Breathe to Succeed: The superpower we all have but don’t take advantage of
The Importance of Belly Breathing
As babies we were masters of diaphragmatic breathing. We always look like we have full bellies. With time we learn bad habits. Someone may have told you to suck your belly in. You become self conscious and your breath becomes more shallow. It is time to let go of the tight belly myth and rethink the way you breathe.
Correct belly breathing (diaphragmatic activation) during any movement, especially lifting heavy weights helps deep stabilization of the spine that will shift into whole body stabilization. If proper diaphragmatic activation is inadequate, your body will compensate with poor movement patterns that will lead to imbalance in your body but also you are a step closer to injure yourself.
You may say “ It doesn’t apply to me, I have a six pack!”
Many Athletes May Think that Having a Strong Core Creates Enough Core Control.
If you look at your body sideways your rectus abdominis is so far away from your spine and there are so many organs between. Even if you have a strong abs it won't have efficient benefits on your back stability.
The best way to stabilize your spine is to get air in that anterior portion of your spine. Breathing properly and getting air 360 degrees around the trunk. The diaphragm pulls down and creates EQUAL pressure out transversus abdominis, external and internal oblique, thoracolumbar fascia and our spinal erector.
Why is equal pressure so crucial? Have you ever wondered why one of your shoulders or hips is higher than the other or do you keep having lower back problems? Simply because you don't create that equal pressure with your breath all around your trunk as shone in this visual. (Lorang, 2019)
Stability over Mobility
Wait whaaaat? Mobility is a hot topic. I get it and a very important one. Muscles and joints are meant to move, to move often, and without restriction. However, what you may not know is the need for stability in specific parts of your spine and limbs. In most cases your body has to compensate because of not having enough stability. As a result of the compensation, your body will naturally reduce the mobility in your body by muscle tightness and joint restrictions. (Lorang, 2019)
If you are looking into your movement patterns, you must first address your stability insufficiency before looking into mobility. One of the insufficiencies in stability is the way you breath. TRUST ME. I know.
“But I was thought to hold my breath while lifting”
Many athletes may have been educated to hold their breath during lifting to enhance the intra abdominal pressure and consequently increase their lumbar stability.
But, based on Natural breath control during lifting tasks: effect of load study by Hagins and Lamberg, shown that having control over your breath impacts the increase of intra abdominal pressure (IAP) so lumbar stability. When these two scenarios of holding breath and controlling breath while lifting were compared the results were as follow:
distinct patterns of natural breath control occur during lifting tasks
breath control is receptive to the timing and magnitude of load lifted
Another study called DYNAMIC NEUROMUSCULAR STABILIZATION & SPORTS REHABILITATION by Frank et al., concluded that dynamic core stability for optimal athletic performance is not achieved purely by adequate strength of abdominals, back extensors, glutes or any other muscles in isolation, but is accomplished through precise coordination of the integrated spinal stabilizing system and IAP regulation which is achieved by diaphragmic breathing.
Research by Dr. Stuart McGill and others have indicated that when the core is tightened in this manner, it generates greater muscular responsiveness throughout your body. Resulting in greater force that would allow you to lift not only heavier but also safer to prevent you from getting any injuries. You will take control over the lift more this way.
And if you can’t produce sufficient force, your lifts will be limited.
“If breathing is not normalized, no other movement pattern can be”
If you still have some doubts, watch this video by Chris Duffin, a world class powerlifter whose specialty is diaphragmatic breathing and who also works with Dr. Stuart McGill who authored over 240 scientific journal papers, 5 books, and mentored over 40 graduate students during this scientific journey. Investigations in the laboratory, training center and research clinic probed back injury and pain mechanisms, rehabilitation approaches, and performance training.
Deep Belly Breathing Exercises
Do this exercise the first thing in the morning to reprogram the way you breath, contact us to further perfect it: Breathing exercises based on Dr. Stuart McGill resources
I also learned this lesson the hard way. I used to do Crossfit and weightlifting. I didn’t know how to breathe properly. My body compensated so much I injured my lower back, shoulders and kept experiencing hip tightness. I started doing yoga in hope to recover from these injuries. Only when I learned how to properly use my diaphragm to breathe only then the pain went away. As a yoga teacher knowing what I know now, it is my responsibility to share my knowledge not only on this blog but also in my yoga classes where I carve time to develop diaphragmic breathing skills. Yes, it is a skill that will take some time for you to master it. Now you have the awareness, what are your next steps that you will take to apply what you learn?
The diaphramic breathing brings so many more benefits, you can read about it in a Harvard article.
Hagins, M., & Lamberg, E. M. (2005). Natural breath control during lifting tasks: effect of load. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 96(4), 453–458. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-005-0097-1
Lorang, C. (2019). Introduction to Diaphragmatic Breathing. Capital Chiropractic. https://capitalchirodsm.com/introduction-diaphragmatic-breathing/
McGill, S., Seguin, J., & Bennett, G. (1994). Passive Stiffness of the Lumber Torso in Flexion, Extension, Lateral Bending, and Axial Rotation. Spine, 19(Supplement), 696–704. https://doi.org/10.1097/00007632-199403001-00009
Frank, C., Kobesova, A., & Kolar, P. (2013). Dynamic neuromuscular stabilization & sports rehabilitation. International journal of sports physical therapy, 8(1), 62–73.