THE IMPORTANCE OF BREATHING

Breathing exercises have all sorts of benefits ranging from recovering from chronic and acute back pain. However, they have recently been labelled “functional and seem to be really favored in the fitness industry at the moment.

I would just like to say that I see them as a useful tool in fixing up movement and improving posture. I will also like to state that you will not put on 25kg on your best dead-lift or add a stupid number on your vertical jump. However this does not make them any less important.

Personally I have no doubt that bad things happen when we breathe inefficiently. Why? Well when our breathing patterns are poor, alongside modalities such as poor movement and posture, it just adds to an already dysfunctional model.

????????????????????????????????????????

By getting the athlete or client to breathe properly we help them find neutral. Those who exhibit extension based lower back pain often have dominant posterior chains and actually require unloaded flexion to help.

We also get spend get some time to focus on the parasympathetic nervous system. Don’t worry, that fancy word just means we get to focus on rest and relaxing for a bit. Which is a good thing, because most people are just plain stressed out by things in life, like the gym, and in doing so stimulate the fight or flight response (sympathetic nervous system).

We only tend to spend a small amount of time on these exercises, approximately 2-4 minutes max. However just because we spend a relatively small amount of time on these exercises do not think that it means they are of little importance.

Now please may I ask that if you are strength and conditioning coach you don’t spend 20 minutes on breathing exercises when a client or athlete comes to you to get stronger, lose a bit of weight or add some hypertrophy. If you are… then you are missing the boat. That is not your role, it is out of your scope and to be honest you are just wasting their time. Leave that to the physiotherapists and focus on your job.

Breathing Exercises

Prone Belly Breathing

When doing this exercise you want to initiate breathing slowly through the nose while filling the belly (balloon) with air. Use the ground as feedback by feeling the abdomen push into the ground, you then exhale forcefully through the mouth, which will engage the diaphragm and brace the trunk.

Key Points

  • Inhale slowly through nose
  • Exhale forcefully through mouth
  • Fill the belly with air on inhale
  • Feel abdomen push into ground
  • Feel trunk brace on exhale

Supinated Belly Breathing

In this variant you want to immediately squeeze your but cheeks which will put you into a posterior pelvic tilt. Like the pronated variant you want to initiate breathing slowly through the nose and while doing so fill the belly (balloon) with air. Use the ground as feedback and feel the lower back (lumbar) push into the ground. You then exhale forcefully through the mouth. This will engage the diaphragm and brace the trunk.

Key Points:

  • Squeeze glutes to get into posterior pelvic tilt
  • Inhale slowly through nose
  • Exhale forcefully through mouth
  • Fill the belly with air on inhale
  • Feel lower back push into ground
  • Feel trunk brace on exhale

Quadruped (All fours) Breathing

In this exercise you want to start with arms and knees directly below the shoulders and hip. You then want to try and put the pelvis into a posterior pelvic tilt. Again start breathing slowly through the nose and while doing so fill the diaphragm with air. With each forceful expiration out of the mouth you want to try and push the upper spine towards the sky. This will create a dome like shape.

Key Points:

  • Posteriorly tilt pelvis-squeeze Glutes
  • Inhale slowly through nose while filling diaphragm with air
  • Drive sternum up to the sky  as you exhale out forcefully
  • With each breath try and push the sternum up to the sky even more.
  • Control it, own it and don’t rush it!

Deep Squat Belly Breathing With Lat Stretch

Start this exercise by holding onto a steady object. You then sit into a deep squat positions and lean back while pushing the upper spine back and up. “Sternum to the back wall” is a great cue to get the desired affect. You should feel a stretch on the lats.

While in this position start breathing slowly through the nose and fill the space with air. A cue you can use is breathe into the back”. Using your thighs to monitor your rib cage position. You should feel your diaphragm push into your thigh. When you exhale forcefully through the mouth you should feel the diaphragm engage (lock down).

Key Points:

  • Inhale through the nose and fill the space.
  • Push upper spine up and backwards
  • Exhale forcefully through mouth
  • Engage diaphragm

Programming:

We chuck these exercises in as part of an extended warm up with our client and athletes before they hit their heavy training session. You could also use this as part of a prehab routine in which you do pre or part of the tempo/active recovery sessions. You could even do it as part of your off/rest day. I would recommend 5-10 breaths each exercise

Add these as part of your warm up to every session and you will be better off for it (especially if you have lower back based pain).

Did you enjoy what you just read? Perhaps? Either way please share it with your friends, like and/or comment below.