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Breathing 101

Let’s talk about breath bay-bee, let’s talk about you and me.

Breathing is something we do up to 30,000 times a day. It should be simple, right? You might think so, but somewhere along the way, we forgot how to actually breathe.

How are we supposed to breathe?

Through our nose and using our diaphragm as the primary muscle of inspiration (relaxed breathing)

How do most people breathe?

Through their mouth and using the secondary muscles of inspiration: the muscles of the neck and shoulder, and the intercostals - between the ribs. (stressed breathing)

How did we mess it up?

We are supposed to be in a parasympathetic state (rest and digest) for most of our day. Unfortunately, our brain cannot determine the difference between running late for a meeting and running from a saber-toothed tiger, so we spend most of our day in a sympathetic state (fight or flight) in response to the stresses we face in our daily lives.

Why does it matter?

Breathing through our nose is important for the following reasons

  1. Warms air

  2. Filters air

  3. Humidifies air

  4. Mixes air with Nitric oxide (antibacterial agent and increases oxygen uptake in cells by 10-20%)

  5. Assists with proper tongue and jaw positioning, and proper facial bone development.

  6. Recovers 33% of exhaled heat and moisture

  7. Increased oxygen uptake due to higher back-pressure on exhale vs mouth breathing.

Breathing using our diaphragm primarily is important for the following reasons

  1. Use of the entire trunk for breathing, not just the chest.

  2. Unloading the secondary breathing musculature (neck and shoulders)

  3. Unloading of hip/trunk musculature (psoas, QL)

  4. Activation of trunk pressurisation system (Diapraghm, Pelvic floor, Transverse abdominals Multifidus)

  5. Maintaining Parasympathetic nervous system activation (Rest and digest)

How do our lungs actually work?

They are like balloons, they don’t contract and relax themselves, they respond to pressure to inflate and deflate.

How does this translate to lifting?

Learning to initiate breath with the diaphragm is the best way to create intra-abdominal pressure for heavy lifting, this has eliminated the need for a lifting belt in my training.

How can we get better?

Start off by increasing your awareness of how you breathe, (chest/belly/nose/mouth)

Once you understand your tendencies you can start making conscious efforts to transition.

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