Monday, May 21, 2012

Turning Breathing Into An Applicable Training Tool

Here's a follow up to a video I made that had awful sound.  This should explain my thoughts without an echo.
“Remember to breathe.”  It sounds like the end to a good dumb blonde joke.

Last time I checked breathing is a survival mechanism.  It’s reflexive and shouldn’t have to have an external background voice reminding your brain to stay alive. 

Yoga folks have always told us to breathe and strength coaches usually responded with, “I know because if I don’t, I will die. Thanks for the tip. Namaste.”  

1 of 2 yogi's I trust.  The other being Yogi Berra, of course.
I was apart of this mindset and didn’t really see the value in coaching breathing.  Then I learned a little about DNS and developmental kinesiology.  Dr. Mike Rintala was kind enough to allow me to watch him and some other DNS practitioners workshop the methods and even use me as a guinea pig. 

Listening to them explain how our breathing can control so much, and how it can become dysfunctional, really made me appreciate what those Yogi’s were saying.  Then I got a hold of Charlie Weingroff’s DVD, Training=Rehab, Rehab=Training, and it put everything together.  Charlie connected the dots for me, using simple movements and exercises and combining the principles from DNS into training.   

What really stuck with me is using the breath to prevent high threshold strategies.  When someone is in a high threshold strategy, they are in a survival mode, where the perception is threat.  Training is about creating improvement in a thrive mode.  Allowing the body to look for a little bit more, and the breath is key to allow the brain to relay that message.

You can always tell if someone is high threshold by looking at their face.  Constipation is the first word that comes to mind… Here's my best rendition of the "face."

For a while I gave up on how to incorporate these breathing ideas into training.  It really didn’t have much place.  I can’t do what the DNS people do, and I’m pretty sure all my athlete’s were breathing because they hadn’t passed out yet.  However I noticed during stretching, mobility, stability, and core work, I was often cuing to breathe or relax. 

After watching Charlie’s DVD, he was going over planks and used head turns instead of timed reps. It hit me, why don’t I just have them count breaths instead of using stop watches?  Anything previously timed would immediately use a set number of breaths instead. In a group setting, the quality of work improves instantly.  I work with high school athletes, and ‘taking your time’ isn’t in their vocabulary yet.  So, let me build into the structure a little bit and have them use 10 breaths instead of 30 seconds.  This way they can’t be in a high threshold strategy, and will naturally take their time through very important mobility and stability drills. 

A solid deep breath is usually between 2.5-3 seconds so I typically use 5, 8, 10, or 15 "b's" depending on what they’re doing.  I use this for anything I previously timed including.

Plank variations
All Stretches
Mobility drills (goblet squat holds, spiderman’s)

Below is a quick video demonstrating each for 3 breaths (notice around 8 seconds for each)


  1. Great post! I've been using "core breathing" instead of a stop watch for planks since I learned about core stiffening through Stuart McGill. I find this technique extremely effective in maintaining strength and endurance, while remaining calm and relaxed. Also, don't need to mess with setting and managing a timing device.
    Best regards,
    Rick Allison
    LoneStar Basketball Academy
    Twitter: @c2e