Importance of Breathing and Bracing

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“It’s amazing what a 275 pound deadlift feels like when you actually use your core.”

This is what I heard from one of the top athletes in the female division after event 5 (4 rounds of 400m run, 40 GHD sit ups, 7 deadlifts) of the 2016 CrossFit East Regionals in Albany, NY.

Before the most recent CrossFit HQ changes to the Open format, I had been fortunate to work as a Athlete Services Provider during the East Regional each of the last four years.

I tell you this not to brag but because it’s amazing what you can learn from spending three days with elite level athletes.

Most of the time we think they are doing something extraordinary or have some major secret. The reality is that they simply do the fundamentals better than us regular folks.

So let’s talk about your core in a bit more detail.

Better said, let’s talk about why it matters.

#1- Save your spine

80-90% of the people reading this article have had low back pain at some point in their life.

How do I know?

Because these are the world wide statistics. It’s the most expensive and widely treated ailment in the world.

If you are lifting heavy weights repeatedly for time and speed, the chances of your back being injured becomes even greater.

Another factor at play is the recurrence of injury. If you have injured your back in the past, you are more likely to injure it again...especially if ALL you did was rest during your injury.

The fact is that the BEST way to protect your spine is by having a clear understanding of how your core should be working during your lifts (especially when the lifts are heavy, fast, or under fatigue… CrossFit anyone?)

#2- Improve Performance

If you have been doing CrossFit for over 6 months, the chances are that your PR’s have slowed down if not stopped completely.

This is NORMAL (and frustrating).

As you progress in the gym, you will see that your numbers flatline.

From my experience the gaping hole that can get you gains again is learning how to use and brace with your core.

Learning how to brace and breath properly is it’s own entire technique.

One of our common phrases at my practice is, “Brace your way to a PR.”

This means that when you create the right tension and actually use your core muscles to assist you, your core will allow you to lift more weight!

#3 Use What You’ve Got

When I work with my athletes, the first job is NOT to get them stronger or even to get them out of pain. It’s simply to get them using what they’ve already got.

In other words, before we start adding new progressions or exercise, we go back to the basics.

We go back to our core breathing and bracing protocols.

We then make sure that the athlete knows how to sequence their breathing and bracing during their lifts.

We then test these principles under load and fatigue to make sure we know the athlete has a plan during the stress and loading of lifts.


So many folks think that the core is simply about holding a plank or doing GHD sit-ups. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

What’s worse is when an athlete has no concept or clue how to brace and breath when taking on the responsibility of pulling a few hundred pounds off the ground or trying to load that on their back.

It’s a shame to think that anyone would take on that much responsibility with their body and not truly understand how to use it.

I hope this article raises your awareness around the problem that is...the one staring at you directly in the mirror that you simply don’t have an answer to (yet).

For more information about Dr Justin Rabinowitz, Strive 2 Move, and their services, check out his website at

David Licata