“It’s all comes back to breathing”
Breathing it seems has become a panacea of sorts to nearly all that ails us, our clients, and my athletes.
- Bad squat mobility: Breathing.
- Bad shoulder position: Breathing.
- Back Pain: Breathing.
I am not exaggerating when I say that most (not all) problems that we encounter can be fixed or improved by breathing better.
It’s all about the diaphragm.
Much of my understanding of breathing better comes from the Postural Restoration Institute, and to a great extent conversations with Mike Robertson, Bill Hartman and Eric Oetter of IFAST, and my own teammate, Rod Root.
In a nutshell Postural Restoration Institute says that we are all asymmetrical. We have two arms, two legs, two eyes, two ears, but not all is equal when it comes to the diaphragm. We have one heart on the left/central part of our body making our diaphragm flatter on the left side, liver beneath the diaphragm on the right creating a domed and more powerful side, along with other diaphragmatic differences such as more crural attachments on the lumbar spine, right versus left lung control, and lung structure.
This asymmetrical nature of the diaphragm means that structures above and below are actually in patterns of compensation, to remain in a completely “neutral” position. A couple examples are below.
The nature of the diaphragm is such that most people have a pelvis that is rotated towards the right, meaning tighter right adductors.
The nature of compensation above the diaphragm means that many people have a right shoulder that is naturally in internal rotation.
(Note: Both of these issues are important considerations when it comes to training weightlifters, very important.)
Diaphragm in athletes
To breathe better, as I know it means teaching your diaphragm to work better, or in many cases to work at all.
Most athletes that I run into are in an extended posture, accentuated lordosis of the lumbar spine, anterior tilt of the pelvis, and flared lower ribs etc. This posture is also known as Janda’s Lower cross syndrome, characterized by muscles that are overly tonic and or phasic (tight hip flexors and erectors, weak gluteals and abdominals) By nature this posture of extension/lower cross generally means that the diaphragm is inhibited.
Another piece of the PRI puzzle is this idea right here.
An extension posture means that the top of your core (your diaphgram) is not facing the bottom of your core (the pelvic floor) and creating pressure in the core is much more difficult to do.
Breathing in weightlifting
Look back a second through this article and notice the things that we automatically associate with breathing in my gym.
Bad squat mobility.
Poor shoulder positioning.
Now think about the problems most common in weightlifters.
Bad Squat Mobility: overly tight hip flexors due to Janda’s lower cross syndrome (and an inhibited diaphragm) keeping you from achieving depth on your squat.
Poor Shoulder Positioning: Increased internal rotation at the right shoulder means less ability to get in strong and stable overhead position and poor scapular movement when going overhead.
Back Pain: Lower cross syndrome placing extra load on your spinal erectors and creating a greater shear force in squatting due to excessive lordosis.
Wouldn’t you know it, many of the problems of weightlifters can come back to poor breathing mechanics.
I am no expert in the vast knowledge that the Postural Restoration Institute drops on their students, but one great thing that I have picked up, that you can pick up RIGHT NOW to improve your performance in weightlifting is the following video.
This movement is in my program, and the program of every weightlifter and athlete we have. This stuff is too important to not address.
Bonus: Why else does this stuff matter?
Okay so we talked about pain, maybe you don’t have any worries about any of those pieces of the puzzle. Why else should you care about the performance of your diaphragm?
Because you want to lift big weights that’s why. Check out the video below and see what a healthy diaphragm can do when going for big weights.
I am no expert, nor have I had any formal experience with PRI. I just know this stuff works, I am healthier and I am stronger than I have ever been partly because I have been so focused on fixing these issues in myself.
Eric Cressey is an expert in PRI techniques and he has a free video out this week addressing the importance of breathing to a much better degree than I can.
Seriously check out the video from someone way smarter than me to see some really great info