Breathing with movement, anatomical vs bio-mechanical breathing

With the breath cycle the diaphragm is the star of the show with other primary and accessory muscles of the rib cage and neck turning on to assist inspiration and expiration during exercise. The diaphragm not only serves as the primary muscle of breathing but also is active in maintaining posture and “core” stability as part of the inner unit (the “box” of muscles that form your inner core: diaphragm, pelvic floor, TvA, multifidus).

In recent years, diaphragmatic breathing has become a key concept and tool used to improve movement. You have (hopefully) spent the last week getting reacquainted with diaphragmatic breathing by doing the crocodile exercise.  Practicing this exercise alone can lead to a significant increase in your functional breathing capacity.

The next thing we need to think about is breathing with movement.  Breathing at rest is relatively simple to train with the crocodile breathing exercise.  We look at breathing in movement as either anatomical breathing match or biomechanical breathing match.

Anatomical breathing match refers to the natural matching of the inhalation and exhalation with extension and flexion of the spine/body. Extension facilitates inhalation and flexion facilitates exhalation. As the abdomen gets compressed or you fold forward into flexion, exhaling releases the pressure in the abdomen.   When you return to an upright position the movement into extension helps to open the thoracic or upper spinal area to assist in inhalation.  

More specifically, we use anatomical breathing in stretching where the exhale is used to enhance the relaxation into a stretch.  (Think about what your breath does when you collapse onto the couch to relax after a long day).

In the biomechanical breathing match we flip the breathing sequence in those actions. We inhale to increase the intra-abdominal pressure as we go into flexion and exhale to improve muscular action and stability during extension. 

Biomechanical breathing match is key to being able to safely handle loads through the body during performance. During a deadlift, squat, or kettlebell swing the biomechanical breathing match allows us to amp up our strength and stability.  Think about what your breath does when someone or something startles you.

As you go through your exercise routines this week, think about your breathing with regards what type of movement you are doing.  Do you focus your breath to an anatomical breathing match for exercises requiring relaxation like stretching or joint mobility?  Do you reverse your breathing patterns for your exercises where strength and stability are required like swings and squats? 

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