what you mean by "power breathing." From your description is sounds like you might be trying to generate pressure by trying to blow out against resistance, as if you were trying to blow up a balloon. This is directing the pressure up into the head, generating sinus pressure, instead of compressing it down into the abdomen. But my understanding of power breathing is that it isn't a way of generating or increasing intra abdominal pressure at all. If you wanted to maximize intra abdominal pressure you would just hold your breath throughout a lift (which is how a lot of people do lift). Prolonged breath-holding tends to cause a spike in blood pressure, followed by a drop in blood pressure, which is potentially hazardous. In Power to the People, Pavel felt the need for a disclaimer about talking to your doctor before holding your breath while lifting (although Pavel does advocate breath-holding as a technique).

Power breathing enables you to gradually release intra abdominal pressure while maintaining muscular tension, instead of abruptly relaxing. It's a way of exhaling while maintaining pressure and tension, not a way of increasing pressure and tension.

For instance, on a press, instead of holding your breath all the way to the top or relaxing and losing tension, once you get past the sticking point, you gradually release the pressure against resistance, making the "Tssss" sound with the tongue against the roof of the mouth (not allowing the pressure into the head and holding it back with compressed lips).

These points are right on the money, i think. Especially the bit about keeping the pressure in your core. I feel really solid around the pelvis, as though there's a solid wall keeping the pressure in place, but I don't know how to build a wall keeping the pressure at the epiglottis. I just feel pressure from my pelvis to my head.

I'm generating pressure by flexing my abs and butt, pulling my sphincter to my belly button, squeezing my fists and breathing deep into my belly. Right out of Naked Warrior and Power to the People. I might be doing it in the way Pavel was showing to blow up hot water bottles, idk.
 

3letterslong

Level 5 Valued Member
A breathing behind the shield exercise taught at my SFG I. You lay on the ground and have a similar size student stand on your stomach while you recite your name, telephone #, and address. You could practice with an appropriate size bell, while relaxing your neck and face and reciting something.
That's a good exercise. For some reason, i don't feel pressure in my head when I do that. But if I squeezed my butt/abs/fists hard while doing a sphincter lock, I would feel it in my head. Am I just generating too much tension in my core?
 

3letterslong

Level 5 Valued Member
@3letterslong

Are you performing power breathing in "isolation" as a drill by itself or as part of an exercise?

The diaphragm forms a roof that contains the pressure in the midsection—dial down the power breath to a level you can control in the midsection.

Yes! This is what I was wondering! My diaphragm does not stop any upward pressure (and I didn't even know where the pressure should stop). Is there a technique to get the diaphragm to act like a ceiling?

I've done the power breathing by itself and part of an exercise, following the instruction in Naked Warrior, Power to the People and Hardstyle Abs. I feel like a generate a lot of tension in my core, but there's no ceiling on it.
 

3letterslong

Level 5 Valued Member
In the "brown fat activation" technique from Wim Hof, I find that consciously focusing on tensing the fists, shoulders and chest while at the same time pushing the shoulders downwards, makes it quite easy not to tense my neck and head.
I've tried to tie the power breathing to generating full body tension, which sounds like the same idea, but that just increases the pressure in my head.
 
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