THE SUPERBOWL 49 AND BREATHING: WOOSAH

Well Super Bowl 49 was an amazing spectacle! I am sure I am one of many in the UK and world wide to brave the late night/early morning to watch the Patriots go head to head with Seahawks in the biggest final of the year, or so the Americans like to think. We wont mention this to the die hard rugby and football fans out there.

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It was always going to me an entertaining match with stars like Tom Brady, Gronkowski, Richard Sherman, Russel Wilson and Marshawn Lynch taking part but the question was… who was going to be the best of the best.

imagesI was backing the Seahawks all the way. I just love their swagger, the emphasis of the fans as the 12th man, the brutal hits they make in defence and of course Marshawn Lynch. It didn’t disappoint and it was just amazing to watch those spectacular athletes let loose on one another. I mean, what physical specimens, especially the Gronk, I mean WOW.EDELEMAN

I must say though, the player who came out of nowhere and made this game his own, yeah I know the patriots won, even though I feel Russel Wilson threw away the win, Chris Matthews.  For a guy I hade never heard of before that night, In my opinion he produced a breathtaking performance. I also don’t believe Tom Brady should have won the Superbowl MVP. I mean come on, It should have gone to either Matthews or Edelman. These guys were just brilliant for their respective teams

Okay, so now that I have shared my views on the Superbowl. It is time to talk breathing and the importance of doing so. Now I can hear you saying “no shit Nate”, “we all need to breathe”.

Calm down. Let me explain. I meant breathing exercises. “Oh man now he really has lost his shit”,“he wants us to practice breathing”. Again stay with me. I’m not going hippy on you.

Breathing exercises have all sorts of benefits ranging from curing chronic back pain to setting new compound lift PBs, okay maybe not so much the seconds one. However, they have recently been labelled “functional” (woohoo) and seem to be really favoured 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 deadlift 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.

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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. I know it sounds weird but it true. Pinky Promise.

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 by doing so stimulate the fight or flight response (sympathetic nervous system). It is a good time to chill … WOOSAH.

Unlike a lot of new aged hippies, or the all out functional movement nutters, 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 does not mean that they are of little importance.

Now please, please, please 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 get as god like as possible. If you are… then you are missing the boat. That is not your role and it is out of your scope, plus to be honest you are just wasting their time. Leave that to the physiotherapists or any other self breathing gurus 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 I promise (especially if you have lower back based pain).

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