A few days ago, I mentioned in a previous log that I was focusing on my breathing while I was dragging the sled rather than just jamming “Pu$$y, Money, Weed” in the headphones that I had just purchased. I hate listening to the sound of that damn sled dragging across the parking lot for 30 min. That night I recieved a text message from Chad Wesley Smith… at 1:30am. We are really going to have to discuss Team Juggernaut time zones differences on work nights. He mentioned that it would be beneficial for some of the people reading the training log for me to go a little more in depth about why I would bother focusing on my breathing while walking around, and breathing patterns in general.
If you are a member of my gym, or have been through our beginner program then you know that I believe the most important aspect of your mobility and overall health/performance (I assume that they are one and the same) is an effective breathing pattern. The more people I work with the more important I find it.
Experts often talk about the “Kinetic chain”, as if the body is connected to it’s different “systems” like links in a chain. Each link connected to the next link; each link only effecting the link that is directly attatched to it. However, a much more useful model to describe the relationship between parts are the ripples in a pond. When you throw a stone into the water , there will be a splash where the rock hits and then ripple outward from there. You should think of the hips to be where the ripples start and that disfunction in the hips will surely lead to disfunction as far as the ripples reach. Which will be determined by how big the splash is (read: how big of a problem are your hips).
I know that this isn’t news to people. Everyone knows that their hips are the key to unlocking their performance, so everyone is stretching and rolling till they are blue in the face. For some people this loosens the hips and can improve their squat. Perhaps this can even cure most of thier hip disfunction. However, for many people they can’t seem to find the reason behind the problem. Even with all the stretching, rolling, and flossing that Mobilitywod has to offer, they still can’t fix their hips. Mobility should always be preceeded by stability.
I have seen breathing exercises produce squat PRs, Deadlift PRs, Press PRs, Bench Press PRs, Time Trial PRs, and even cure lower back pain. So let’s talk a little about why this is. Then we can discuss the simple methods used to practice proper breathing.
Diaphragm – a sheet of internal skeletal muscle that extends across the bottom of the rib cage. The diaphragm seperates the thoracic cavity (heart, lungs, & ribs) from the abdominal cavity and performs an important function in respiration. As the Diaphragm contracts, the volume of the thoracic cavity increases and air is drawn into the lungs.
Zone of Apposition – The diaphragm’s mechanical action and respiratory advantage depends on its relationship and arrangment with the rib cage. The zone of apposition is not influenced by the height of the diaphragm dome, but by the orientation of the rib cage
When we breath from the top of our lungs it is called “apical breathing”. This pattern is usful in a fight or flight situation due to the fact that lifting the rib cage with the muscles of the shoulder and the neck, combined with the action of the diaphragm allow for maximum oxygen uptake to fuel the “fight or flight”. The problem with becoming stuck in this breathing pattern is that it makes the neck and shoulder muscles tense and difficult to relax. It can cause neck pain, headaches and distorts our posture, reducing the “Zone of Apposition” and therefore making it more difficult to regain proper breathing patterns. The long term effect of this breathing pattern is to pull the head forward and compress the neck. Which sucks, but it is a whole other article.
South of the diaphragm, this poor breathing pattern causes even more havoc. Big breaths in the chest often cause an excessive lordosis in the lumbar spine and an anterior tilt in the hips (the same way that wearing high heels on the reg does, and possibly wearing high heels frequently alter the breathing patterns), further altering the “zone of apposition”. The diaphragm is the key component to “core” stability. It must contract first, then the abdominal wall and not the other way around. If the abdominal wall contracts to strongly or too quickly it will prevent the diaphragm from descending properly and will counteract its role in spinal stability. The lack of decent of the diaphragm will also reduce the effect of the muscles of the pelvic floor, leading to less stability in the hip, reducing range of motion and limiting power output, and making you less awesome at doing sex. All of which sucks.
The point is, if you aren’t breathing for performance, then just do us all a favor and stop. Breathing that is.
Check out this video where I show Nathan doing some things with good and bad breathing patterns……. Well, that was the plan. I really was serious about needing a video crew like the rest of Team Juggernaut because I am terrible at it. I can’t seem to make the videos that I created yesterday into 1, and I can’t even get some of them to load.
So, here are a couple of the videos that I made with Nathan yesterday, and a couple of Dr. Bill Hartman spitting knowledge. I am looking forward to heading back up to IFAST this weekend for the Midwest Performance Enhancement Seminar.
Notice how when the sweet cute little thing in the 2nd video breathes his belly goes, not only out anteriorly, but also expands laterally. Note that this baby is just chilling. He isn’t taking in enough oxygen to require much expansion of the ribcage, but if he was his belly would expand first.
This is one of the videos that we made yesterday. Actually, it seems to be the only one that the lord of youtube will allow me to upload today. The basic idea here is the same as I use when I drag the sled. We need to understand the importance of organizing ourselves for maximum stability in every movement we perform, and when we do this the breathing and stabiliation patterns become more natural. This will allow you to achieve proper stabilization while you are not thinking about it, or when you are fatigued…. such as in a CrossFit competition.