Diaphragmatic Breathing

By Skyler Zarndt MS, ATC, CSCS

If you missed yesterday’s post about the diaphragm muscle, check it out here:

Anatomy Review: Diaphragm

In summary, the diaphragm is a large, dome-shaped muscle that separates the abdominal cavity from the thoracic cavity.  It’s primary role is in respiration, but in some cases it will also act as a postural stabilizer.

In many cases, we see the diaphragm NOT being used for respiration, which is its PRIMARY function.  Most of the time, this is due to faulty breathing patterns, and in some cases, diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) which may prevent the diaphragm from working correctly.

In either case, utilizing this muscle and MAXIMIZING its abilities are critical to MAXIMIZING our own performance.  But how do we breathe using our diaphragm?  Isn’t that how we always breathe?  Well, we do use it to an extent.  But most of us get caught in faulty breathing stereotypes and we don’t even realize it.  How do we find out?

Here’s a quick test:

  • Lie on your back, and place your feet either against a wall, or resting on a chair, stool, couch, etc.  Anything that will allow your hips and knees to be bent at 90 degrees.
90-90 Breathing Position
90-90 Breathing Position
  • With one hand on your chest, and the other on your stomach, take a deep breath in through your nose.  Hold this position, and be conscious of the new position of your hands.
  • If the hand that is on your chest is HIGHER than the hand that is on your stomach, keep reading.  You’re going to want to do some breathing exercises.
  • Concentrate on the exhalation phase only.  Exhale completely through the mouth.  Press all the air out.  Feel your ribs and chest come down.  You should feel completely deflated.
  • This time, as we breathe in, think about keeping the CHEST quiet.  The hand that is on your chest shouldn’t move much, if at all.  All the movement should occur at the abdominal region.  This is where we should feel EXPANSION.
  • We should breathe quietly and comfortably, 8-10 breaths per minute.

This concept may seem a little confusing through text, so I’ll link a video and other resources to help get this idea across.  The first is a pretty good YouTube video.  He uses his shoes instead of his hands, like we discussed.  But the idea is the same:

Diaphragmatic Breathing

The other article I’d like to share comes from one of my co-workers, Sean Light.  He posts some pretty awesome stuff at his blog, slstrength.com.  This article is a nice overview about how he incorporates breathing into the training he does with his athletes:

Respiration in Training Programs

Finally, take a peek at what the folks at Postural Restoration have been doing.  They have some of the most innovative and game-changing ideas and techniques that I’ve seen.  They have a few takes on breathing, and I’ll link those instructions below:

Postural Restoration Breathing Techniques

So now that we are armed with some great resources and some great ideas, try incorporating these into your every day life.  Take 10 minutes a day, and I guarantee you’ll see differences in how you feel, your posture, and the tone of your musculature.  There’s a lot more I could discuss, but let’s stop here, digest this material, and we’ll get back after it tomorrow!

Remember – “If breathing is not normalised – no other movement pattern can be” – Karel Lewit, MD



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2 thoughts on “Diaphragmatic Breathing

  1. Pingback: Strength By Skyler

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