Just Breathe Baby

If you were to tell me a few years back that breathing was an exercise topic of interest for me I would have told you that you were nuts. Fast forward a little and it is a topic that I presented on ChangeLink TV  in order to express the importance of breathing from an overall wellness standpoint. Today as a result of absorbing the genius of minds like Bill Hartman as well as the lack of genius with my own self experimentation I have to say that from an overall performance standpoint that this breathing business is the real deal.

My outlook on breathing is that it really is the missing link for trunk control in your big movements. Having the ability to mindfully breathe by way of control over your trunk is what links rigidity as well as fluidity together when it comes to resisted movement. Trust me when I say that you want both happening.

The reason being is that a lot of people fall under the categories of either lacking basic core control with compound movement, or their idea of core engagement is locking up like they are bracing for a head on collision. My idea of proper trunk function would have to be placed somewhere between the two. You want to be rigid enough that you have everything in your power to effectively engage in resistance, but at the same time you want to be relaxed enough that you are able to maintain fluid movement throughout your exercise.

For a lot of us this may mean re thinking the way that we look at ''core'' training and come to terms  with the idea that we are looking to build a chain link fence and not a brick wall. For that reason, breathing has been a centerpiece of my current fascinations, self experimentation, as well as implementation for both myself and the people that I work with.

I have spent the past three weeks using different breathing tech work in warm ups, cool downs, as well as accessory work. Wouldn't you know it my big lifts have felt a lot more efficient, my posture has been feeling great, and I have been able to put up some solid numbers without feeling beat up. As a skinny guy trying to lift not so skinny weight I will take any effective technical strategy I can get.

These movements have been my bread and butter of my experimentation. They are a result of my own playing around in the gym, some of them are re fabrications of other people's ideas, and some are stolen. Fact of the matter is that they have worked well for me as well as a number of people that I work with for a number of reasons and I want to share my observations as to why they do just that.

Rack Position Breathing

The front squat is one of my favorite lifts but t-spine stability has always been my Achilles heel when it comes to attacking bigger numbers or bigger volumes. Loaded breathing has become one of my favorites in the sense of accessory work for a number of reasons.

-Effectively loading the trunk
-Identifying the difference between lumbar extension and thoracic extension
-Mindful positioning of the head and neck
-Joint friendly
-Surprisingly difficult

When it comes to volume and load I chose to start with about 90% of my 1RM and have been using sets of 8. No real science behind those numbers it has just worked well for me. It is enough load for me to feel challenged but in control of my breathing and based on my experiences it is usually that 4-8 rep range where the going gets tough for me with the front squat.

Isometric Partial Get Up

The Turkish Get Up to me is a true benchmark in my eyes when it comes to gauging strength, coordination, mobility, and rotational stability. I do however take my time when instructing it because there is a lot that is required to get it done and make it pretty. I also like this approach because it allows you to uncover the hidden gems that make up this movement. The get up is the perfect example of rigidity and fluidity as you are required to stay loose enough to move in various vectors but at the same time you cannot forget that there is a large bell that you do not want crashing down on you. The partial position provides you with the ability to think about both as you are able to establish core control through your breathing and do it through some unique angles. More importantly it gives you the chance to feel out ideal shoulder positioning for stabilization. A common occurrence I do see with the get up is the shoulder wanting to shrug and internally rotate which generally forces the rest of the body to lock up. The partial get up combined with well controlled breathing will address both and not to mention leave you with a rocked core and cuff.

My dose: 3-5 sets 8 breaths each side

New Age Hip Stretching

I really do believe that guys like Bill Hartman and Dean Somerset are onto something when they preach on cutting out hip flexor stretching. First of all, if your hip flexors have been tight and you have been unsuccessfully stretching them for an extended period of time I suggest that you rethink your call to action on that issue.

Second, when lengthening the hip are you meant to move forward or are you meant to move upward? Analyze your current posture when you are reading this article and all signs generally point to upward. More importantly what happens when you drive your hip forward without thinking upward? Breathing patterning and upright thinking has become my go to when it comes to stretching the hip flexor without stretching the hip flexor as they have the ability to address everything associated with hip flexor tightness. Core control, breathing, posture, and appropriate hip extension, and head and neck positioning are all covered with the breathing strategy and your femoral head isn't shaving away at your anterior hip capsule like late night schwarma meat.

Osteofascial Work

I think this will be a future hot topic but in the meantime it is something that I have been using and loving. Generally fascial work in the gym points fingers directly to foam rolling muscle tissue but I think it does overshadow the fact that fascia is everywhere. I have become a big fan of moving the stuff around that lies between skin and structure. When it comes to helping expansion a little osteofascial work at the bottom of my rib cage, around my serratus, as well as my sternoclavicular joint on either side has helped me a lot. No foam rolling heroics necessary, just some mild manipulation on each spot for about fifteen seconds a piece will be all you need.

I am lucky to have the chance to converse with a lot of people who get to read my blog. There aren't many of you out there so I like to think there is a personal touch associated with it. What I can say about this intimate readership is that it is also a diverse one. Fitness levels and interests go in many directions but in this case I can say that we are all in this one together. Whether your ambitions are baseline, badass or anywhere in between, your ability to bring greater kinetic understanding will play a profound role in your self improvement whether it is in lifting or living. 
Just another weapon in your arsenal. Lift well, move well, eat well, sleep well, and of course just breathe baby.