How to: Breathing (Yes, Breathing!) by Dr. Kim
Breathing is the most important thing your body does, and most of us are doing it wrong!
Why is breathing so important?
1. So you can live! Oxygen intake is very important for cellular function. If you’re not breathing,you’re not living!
2. Breathing correctly protects the spine during lifts.
3. Breathing correctly saves energy (leaving more gas in the tank to WOD!).
What does is it mean to breathe correctly?
When you inhale, your belly should protrude outwards because you’re contracting the diaphragm to pull air into the lungs. Exhaling should be effortless as you relax the diaphragm and allow air to exit freely. What I often find is that people don’t use their diaphragms to breathe. Instead they rely heavily on neck muscles and chest muscles to drive air in and out of the lungs. With this type of breathing the chest moves, but the belly either doesn’t protrude at all or, in some very bad cases, people will suck their bellies in to breathe! This is very inefficient and dangerous, as your diaphragm is a big player in creating intra-abdominal pressure for spine stabilization.
How to tell if you are breathing correctly:
1. Check the muscles of your neck in the mirror. If you can see neck muscles popping out at you in the mirror, or if you see the muscles of your neck contracting when you’re breathing, you’re not breathing correctly!
2. Feel your stomach while you’re breathing. If you can feel your stomach actively protruding and relaxing while breathing, you’re breathing correctly!
3. Are your pecs and traps chronically tight? If so this is a common symptom of neck breathers. If you aren’t using your diaphragm to breathe you will rely on the pecs and traps heavily to help you breathe and stabilize your neck and back.
4. Are you chronically tired? Even on days you don’t seem to do very much? If you don’t breathe correctly, you will feel exhausted as your body exerts more energy to inefficiently breathe.
Why don’t we breathe correctly?
The simple answer is sitting culture and bad posture. From the age of 5 in the U.S., we are forced to sit for hours at a time in school. Sitting promotes bad posture, because we get lazy and it feels easier to slouch or lean forward than to sit up straight. When we aren’t sitting up straight, we compress our chests and stomachs inhibiting the diaphragm from being able to contract. We then use our neck and chest muscles to breathe, which does not generate the intra-abdominal pressure we need to protect our spines.
The best way to learn to breathe correctly is to practice! Make a conscious effort throughout the day to belly breathe. Definitely make sure you are belly breathing when you lift! You should take a deep belly breath any time you address a barbell to move weight. The deep belly breath will create intra-abdominal pressure, which creates spine stabilization and helps you recruit the proper muscles for the lift you are trying to accomplish.
Breathing correctly often takes some training and practice. If you need help learning to breathe correctly and avoid injury, get in touch with me!