Exhale. Inhale. Move.

One of my favorite things to hear and see in the gym is the synchronization of BESTies exhaling, pausing for a second or two, inhaling and forcefully exhaling again as I watch weight moving all around the gym.

When I see and hear this happening I am relieved knowing all my clients are lifting weight safely or at least safer than if I did not hear that cadence of breaths.

Many people recognize the importance of breathing while resistance training, and many have gotten some instruction on breathing from other disciplines of exercise. But, in my experience, I have not had anyone walk into BEST with a full understanding of breathing mechanics or why inhaling and exhaling at certain moments of a lift are important prerequisites for lifting weights properly.

If you learn how to breath effectively, you can alleviate pains caused by common exercises, and maybe even relieve some nagging injuries that have been around for far too long.

EXHALE and PAUSE

First, at BEST, we instruct clients to fully exhale before they begin any exercise.

Why?

When we exhale there are things going on underneath the surface that make a big impact on our ability to move efficiently, optimally, and with less or no pain.

Exhaling before moving aligns the rib cage into a position it normally is not for the majority of people on Earth.

Pausing for a moment allows the diaphragm under the rib cage some time to move into more optimal zone of apposition (ZOA). 

What the what?! What is a zone of apposition? 

The optimal ZOA (not to be confused with my new born daughter on 1/13/2018, ZOE) is created by internal rotation of the rib cage and the ascension of the diaphragm further up into our chest cavity.

In other words, to get an optimal ZOA we need to forcefully exhale, and let the ribs drop down as far as possible. In short, this will make good things possible, if this reestablished position of the rib cage and diaphragm is maintained.

ZOA-Optimal-and-Sub-Optimal-diagram

So we exhale first because we need to establish a good ZOA, but that isn’t all there is to it. (Photo Credit: Postural Restoration Institute,  

INHALE and PAUSE

Secondly, after we exhale and pause, we inhale into our nose first and then into our mouth (remember we are talking about lifting weights here).

When we begin inhalation muscle activity, the diaphragm will descend and increase the space inside the rib cage. The rib cage will begin to expand and increase the space inside the rib cage. As a result air pressure decreases inside the rib cage and air from outside is allowed in.

The incoming air from outside creates another fancy term, intra-abdominal air pressure (IAP), and when we pause after inhaling, it is this IAP that pushes against the muscles and rib cage we used earlier to forcefully exhale before beginning an exercise.

The IAP distributes air pressure to places in our body we normally do not get air pressure to – like our hips, low back and shoulder areas – and stabilizes our body against the force of the ensuing squat / dead lift / bench press / etc…

breath-control-revised_750x500-750x0

MOVE

So up to this point, you have exhaled and paused to create an optimal zone of apposition (ZOA). And you have inhaled and paused to create intra-abdominal pressure (IAP).

Now, you are allowed to move!

BUT NOT SO FAST!

With this movement you will not want to hold your inhale in the entire time you move  because you will likely pass out if you do that.

 

Upon inhalation, by nature the muscles of your trunk/core are stretched and they must recoil make to normal.

The recoil will create an exhalation, but while lifting, we need to maintain IAP, and a full exhalation – like we did before we started moving – would cause us to lose pressure in the trunk/core.

No Bueno!

So as we move we  must control our exhale to be careful to maintain internal pressure.

We exhale just enough so that at the top of a lift we can inhale again and re-pressurize the trunk, and move again.

SHORT RECAP

As the title suggests, all you need to do is:

  1. Exhale completely before you begin a lift, and pause to create a ZOA
  2. While maintaining the fully exhaled position, inhale into your nose and then your into your mouth to create IAP.
  3. When you begin to move let air force it’s way out and between pursed lips so that you can control how much air pressure leaves your body
    1. This would be step 1 again, by the way..
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the set is complete.

If you do those 4 steps, you are on your way to not busting up your back, and other shit.

Congrats!

-Zack

Discipline, Obedience and… Balloons?

It is day number two of 2018, and like many people across the world, I am off to a good start.

I got up at 430 AM on a day that I normally sleep until 8 AM, and I do not have to be at work until 3 PM.

I decided to help my wife out and do the dishes at 4:50 AM so she would be less stressed about the house (one of her priorities) before leaving for work this morning at 7:something AM.

Now, I set a timer for 60 minutes, and I am blogging at 5 AM because this is something I have wanted to do consistently for 3 years, but I “didn’t have the free time.”

Hmm.. That’s odd. The year changed from 2017 to 2018, the day is still 24 hours long, and I not only have the time to write, but also do the dishes, let the dog out, drink a bottle of water, take my vitamins (throw out expired vitamins), make coffee and drink it. 

So what is the big deal about New Year’s, that I suddenly have free time to do all of these things, and why am I doing it?

There is something inside of us that says we want to be better, and the New Year has a magical way of bringing that to the surface for a little while.

It seems more tangible at the beginning of the New Year like we can reach out and have it if we just reach.

It is inviting and heartwarming as it whimsically floats around us. It dares us to grasp, but we know if we do things will change.

Even though it is definable, it is not necessarily objective, rather it is a means by which other things are obtained.

This *thing* is our invitation to progress, and while that is something exciting for each of us every New Year, we know progress requires making change, which is very challenging.

Balloons and such…

I imagine this yearly invitation to be like a balloon that is slowly floating up and away from us. Balloons are nice looking, always welcomed, and who doesn’t look like they are having fun while holding a new year’s balloon?

We have the choice every single year to grab the string of our balloon and hold on to it tightly. When we do this at the beginning of each year we get that feeling in our stomachs like driving over a hill really fast gives us as we momentarily feel gravity leaving us before we settle back down to safety.

However, in this case, each new day we have the choice to grab more and more strings as we are lifted up and taken to new places.

Or we have the choice to let go until we are safely back on the ground right back where we started… Nice and safe.

Can you imagine that? Balloons lifting us up off the comfortable ground? That would be nerve racking. It would be scary and stressful. It would be challenging.

Balloons look nice and all, but when they start taking us places, and all we have is our own grip on the string we start to second guess grabbing one or more.

“All we have is our own grip on the string”

This year, I am going in with a different mindset.

Historically, I have never been a New Year’s resolution-er but, for reasons clear to me, this year I have decided to grab onto a couple balloons that *happened* to float in my direction.

I want to be intentional about my direction in life rather than just going with the flow.

My balloons say “discipline” and “obedience,” and I am going to iron grip the strings of these balloons and ride them to right to the things I value and prioritize.

If I want to:

  1. Pray more this year
  2. Patiently love my wife and soon to be born daughter this year
  3. Write more this year
  4. Teach more this year
  5. Get fitter this year
  6. Make more money this year
  7. Be more generous this year

Then I need to systematically plan how to do those things and create a rigid schedule that WILL NOT BE BROKEN.

I do not need motivation. I need discipline and obedience.

I need to relentlessly and aggressively decide to stick to the plan and obey the restrictions I set for myself.

On the surface this sounds like I am setting up a prison for myself. Yes, I will be setting confines, but paradoxically these confines are where I will feel the most freedom.

That list above is my New Year’s resolution list, and I will not be free to do any of those items unless I obey the confines set by my various disciplines.

What do your balloons say this year?