Optimizing Breathing with Awareness and Corrective Exercise

Aug 25

Brian LoTempio, D.C.

To be functional breathers (and movers), we must hold awareness of our rib cage, and torso, and be able to expand our rib cage in all three planes during each inhale. In a cyclical pattern, on each inhale, our lower rib cage and abdomen should rise/expand first, followed by our upper rib cage and chest. Thus on each exhale, the reverse pattern should occur. Forget about belly breathing, let’s dissect rib cage breathing.

Proper rib cage motion allows for full contraction of the diaphragm, which is our main respiratory muscle, allowing us to efficiently inhale oxygen-rich air and optimize our ability to change pressure gradients in our torso. If we can control the influx, and outflux of pressure, we can harness more efficient movement, power, speed, and recovery.

Exercise Progressions:

  1. Diaphragm Proprioception (Awareness) w/ block
  2. Diaphragm Proprioception (Awareness) and strengthening w/ weight
  3. Diaphragm Proprioception (Awareness) with resistance band in varying positions

Perform 10-15 breaths in each progression, inhaling and exhaling through the nose (more benefits of nasal breathing to come). If you cannot control rib expansion for the rep range, you have more practice to do with that proprioceptive (awareness) drill. If the block/book becomes easy and mundane, progress with weight, or change position to standing. Being able to control pressure in our thorax and torso in varied positions allows you to adapt to a wide range of movements. Additionally, the position of the diaphragm when lying down, knees bent creates a reduction in resistance to gravity to pull air into the chest/lungs, and allows for an efficient contraction of our main respiratory muscle.

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