Off Canvas




As we revisit the horizontal breathing and bracing technique, the addition of other subsystems are important to increase our intra-abdominal pressure while maintaining our neutral spine curvature. When we assess the squat, do you find yourself having a slight buttwink or arched back? This article will explore one of my best cues for increasing abdominal pressure and maintaining a neutral spine: Ribcage down.




During the eccentric phase of the squat is where the lifter should already have an increased abdominal pressure due to their bracing. In this phase we have some type of valsalva maneuver by having a 360° brace. 


A checklist we should evaluate during a lifter’s squat are:

  1. Does the lifter have a solid shelf for the bar?
  2. When bracing does the chest rise or the stomach expand?
  3. On the eccentric, does the lifter have an arch?
  4. Approaching the hole, is there a buttwink or a clear sign of instability?
  5. Does the lifter’s butt shoot back coming out of the hole?


When assessing, if the lifter shows any signs of instability or an arched back, it’s due to a bracing and “stacking” issue (we will visit this later). 




As we inhale air to brace, we pull air with the diaphragm muscle. In this instance, the diaphragm contracts and pulls the air DOWNWARDS. This would allow us to increase pressure on our abdomen. If we brace correctly, the air would expand to the abdominal muscles and push against the abdomen wall. Contrary to popular belief, the TRANSVERSE ABDOMINIS is the true muscle that allows for the majority of the lumbar stability and rigidity. As we train on heavier loadage, the transverse abdominis has to become more rigid underneath these loads. How do we increase and optimize our bracing methods?


“Ribcage Down” To Keep The Body Stacked


Within the gym I would see lifters over tighten their rhomboids to maintain a stable shelf underneath the bar. In this instance, I would see that lifters have a slight lumbar arch that would impede maximizing their intra-abdominal pressure.


In these examples, we can see that prior to the eccentric of the lift, the bracing would be significantly softer when we keep the ribcage up vs keeping our ribcage down:

The image on the right represents a poor neutral spine which in turn would impede lumbar and hip stability during the eccentric of the lift. The picture on the right represents the “Ribcage down” cue, showing the subsystems “stacked” over themselves.

As we flare the ribcage, he lower extremities may follow. When we descend into the hole, the body must compensate dept by tilting the bar forward while having to buttwink. This will cause a shift in bar path, center of gravity, while also decrease tightness of IAP coming out of the hole. On the left, we can see that the spine is neutral and the subsystems are stacked upon each other. This can create a natural posterior tilt into the hole, while keeping pressure within our core.