What if you could enhance your core strength and lung capacity anytime, anywhere by simply breathing? You can! Actually, there’s more to it than that, but Dave Hedges’ progressive power breathing techniques will get you on your way.
If you’ve been involved in the Asian arts (Chi Gung, Yoga, etc.), there’s a good chance you’ve been introduced to what is known in the physiotherapy world as TA Activation, or in the heavy lifting world, Power Breathing. I’ve been Power Breathing for about 15 years now, ever since I first learned the tension Kata, Seisan in the Wado Ryu Karate system.
The core musculature centres around a muscle known as the transverse abdominis or the “TA.” The TA is the deepest muscle of the abdomen. Basically, the TA forms a natural corset starting on one side of the spine, wrapping right around the front of the body to the other side. It is attached to the bottom of the ribcage and the top of the pelvis. Without it, you’d have major difficulty breathing, your guts would slosh around a lot more, and you wouldn’t be able to support your upper body. Needless to say, it’s pretty important.
I’m going to introduce a method of training that can be done anywhere, anytime, with absolutely no equipment. The bonuses of this method include the ability to strengthen the other deep muscles of the pelvic floor and diaphragm, your obliques (love handles) and rectus abdominis (6 pack) get isometrically worked, and according to the Yogic and Chi Gung teachings, your internal organs get massaged with a healthy effect on digestion. Essentially, you get stronger from the inside out.
So what do you do? We breathe, but not as most people know it.
The initial step is to learn how to breathe deep into the abdomen. Place your hand on the belly, around the belly button. Now take a deep breath in and feel the stomach expand outwards. If your chest expands instead of the stomach, you’re breathing shallow. Keep practicing, expand the stomach first, followed by the chest; you want to feel like your lungs are filling from the bottom up.
Next, place the tongue at the top of the mouth, just behind the teeth. I could wax lyrical here about how this lines up the meridians and allows for chi to flow, but what we’re really doing is creating resistance. The tongue and the teeth prevent air from escaping, nothing magical or mystical (I’ll save all the details for another article).
Squeeze the butt cheeks together as if trying to stop yourself on the toilet, pull up the pelvic floor and use your abdominal muscles to force the air from your lungs. You should make a hissing sound as the air is pushed passed the tongue and between your teeth. Done right, you’ll feel a strong contraction all through the midsection. Be aware, this procedure is not recommended for those with high blood pressure as it WILL cause it to spike.
Keep pushing until all the air is expelled and gradually relax.
You’re now ready to take another deep breath and repeat.
Alternatively, if you’re a little more advanced you may add what Pavel Tsatsouline calls “second focus.” Basically when you reach the end of the exhalation, “spit” the last remaining air out explosively. You will feel a much stronger contraction as you force the end of the movement. Just imagine being kicked in the gut and you’ll get the idea.
You may treat this as any other exercise, performing sets and reps. Personally, I like to do it when I have nothing else to do. Maybe I’m standing at a bus stop, sitting in the car at a traffic light, or waiting for the kettle to boil. Anytime, anywhere you are able to do a rep or two.
Boost the effectiveness of the drill by turning it into the “vacuum.” Now this isn’t for the faint of heart. After you’ve exhaled all your air, stick out the chest as far as possible WITHOUT breathing in, the abdomen will be pulled up in towards the ribcage by the vacuum. It may take a while to get the hang of this, but if you progress a little at a time the results are well worth it.
When you get the hang of the vacuum, try holding it for a few seconds, then lean slightly forwards and flex the rectus abdominis for all you’ve got; the contraction here has to be felt to be believed.
The muscle control experts flex the rectus one side at a time (the rectus abdominis is actually two strips of muscle running vertically from the sternum to pubic bone). Takes practice, so build into it slowly, little by little.
Ensure you clench the butt and attempt to “suck up” the anal sphincter; how do I put this delicately? Imagine you are desperately holding in a turtles head. If you don’t, you could end up giving yourself piles (hemorrhoids), and I don’t want to read about it in your complaint letters.
So there you have it, a convenient way to train your core anywhere, anytime. Add it to your workouts or just do it throughout the day. Either way, enjoy!
|This article was featured in the February 2011 Issue of the My Mad Methods Magazine. "Inside Out" was written by Dave Hedges. Learn more about the My Mad Methods Magazine by Clicking Here|
Dave Hedges is the founder, owner, and instructor of Wild Geese Personal Training & Combat Fitness and Wild Geese Martial Arts. Dave has a certification from the IKFF, he’s a National Level Kettlebell Coach under Vasily Ginko’s IUKL-IKSA, a 2nd Dan Ed Parkers Kenpo, 1st Dan Wado Ryu Karate, Instructor Doce Pares “Multi Style” Systems, and also a Security Consultant. He uses his experience and expertise to get people into shape using kettlebells and other unconventional methods and gear. Find out more at www.WG-Fit.com
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