I'm writing this blog post from my sick bed, well my injured bed. Yesterday I was training my deadlift when I put my back out quite badly. It was only the second week of a 10 week cycle so the weights were low 5 reps with 105kg (a weight I can easily do for 10 reps), my technique was good, back nice and straight, but on the rep when I felt my back go I made one fatal mistake; my breathing.
Correct breathing creates intra-abdominal pressure, boosting your strength and protecting your spine. It's as if a tire is wrapped around your spine, when you fill it with air it provides protection like with a weight lifting belt. This is important in any exercise, but especially the deadlift. You should take in a deep breath on your way down to the bar, hold it as you start the lift, then as you get past your sticking point, push your tongue against the roof of your mouth and forcefully exhale making 'tsss' sound, as if you were letting air out of a car tire.
This video is a good example; listen to how I breath in, then forcefully exhale and the sound it makes.
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Had I breathed like this I wouldn't be writing this today. Instead I exhaled at the bottom of the lift, losing that intra-abdominal pressure leaving my spine in an unstable position.
Another point to bring up is concentration. As I said I was lifting relatively light weights and that may be the reason I wasn't thinking about my breathing enough. You should treat every rep, no matter the weight as if it is your heaviest lift.