Improve Performance with Respiration Training

April 11th, 2013 | No Comments



Firstly we need to understand that the respiratory muscles serve two purposes;

  1. Deliver oxygenated blood to tissues
  2. Stabilise the spine and maintain postural alignment

Respiratory muscles include the diaphragm, transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, obliques, intercostal muscles and pelvic floor.  All work together in unison to pump oxygenated blood to the tissues and maintain postural alignment.  However, put exercise in the mix, where you have an increased demand on oxygen, plus the added limb movement, increasing postural demand, and you have yourself two competing roles.  It becomes a trade off where your body will opt for respiration, at the expense of postural stability.  Maintaining an optimal balance of these muscles for both roles of respiration and stabilisation is a real challenge but the benefit more than justifies the little time and effort needed to achieve results.  Current research associates lower back pain (LBP), Sacroiliac Joint pain (SJP) with suboptimal respiration and posture furthering the need to address respiration.

Marathons, endurance races and any sporting event for that matter,  any edge to improve performance is key.  With the hectic lives we live, training smarter has never been more important.  Apart from hitting the pavement and racking up the miles or the hours it takes to improve your given sporting skill, one simple intervention is respiration training.

As far as a ‘value for time’ training is concerned, science has shown us respiration training can’t be ignored.  In a comparison of two studies, Laursen et al (2002) totaled 7hrs of high intensity interval training (HIIT) at VO2max over 4 weeks for a 5% performance increase over a 40km cycle time trial, whereas Romer et al (2002) elicited an increase of 4.6% over the same 40km time trial using a total of only 1.8hrs over 6 weeks of inspiration muscle training (IMT).

A great exercise you can use to improve your performance posture is the 90/90 bridge with ball and balloon.  (Postural Restoration Institution, 2009)

  1. Lay flat on your back with hips and knees flexed at 90 degrees.   Place your feet flat on a wall.
  2. Most importantly keep your rib cage inline with your pelvis at all times during the exercise, inhale through the nose expanding the stomach first then the chest without allowing the ribcage to pop up which will prevent any  arching of your  back.
  3. Exhale filling the balloon forcing your ribs down and keeping your back flat.

Recommendations:   20-30 breathes 2x daily, 5x per week for 4-6 weeks.

Acknowledgement for the picture from the Postural Restoration Institute (2009), and for further reading on improving performance check out ‘Breath Strong Perform Better’ by Alison McConnel.

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