The diaphragmatic breathing pattern is one of the many aspects of health that we really focus on correcting at ASP. I say “correcting” because most don’t know that chances are, they have probably been breathing incorrectly for most of their lives. This is important because breathing with an optimal Zone of Apposition can effect many different things including: posture, strength, muscle flexibility, joint range of motion, fatigue and recovery, neck pain, and lower back pain. While reading this, go ahead and take the deepest breath possible by inhaling through your nose while either standing or sitting up straight. If you noticed your chest/ribs rise, or expand you are probably breathing with a sub-optimal Zone of Apposition. If this is the case, don’t worry because you are among the majority.
The Zone of Apposition (ZOA) refers to the cylindrical dome-shape of the diaphragm and its relation to the rib cage. Along with the diaphragm, the muscles used in an optimal breathing pattern and in spinal stability are the transversus abdominis and the muscles of the pelvic floor. When breathing with a sub-optimal ZOA the transversus abdominis and the pelvic floor musculature are weakened due to under usage and in some cases are nearly dormant. The muscles that are then forced to pick up the slack (main ones include: the pectoral muscles, upper trapezius, scalenes, SCM) become severely overactive and tight. This causes the ribs to elevate and/or externally rotate.
The average person breathes somewhere between 17,000 and 24,000 times per day. So when breathing using a sub-optimal ZOA, muscles that where not designed for breathing are doing thousands of repetitions of ribcage elevations each day.
Postural and Range of Motion Effects:
Tightness in the upper traps, scalenes and SCM can lead to lack of ROM in the cervical spine, neck pain, and in severe cases migraines.
With the pectoral muscles, upper traps, scalenes, and SCM being overused during Sub-optimal breathing, they become tight and shortened. Posturally, this causes the shoulders to have anterior rounding. With anterior rounding of the shoulders, ROM is limited especially external rotation.
Each ribcage elevation during Sub-Optimal ZOA breathing often activates paraspinal muscles causing slight thoracic extension. This increases lordosis and creates spinal instability and extra compression on the lumbar spine. The overactive paraspinal muscles also limits thoracic rotation.
An excessive lordotic posture continues to create more dysfunction down the kinetic chain. Adding to an anterior pelvic tilt that will cause tightness/ lack of ROM/ and sometimes pain in the Hip Flexors, TFL, IT band, and quadriceps.
Clients at ASP start with a 90-90 supine breathing corrective exercise to remind him or her of an optimal breathing pattern heading into their workout. This is also why we emphasize this breathing technique with every exercise as well. We also encourage that our clients practice an optimal breathing pattern when away from the gym as well; while sitting in traffic or standing in line for coffee for example. In order to correct a muscle dysfunction that has been misused constantly for 10, 20, maybe 30 years takes a lot of practice and thought.
Laying supine with knees and hips bent at 90 degrees and hands in prescribed position.
Chin tucked in
Inhale through the nose
Fill the thorax with breath expanding upward and outward in 360˚ of direction
Exhale through the mouth contracting belly button towards the spine, internally rotating the rib cage and pulling it down and back with the internal obliques.
During inhalation allow for expansion the ribs or chest in a 360˚ fashion
During exhalation draw the belly button to the spine, and ribs, down, back and internally rotated
During exhalation do not allow substitutions such as “sucking in,” lifting the rib cage or shoulders, or pelvic tilts.
Initial contraction should be gentle to activate transversus abdominus and not override with contraction of the internal obliques primarily.
Instruct proper breathing techniques
Initiate breaths with the diaphragm
Carry proper breathing techniques to exercise and life
Decrease back pain
Mobilize and stabilize spine/posture
Breaths will subconsciously and reflexively engage the core and postural muscles that help in our lifts/sport and every day life.
We want to squash the habit of chest breathing that leads to poor lifting form/lack of core activation and postural support, and as a result the potential for postural dysfunction and back pain.