The Power Breath and Tuned Exhausts


What does the Power Breath and a properly tuned exhaust have in common?

tl;dr - It sounds cool and improves performance.

We've been doing a great job of learning the basic mechanics of all of the kettlebell lifts, and now it's time to focus on the smaller, but equally important, parts.

Today: The Power Breath.

Take all week to focus on doing a good power breath on all of your lifts - it will soon become automatic

Header tuning is one of my favorite blends of art and science in automotive engineering. Those complicated-looking tubes are expensive to engineer, but they have a real purpose.

There are competing dynamics during the exhaust phase of the cycle. While we all probably just think of the tailpipe exhausting a steady stream of gas - it's not, you can see the pulses on a proper dual exhaust V8 in the winter - it's even more complicated on up near the engine. When the exhaust valve opens, a finite sized charge of gas is pushed out of the cylinder and into the header (the fancy looking pipes in the picture). That gas is moving pretty fast - near the speed of sound. But at the same time there are shockwaves of sound propagating inside of that moving charge of gas. As the pipes meet, they behave like an open-pipe organ and the shockwave reflects backwards. If you get the length of these pipes right, the reflecting shockwave can reach back to the engine and help pull more exhaust out of the cylinder and if you have an aggressive cam (or 2-stroke engine) it can help pull new fuel into the cylinder. In the racing world, they tune this for power, in the consumer world, they tune this to reduce pumping loss and improve efficiency. Lots of PhDs in fluid dynamics design these things as well as backyard engineering geniuses (the one you see above was hand-built in a barn).

So what's that have to do with the power breath? The quick forceful exhale of the power breath sets up resonances in your ribs that help suck more air out of your lungs! If you time your breathing to repeated ballistic movements - especially the swing and snatch. You can get an efficient movement of air that doesn't require you to use much energy to move that air. Think about the typical out-of-breath hyperventilating that happens when you exert yourself. You're accelerating a bunch of air out, then you need to turn that around and reverse it. It's just like the pumping losses in a piston engine, you need to spend energy just to move the air around. If you do forceful crisp breaths, you can use the fluid dynamics to help move the air for you for free.

It's also important in generating that tension in your core when you drive and catch the ballistic movements. There are a bunch of reflexive contractions of your core muscles when you breath out hard that help you generate a solid trunk that can drive a bell over head in the snatch or help absorb the catch of a heavy clean. It also gives you a really solid platform for the grids like a strict press.

This week your homework is to focus on and practice the power breath on every lift. You won't feel as self-conscious if everyone is doing it.

Michael Deskevich