The Valsalva Manoeuvre is a breathing technique used in a variety of situations.
While it can be used to ‘pop’ pressure in the ears when flying, swimming or scuba diving, as well as to help push when giving birth, our focus in today’s blog is on how it can help with lumbar and core stability, in particular during resistance training.
How is the Valsalva manoeuvre carried out?
The stages of the Valsalva manoeuvre are as follows:
- Take a deep breath
- Hold the breath for about 10 seconds
- While holding the breath, keep the back and stomach muscles tight
- Breath out with force
- Go back to breathing normally
When was it first used?
The technique is named after the Italian physician Antonio Maria Valsalva, who lived during the 17th to 18th centuries and focused his study on the ears.
What happens during the Valsalva manoeuvre?
When you take a deep breath, the diaphragm expands, creating a downward force and intra-abdominal pressure. This causes the surrounding muscles to contract, providing stability for the pelvic and sacral joints.
The muscles affected include the following:
- Latissimus dorsai
- External and internal obliques
- Pelvic floor
- Rectus abdominus
What exercises can you use the Valsalva manoeuvre with?
A range of resistance and core exercises can benefit from using the Valsalva manoeuvre, for example:
- Bench press
- Push press
What are the pros of the Valsalva manoeuvre?
In a nutshell, it’s a very effective technique. Breathing in the correct way can make a positive difference to any kind of activity – just ask anyone who does yoga, sprints or lifts weights.
As well as improving the effectiveness of your activity – for example, allowing you to lift heavier weights – the Valsalva manoeuvre can also help you stabilise your core and back during a range of exercises, from the plank to resistance training. Having a strong and stable core means you are less likely to injure yourself during training.
And the cons?
Using this technique causes changes in the heart rate and blood pressure, which can be negative effect for some, especially those with high blood pressure. As it temporarily limits blood supply to the brain, it can also cause you to feel dizzy and lightheaded.
The intra-abdominal pressure and subsequent muscle contraction of the Valsalva manoeuvre can protect the back and enhance performance during weight training. However, those with particular medical conditions should be aware that it can affect blood pressure and heart rate.
As always, it is advisable to carry out techniques such as this under the supervision of a qualified personal trainer or fitness instructor and to consult a medical professional if there are any adverse reactions.