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breathing - CrossFit London

Square breathing

Breathing and its potential effect on athletic performance is one of those evergreen topics! The effect that breathing has on those with lung dysfunction or hyperventilation issues goes without challenge. If you have something wrong, breathing drills really work.

But, what if you are utterly healthy? Should you be biting into your training time to practice breathingdrills Continue Reading

Should you tape up your mouth?

Getting super fit requires lots of mini changes, nudges and tweaks. One of the do anywhere changes you can make  is  playing with your breathing. Y0u cannot always do 10 burpees in a tube train, but you can certainly review and train your breathing pattern from behind your mask.

I’ve written a lot about breathing here and I’d suggest everyone learns a few of the basic breathing techniques Ive detailed. Most of them have been around for years. For those of you too lazy to follow links, a classic breath technique is “the square”.  Breath in for a count of 5, hold for 5, out for 5, hold for 5, repeat. well done, you are now a breathing expert.

One of the interesting things about breathing is the use of your nose, rather than your mouth. Many breath commentators would prefer it that you breath through your nose at it cleans the air, and injects Nitric oxide into the breath taken in, (and this enlarges the “air tube”). Breathing through your nose drives air into your lungs  and maintains pressure in your lungs too. Your nose acts also warms and humidifies the air you are breathing in as well as trapping airborne particles and bacteria!

But I know the question you all want to ask.

Can you do a Crossfit wod with your mouth closed. Actually, let’s make it more  fun and aggressive. Can you do a Crossfit wod with your gob taped shut.

This was the challenge given to 10 Crossfitters back in 2015. They were given some tasks including the wod  “Helen” which is run 400m 21 kettlebell swings, 12 pull ups x 3.  Anyone who knows anything about workouts knows, FOR CERTAIN, that you need at some stage to pant and most of the time breath through your mouth! If you keep your mouth closed and breathed through your nose,  you’d probably die.

The results, almost no difference ( and bear in mind these were people who just had tape whacked over their mouths, many for the first time).  So it’s a bit of a disappointment, no one died, no one had to walk slowly.

The take home proposition is, if breathing through your nose doesn’t reduce performance (that much),  but has a health advantage, maybe you should play with it.

Activity Normal breathing Taped mouth Difference
Push-ups 35,3 38,3 +8%
Box jump 23,7 22,8 -4%
The Plank 2 min 50 sec 2 min 50 sec +-0
Dips 28,5 32,4 +12%
Skipping Rope 140,1 132,5 -6%
“Helen” 11,27 11,40 -13 sec (-2%)

I should say, its probably a better idea to practice the breathing drills that are linked above, first, and I’d play with breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth,  especially if you go for a run outside, otherwise people will think you are really weird!

If you want to chat about breathing,  most of the coaches have an insight!

Calisthenics and the 90/90 balloon drill

Inevitably the issue of breathing had to come up in our experimental Calisthenics class. Breathing can influence so may aspects of performance, that it’s worth becoming familiar with some of the more  popular breathing drills and concepts.

Increasingly you will see on cutting edged fitness blogs, the 90/90 breathing drill. As a cutting edge fitness class we looked at this skill last night.

The original 90/90 hip lift breathing drill was, to my knowledge, properly discussed by Boyle et al, ( 2010).

90/90 breathing was designed, so they say,  to optimise breathing and enhance posture and core stability. The idea being this would improve improve function and/or decrease pain (Boyle et al., 2010).

Here is a handy dandy “How to do it” guide

 

  1. Lie on your back,  feet flat on the wall, knees and hips bent at a 90- degree angle.
  2. Place a 4-6 inch ball between your knees.
  3. Place your right arm above your head and a balloon in your left hand.
  4. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, performing a pelvic tilt so that your tailbone is raised slightly off the mat. Keep your back flat on the mat. Do not press your feet flat into the wall instead dig down with your heels. You should feel your hamstrings “engage”
  5. Breath in through your nose and slowly blow out into the balloon.
  6. Pause three seconds with your tongue on the roof of your mouth.
  7. Without pinching the neck of the balloon and keeping your tongue on the roof of your mouth, take another breath in through your nose (the first few times you do this is slightly tricky).
  8. Slowly blow out  into the balloon again.
  9. Do not strain your neck or cheeks .
  10. The original instructions say “After the fourth breath in, pinch the balloon neck and remove it from your mouth.Let the air out of the balloon”. Frankly, i just open my mouth and let it fly around the room ( I have a pile of balloons to hand so I don’t have to move to get another one. My girlfriend says this is  annoying.
  11. Relax and repeat the sequence 4 more times.

You can checkout more materials at the Postural Rehabilitation Organisation

The 90/90 rests on a concept  called the zone of apposition (ZOA) of the diaphragm, which is the part of the muscle shaped like a dome.  In simple terms “MORE DOME GOOD”

If the ZOA is decreased the ability of the diaphragm to inhale sufficient air in a correct way is diminished.  This affects the diaphragms ability to build up  intra abdominal pressure.  If the ZOA is decreased The transversus abdominis activation also decreases with a smaller ZOA (Boyle et al, 2010), which again affects lumbar stabilisation ability .

The set up of 90/90 , allegedly aligns the pelvic floor and diaphragm in parallel. This combats any upper and lower cross syndromes, and lumbar extension. This results in  the core muscles being fired which increases the ZOA and adds to core stability. As an exercise in the obvious,  dysfunctional breathing and physical activity  takes up the main breathing muscles and throws the load on to smaller muscles and makes life harder. However, according to Lukas  (2018) there is little evidence in terms of studies to support this, although it sounds like a reasonable assumption. However, the Lukas study does seem to caste doubt on 90/90 as core stabilisation method

“Taken together, the 90/90 breathing seems rather ineffective as a general core activation for a normal workout.” (Lukas , 2018 page 35). but checkout these drills by Buteyko and these other breathing drills

I think some attention to basic breathing drills is probably useful, but its more relevant if you obviously have a breathing disfunction.

Why not practice on the tube (not with the balloon, obviously).

 

References

Alverdes, Lukas  (2018) .Short-term effects of 90/90 breathing with ball and balloon on core stability. Halmstad University

Boyle, K. L., Olinick, J., & Lewis, C. (2010). The value of blowing up a balloon. North American journal of sports physical therapy: NAJSPT, 5(3), 179.

 

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