Diaphragmatic Breathing

Breathing and Bracing

If you did an exercise inefficiently or incorrectly over 17,000 times a day, wouldn’t you expect to have some issues or injuries? This is how I get my point across to my clients when they look at me cross-eyed after we discuss their breathing pattern.

Most often, when I watch someone breath (how awkward, right?!), they have what DNS calls “open scissor syndrome”. On the inhale, the breath will raise the rib cage, flaring the ribs, and the belly will suck in.

The result of this pattern may be over activity of the upper back, neck, pecs, and low back muscles while losing pressurization and support of the abdomen, diaphragm, and pelvic floor. This is a recipe for disaster, especially if you are lifting heavy loads, or my personal favorite, pregnant or postpartum.

Ideally, we could all be like figure “b”, where the rib cage and pelvis are stacked to create a cylinder. No one wants to buy the can of La Croix that is dented…#amirite? Creating this posture hinges on proper diaphragm function through “diaphragmatic breathing” and bracing. Proper alignment along with optimal intra-abdominal pressure can boost your strength and performance during sport and daily life.

Ever heard the phrase, “You can’t shoot a cannon from a canoe”? I think that pretty much sums up the importance of spinal stability and the ability to generate power. We all want to lift heavy and perform on a high level, but when was the last time you stood with an empty barbell in your front squat position and took time to breath, pressurize, and then squat (maybe even to a target like a box). This can be surprisingly challenging.

Retraining your stabilization patterns is just like anything else…it takes time, practice, and patience. My go to rehabilitation movements for men and women alike are the BIRTHFIT Functional Progressions adapted from the principles of Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS). These DNS movements (or as some people call them, the “baby exercises”) were developed based on our neuromuscular patterns during the first year of life. Although intended for rehabilitation, these movements can also be used for strength training and improved performance.

Training and teaching these movements consistently shows results. I totally drank the Kool Aid and became a believer as I have seen these movements successfully applied for prenatal training, postpartum rehabilitation, shoulder pain, and even headaches. As I write this, I am reminded of the concept of “virtuosity” discussed by Greg Glassman as “performing the common uncommonly well”. Although some of these movements seem basic, it is the finesse and proficiency in which they are performed that makes them an effective training tool.