Monthly Fit Tip

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How Can Diaphragmatic Breathing Make You Stronger?

Breathing is probably one of the most underrated activities in human performance. It’s not good enough to just breathe air into our lungs; it’s where that air goes that’s most important.

Athlete 1: Breathes into the chest
Athlete 2: Breathes diaphragmatically—into the belly

Athlete 2 will recover quicker, regain his or her breathing faster, and have a distinct advantage over Athlete 1, no matter the sport or activity.

Try this … stand in front of a mirror and take a big breath. What happens to your chest and shoulders? I will take a guess and say that your shoulders rose and your chest got bigger, right? Well, that is not the most efficient way to breath (efficiency is key in performance) and will not make you stronger.

Every DV8 client learns how to breathe into the diaphragm, not the chest. When I say this, I mean taking air all the way down to your belt line, as deep as you can get it. Here are a few benefits of learning to breath this way:

1. Make your deadlifts and squats easier by trapping air behind your abdominal wall, creating internal tension, which gives you something (the air) to push off of when performing these activities.
2. Lower your heart rate and control your breathing.
3. Protect your back by creating tension inside your abdominal wall.
4. Create more tension, which translates into more power.

It’s all about the tension. You’re learning to breathe behind the shield.

Here is where I hope I don’t lose you, because for most people, we convince ourselves we don’t have the patience or time and tend to not stay truly committed to much of what we set out to do. Mastering this breathing technique takes time, patience, and practice. But—if you have any desire to excel in your sport or activity—the competitor who employs this technique has the advantage.

I would recommend you do the following 2–3 times a day in order to pattern your breathing:

1.  Lay on your stomach with your head resting on your hands, completely relaxed.
2.  Slowly breathe air into your nose, and try to bring that air all the way down to your waistline. The only thing that is pushing away from the floor is your belly. Your shoulders and chest should not move at all.
3. Slowly exhale out through your mouth.
4. Repeat this for 25 breaths, 2–3 times a day.

I suggest that you have someone watch you initially to let you know if your chest or shoulders are moving. If not, you are now breathing diaphragmatically, and you are on your way to getting stronger and healthier.

If you have any questions, let me know.

Phil Scarito, FMS, CICS, Senior Russian Kettelbell Instructor
DV8Fitness

Copy property of DV8Fitness

This first one is written by AC’s very own Phil Scarito. When you are finished reading be sure to check out Phil’s stellar and infamous “pool jump” at the bottom of article.

Squatting Below Parallel Doesn’t Hurt Your Knees

I’m sure you’ve heard this before: “Squatting below parallel will hurt your knees.”
Actually, it’s not squatting that hurts your knees—it’s how you squat that hurts your knees.
Most in our society squat at parallel; we do not allow our hips to drop below our knees. If you stop your squat descent at parallel, you are putting more stress on your knees than dropping your butt below your knees.

Little kids squat perfectly. They plop their butts down to their calves and sit comfortably, which is what we need to start patterning.

We also do squats entirely too fast. Try this the next time you squat:

  • As you drop SLOWLY into the squat, think about prying or pulling your knees apart. Actively think about not letting them cave inwards.
  • Let your hips keep dropping until you are at rock bottom, which means your rear end is on your heels. Make sure your heels stay planted for the whole movement!
  • Then SLOWLY start to come up. Drive your heels into the ground as you do, and keep pulling your knees apart. This may be difficult, but keep at it! You are finally doing it right.

What is the benefit of squatting below parallel? Try 10 of the above, very slowly, and you will see. A great squat should not only be felt in the quads, but in the butt and abs too.

Folks, there’s no real point in doing these types of movements incorrectly or for speed, unless you’re doing them for show. Most of us were simply taught wrong, or never taught at all. The most important thing is to remember it’s all about quality of movement … not how many you can do incorrectly (but you do anyway for speed or to handle more weight than your buddy). Those things come naturally after you set intention and commit to doing it right.

If you have any questions or comments regarding proper squatting technique, please contact me at Phil@DV8Fitness.com or 610.306.3627. I’m open to the dialogue and would love to help.

Phil Scarito, Senior RKC, FMS, CICS

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