For this week’s post I’m going to highlight one of my facebook post from 2013.  I’m going to show you the phases coaches go through when it comes to breathing. The first phase is called the “Belly Breathing Phase”.

It’s when the coach first gets into breathing, and they think that belly breathing is the way to go. Because the diaphragm is on top of the belly, so it makes sense to get people to belly breathe, right?

I clearly thought that’s how you got people to truly breathe through their diaphragm.

EVERYONE cues people to breathe through their belly…therapists, functional med docs, yoga and pilates instructors, massage therapists, and other coaches.

And that is because everyone only goes through the first phase of getting into breathing.

The first phase is when you realize breathing is pretty important. You start to appreciate how diaphragmatic breathing could help someone de-stress and move better, so you just start cuing belly breathing, because that’s what everyone else is doing.

If you stay on the first phase of learning about breathing, you don’t learn start digging deeper, you don’t look at the literature, you don’t take courses on it, and you just leave it at that.

It’s not until you get into the second phase that you realize, oh shit, breathing is more complicated than I thought. The body is more complicated than I once believed.

The second phase of breathing looks like this:


During respiration, the ribcage and abdomen should expand a complete 360 degrees to achieve adequate intra-abdominal pressure. Belly breathing lacks this circumferential expansion which actually reduces intra-abdominal pressure.

So when you’re doing activities like the ones bellow, notice how I don’t let my belly billow out as I breathe in. Think of keeping your front ribs down as you take a silent breath in. That will allow your ribcage to expand 360….which is the goal for a true diaphragmatic breath.

From my experience while assessing people, no one is struggling breathing IN with their diaphragm, they’re actually struggling breathing out, getting their diaphragm in a state of full exhalation.

Trying to achieve diaphragmatic breathing by cuing a belly breath would be like trying to open a an umbrella that is already open. An umbrella must be closed before in can be opened. In order for you to take a breath IN with your diaphragm, it needs to come from a state of being OUT (exhalation).

Practice the activities I shared above, and focus on getting a full exhalation.

For more information on how to assess what kind of breathing you should do with your clients check out my article on Assessing the Infrasternal Angle, and my Powerlifting Article.


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