Do you really know how to breathe?

  • Written by By Jimmy McCurry, CSCS Progressive Performance, LLC

Every day each person takes about 20,000 breaths. That is 20,000 repetitions of muscle contraction. Count up how many crunches, squats and lunges you have done, every rep making them as perfect as possible. Now think about breathing. Is that something you ever really think about? Unless you are suffocating, or have a cold, probably not. Have you ever thought you could be performing 20,000 reps a day wrong? Well, we all do it, but there are some ways to help.
Improper or inefficient breathing patterns can cause postural dysfunctions and lack of stability in the trunk, as well as lack of mobility in the limbs. If you can keep a more stable trunk you will exhibit more range of motion in the shoulders and hips.There are muscles that are responsible for controlling breathing. The muscles that are most involved in respiration are the diaphragm, abdominals and external intercostals; we will talk about the diaphragm.

Diaphragmatic breathing is a skill that most of us have to relearn. A lot of us are shallow breathers or chest breathers; both are inefficient ways to breathe. Have you ever noticed that most high performance athletes have distended bellies with abs over the top? Think of Usain Bolt, Ben Evans and the top powerlifters and strongmen in the world like Marius Pudzianowski, and Derek Poundstone. All have big bellies with defined abs. Now, I am not saying that working on your diaphragmatic breathing will make you have a big belly. There are other reasons, on top of the fact that they these athletes breathe properly, as to why they have large waists, but it is a factor that allows them to perform at such a high level.  

So how do we do this and how does it work? When you breathe in and the diaphragm contracts, it moves downward as the lungs expand, mostly to expand the rib cage from the bottom to make room for the organs.

As you breathe out, the abdominal muscles contract and push the ribs down. If you are breathing shallowly, then these muscles are not being used to their full capacity, and your total lung volume is also not being utilized. So how do we use this muscle to get more stability through the torso? The best exercise is supine 90/90 position breathing.

Lie on your back with your feet up against the wall and your legs at a 90-degree angle at the hips and knees. You will begin by breathing out as much as you can, like you are blowing up a balloon. Feel those ribs come down? Now breathe into your belly, filling the belly and bottom of your ribs without letting your chest rise or your lower back come off the ground. This is the base exercise for learning how to breathe properly. Do this three times a day for about ten breaths and breathe your way to better movement.

Progressive Performance is a personal training and strength and conditioning company owned and operated by Jimmy McCurry, CSCS.

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