Last month, we uncovered the respiration muscles and their importance to supporting life, and, additionally, incorporating a fitness plan to expand your body’s capabilities to activate and expand your own breathing capabilities.
Overall, there are three identifiable types of breathing: 1) Thoracic, which accentuates the middle part of the lung and is most evident by an outward and upward movement of the chest wall; 2) Diaphragmatic – otherwise known as “belly breathing” by taking the air from your nose and directing it to the belly (many singers and musicians are aware of and employ this type); and 3) Clavicular – at its most basic, using the collarbone and shoulders to capture air. Clavicular breathing is generally used for maximum air consumption or when the other parts of the breathing muscles are not activated and supported to breathe fully or are "maxed out"; this should be “last resort” breathing.
While it depends on the type of activity being performed, for good overall weight training, the patterns for most exercisers require retraction of the abdomen cavity with good thoracic and diaphragmatic lift. Extension of the belly is actually one of those aspects that most clients are trying to reverse. Hence, reinforcing the opposite pattern is generally best to practice first and then, once mastered, go back to filling in your breathing repertoire with diaphragmatic breathing as needed. In fact, this type of breathing should become stronger because of the trained musculature of the other two types of breathing discussed above. Holding air in the abdomen with the diaphragm pushing down creates this strength. This way you can develop the intent of belly breathing to pull air into your lower lungs--not only your chest--and have the abdomen function with the tightness it was intended to have. Watch many athletes (gymnasts in particular) who do this effectively. Ultimately, with proper fully functioning muscles, you have the full capacity to move through these three types of breathing as needed. Many writings purport that chest breathing is unsteady, full of tension, shallow and less effective for life activities. On its own it may be true for individuals, but those who have appropriately built the muscles can incorporate it effectively to support life activities.
Lastly, do not neglect post-breathing, or recovery breathing. This is important to ensure that you provide your cells, tissues, and muscles the appropriate amount of oxygen needed to repair themselves after strong workouts. In essence, if you have employed effective breathing throughout the workout, this time may not be as critical. However, check in with your body to understand its needs and adjust appropriately.
Numerous other types of breathing are also available to incorporate into your practice ranging from nose, mouth, mindful/conscious, to exhalation. In fact, it can be said that the exhalation process is one where you can get the most value out of the oxygen you’ve pulled into your lungs. Using a controlled manner is the preferred action to give you the power to keep in and expel out, versus just automatically blowing all the air out.
Do not overlook the important aspect of always breathing
properly and incorporating it effectively into your fitness regimen for overall health and vitality of life. While breathing is autonomic (automatic) or unconscious, breathing effectively and maximizing your capacity involves consciously breathing during your workout. This consciousness means you are in control of its utilization to move through the numerous types of breathing modalities to effectively support your life connections. In particular, we have focused here on your fitness regimen. While breathing is intuitive, adding a level of consciousness or focus to it makes you a better “life athlete” to not only tackle a workout, but also to bring what you’ve learned in the workout to support your life activities.
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