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One can naturally make the core tight by flexing the muscles, so does breathing in allow it to be made more tight? I have seen some guide purport this, but, it doesn't relate with my personal experience.

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  • What is your concept of "core tightness" and what is it supposed to serve, functionally? Commented May 19, 2023 at 19:55
  • Well, having a stiff abdomnial region. The function would be to prevent rounding of the spine while squatting @PhilipKlöcking
    – Babu
    Commented May 19, 2023 at 21:05

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I think there are some misconceptions going on and I will try to untangle them.

  1. Is breathing "stiffening the abdominal region"?
  2. Does this help the spinal stability?
  3. What does help the spinal stability?
  4. How important is it to "prevent the rounding of the spine when sqatting"?

1. Is breathing "stiffening the abdominal region"?

70% of the muscular work of breathing is done by the diaphragm. If it contracts, the tendinosious centre of it sinks down into your abdomen, the lungs are stretched and you breathe in as a passive effect of the below atmospheric pressure in your lungs. The diaphragm inserts at your lower thoracic vertebra (Th10). The reason martial artists use expiration on impact and maximum load is twofold: firstly, the lower abdominal muscles (obliques and transversus) help expiration, ie. they automatically tense up when you forcefully expire. Therefore, the transversus which inserts at your vertebrae establishes a muscular girdle around your abdomen that protects your abdominal organs from being moved around. Secondly, breathing out consciously prevents people from holding their breath at exertion, which can have negative effects like passing out up to popping arteria (seen weightlifters passing out while lifting? That's it!). Thus, if anything, breathe out at exertion.

2. Does this help the spinal stability?

Not really. The spine is mainly held with very strong connective tissue. The main stabilisers are teeny tiny muscles between pairs of or across few vertebrae (mainly Mm. multifidi if you want to google). They can be tensed if you contract your M. tranversus abdominis but this can actually inhibit their function since they typically stabilise by contracting shortly before you load the spine using your bigger, more superficial muscles. If they are under tension before already, they have less resources to serve their function. The body is built pretty sensibly: That muscle which stabilises a joint is close to it and does either stabilise (deep) or move (superficial) the joint itself. Breathing muscles do not stabilise your spine, they can't. They are literally not in a position to do so.

Think about it: how should a muscle that is in front of the spine possibly stabilise against flexion, when the function of the abdominal muscles is...flexion of the spine? And yes, there are also muscles in between your ribs that pull them together at expiration, and the ribs have joints with your vertebrae, but the lever and strength of these muscles are too bad to change anything and joints are a pretty slippery thing in the first place: ribs are meant to move against the spine during breathing, how should they be able to hold it by breathing?

3. What does help the spinal stability?

Training spinal stability (duh!). Squats on a soft mat, earthquake squats (both with lower-than-usual weights!), and classical progressive loading with free weights. The reason people advise tensing the transversus abdomini and (often forgotten!) the pelvic floor is that the connection between your pelvis - including your legs - and your spine is improved. That means what this is about is connecting the closed chain of legs and pelvis with your upper body , thereby preventing an overextension of the lumbar spine, not spinal stability per se and certainly not against flexion.

4. How important is it to "prevent the rounding of the spine when sqatting"?

Less than you would think. Certainly, lifting your 1 rep max or generally setting new records, form can become important to protect joints (knees moreso than spine, btw). Generally, more recent studies show that the individual movement variability between reps and the interindividual movement variability are not only normal but even crucial because the body typically aligns itself according to the optimum for its current state, which differs a lot even within one set.

Therefore, we (empirically informed physiotherapists) tend not to look too much into form anymore but more into functionality and progressive loading over time. Again, Olympic lifters being a special case because of the extreme loads that's maxing out human capabilities.

But you're not going to hurt anything when rounding your spine in your average gym session, given you stay within loads your body can manage. Look up Jefferson Curls. They are a good exercise for...stabilisation of the spine against rounding. Actually, these are old (false) beliefs that rather facilitate back pain unnecessarily because pain is mediated a lot by beliefs, including false ones: If you believe a rounded back leads to back pain and you see or get told you rounded your back, your back will probably start to hurt. That does not mean you damaged some structure or anything.

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  • Well damn. Thank you. I will need some time to digest this answer in entirety
    – Babu
    Commented May 20, 2023 at 9:24
  • Now, I am confused, should I breath out before doign a squat? many guides say to breath in at the beginning
    – Babu
    Commented May 20, 2023 at 19:57
  • @TrystwithFreedom You breathe in before lifting and breathe out while lifting. The main point is keeping your breathing in flow so that there is no undue pressure building up in the lungs and the head. But you breathe in before starting to have good oxygenation. Commented May 20, 2023 at 20:11

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