Achieving Breath Control, Increasing Body Strength
Breathing is an autonomous function – you breathe in and breathe out most times without even thinking about it. Breathing also seems like a simple function – air flows in and out of your nose and lungs – but its underlying mechanism is anything but. Indeed, without our ability to breathe, we would all be dead.
But we also have control over how we breathe and when we can control our breath. We can even use breathing toward the improvement of our weightlifting performance, aside from its uses in cardiovascular endurance.
The Role of the Diaphragm in Breathing Control
Keep in mind that when you want to control your breathing patterns while weightlifting, you have to respect your diaphragm’s role in breathing. The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle located under the thoracic cavity (i.e., breast bone). When it contracts as it flattens, the volume inside its cavity increases that, in turn pulls air in. When it relaxes, its cavity decreases so the air is pushed out.
Breathing control partly rests in your ability to breathe in and out via your diaphragm. Of course, you have to use your lungs, too, but your diaphragm should also be involved in the process.
In fact, babies use diaphragmatic breathing that ensures maximum amount of oxygen being absorbed into their bodies. You can observe a baby as he sleeps and watch the rise and fall of his diaphragm (i.e., near the stomach). You will then be able to compare it with the breathing pattern of an adult – the chest itself rises and falls because the diaphragm isn’t as nearly involved as before.
Your breathing can also be affected by the circumstances surrounding the autonomous function. You can hold your breath, expel it in a long breath, and suck in larger breaths as part of your reactions to certain situations.
- Breathing in larger gulps of air (i.e., bigger breaths) when engaged in a high-intensity interval training workout, which will aid in bringing down your heart rate.
- Holding your breath during the final rep of a heavy weightlifting session, which will create more tension in the core muscles.
- Holding your breath and contracting your core muscles in preparation for a punch to the stomach.
The bottom line: Your body knows the function of breathing as an effective coping mechanism during times of danger, stress, and physical activities. You will then adjust your breathing accordingly, either in a conscious or an unconscious manner.
For this reason, you can actually use breath control in improving your weightlifting performance and, thus, in increasing your body spine. You will also find that better breathing habits aid in stabilizing your spine, improving your recovery period, and managing your stress levels. Your enjoyment of these benefits will extend beyond your cardio, strength and flexibility workouts and into your daily life.
The Recommended Drills for Breath Control
Here are two drills that you can perform to achieve better breath control. You can learn most of these drills during your yoga classes at CorePower Yoga, thus, emphasizing the importance of yoga even for bodybuilders. You may think of yoga as for the sissies but the discipline demands core strength, too.
First, yogic breathing is an active breathing pattern usually used in yoga classes although you can practice it in the gym, in your home, and even on your commute. The more experienced you become in it, the more benefits you will find for it in your fitness workouts, daily life activities, and stress management.
The steps are simple but these require discipline and determination to enjoy the benefits of yogic breathing.
- Sit up tall with your spine and shoulders in a relaxed position. Keep your chest wide and imagine it being filled with air as you breathe in and out in your normal way.
- Close your eyes. Begin breathing in and out through your nose for a minute or so.
- Slow down your breathe so that you will inhale and hold it for 4 seconds (i.e., 4-count inhale) and exhale for a 4-second count (i.e., 4-count exhale).
- Repeat until you have established a comfortable rhythm.
- Start constricting the back of your throat during your breathing, which will generate a slightly rumbling sound akin to being near the ocean.
- Continue the breathing pattern for 5 minutes while maintaining both your focus and breath.
Second, the brace-and-hold breathing drill will also improve your breathing pattern during physical activity.
- Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your chest wide.
- Inhale through your nose and hold your breath while pulling your ribs in an up and down motion. Think of bracing your guts for a punch and you get the idea. Hold the position for 5 counts.
- Exhale through your mouth but be sure to release only 50% or so of your core tension.
- Inhale again through your nose and hold the complete tension for 5 counts.
- Exhale through your mouth and release all the tension in your core muscles.
- Repeat the cycle for 4 rounds and rest for 30 seconds.
You can then use the method during your lifts but only after cycling through 3 rounds. Set up your lift, inhale through your nose, and pull your ribs and belly in. Do the lift and release the breath you’ve been holding.