080419 Training your breathing part 3

Your healthy athletes should be able to hold their breath more than just a few seconds during the heaviest part of the lift, commonly referred to as the sticking point. Instruct them to take a larger than normal breath, not excessive but a little bit bigger than normal, and then hold it through the sticking point.

Not only does maintaining control of your breathing contribute to a stronger physical effort, it can relax your body and mind. Dr. Yessis states that inhaling and exhaling before a physical effort helps the body to relax. However, this does not mean a total relaxation of the muscles.

Prior to beginning these movements there has to be some muscular tension throughout the body. For example, when doing the dead lift, this tension is brought about by taking the slack out of the bar before the lift begins. This places enough tension on the muscles to produce sufficient strength to lift the weight off the floor once the pull begins.


Yessis, Michael, Dr. Build a Better Athlete, Equilibrium Books

Zatsiorsky, V.M. and Kraemer, W.J. Science and Practice of Strength Training

Verkhoshansky, Y. and Siff, M., Supertraining 6th edition, published by Verkhoshansky

010419 Training your breathing part 2

010419 Training your breathing part 2

Proper breathing techniques are essential to any athletic endeavor and the learning of these skills correctly, right from the start, is an important first step to success in your athletes chosen sport. The introduction to correct breathing patterns properly begins on the first day, during the introduction to the sport, in the welcoming portion and continues onto the practice field or lifting stations.

According to Dr. Michael Yessis[1], “studies have shown that when you execute a skill, you hold your breath on exertion-during the power phase, when force is generated.” Holding the breath “on exertion provides up to 20% greater force, stabilizes the spine, and helps prevent lower back injuries. It transforms the trunk (and, in fact, the whole body) into a stable unit against which your hips, shoulders, and arms can move more effectively.”[2]

The underlying mechanism for potentiation of strength resulting from holding your breath on exertion relies on “a pneumomuscular reflex in which increased intralung pressure serves as a stimulus for the potentiation of muscle excitability. The true mechanisms of enhanced muscle excitability have yet to be studied.”[3]

Drs. Mel Siff and Yuri Verkhoshansky “recommended that breath-holding should precede and accompany maximal efforts, which should be followed by brief exhalation-inhalation, unless technical adjustments have to be made, in which case breath holding must persist. Exercise with submaximal loading may be executed with longer phases of normal exhalation-inhalation and shorter phases of breath-holding. Neither rapid, short hyperventilation breathing, nor forced maximal inhalation is desirable for production of maximal effort during any phase of lifting.”[4]

[1] http://doctoryessis.com/about/dr-yessis/

Dr. Michael Yessis received his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California and his B.S. and M.S. from City University of New York. He is president of Sports Training, Inc., a diverse sports and fitness company. Dr. Yessis is also Professor Emeritus at California State University, Fullerton, where he was a multi-sports specialist in biomechanics (technique analysis) and sports conditioning and training.

[2] Yessis, M, Dr., Yessis, Michael, Dr. Build a Better Athlete, Equilibrium Books

[3] Zatsiorsky, V.M. and Kraemer, W.J. Science and Practice Of Strength Training, Published by Human Kinetics

[4] Verkhoshansky, Y. and Siff, M. Supertraining sixth edition published by Verkhoshansky

250319 Training your breathing part 1

250319 Training your breathing part 1

Proper breathing techniques are essential to any athletic endeavor and the learning of these skills correctly, right from the start, is an important first step to success in your athletes chosen sport. The introduction to correct breathing patterns properly begins on the first day, during the introduction to the sport, in the welcoming portion and continues onto the practice field or lifting stations.

However, there is one caveat to bear in mind when discussing this breathing technique and that is for those with heart and circulatory problems. You must make certain each of your athletes has had their sports physical and their participation in your program is without restrictions.

Many coaches recommend exhaling on exertion. This is not a normal breathing pattern and it is not a typical breathing reaction in a high intensity physical situation. No type of research or practice supports exhaling on exertion. Observation of athletes in competition clearly illustrates that when force is applied they are holding their breath. This is a natural response to the situation. If this is natural then why change the pattern?

150218 An introduction to Tai Chi part 2 of 2

150218 An introduction to Tai Chi part 2 of 2 

There are different styles of Tai-Chi, some are more aggressive than others and involve faster paced movements. Those most commonly practiced utilize gentle slower motions that are suitable for everyone.

As with anything in life there are positives and negatives in the practice of Tai-Chi. The pros seem to outweigh the cons though in these respects:

  • The movements are self-paced and non competitive, which to a competitive person may be a negative attribute.
  • The physical space requirements are negligible as well as the attire. You don’t need a lot of space or fancy gear to take part in Tai-Chi. It’s easy to do; you can do it anyplace and anytime either alone or with others. Once you become accustomed to the activity and more proficient in the art then you can add in your own to make it even more individualized and specific to your needs.

The negatives are almost non existent but do include the usual warnings of possible soreness if the first few sessions are overdone beyond your current physical fitness levels.

Beginning a new activity starts with learning how to do it correctly. In the case of Tai-Chi this will mean seeking out a competent instructor who will guide you in the technical aspects of posture and movement. Pay strict attention to your breathing and body position throughout the training session. Develop the ability to perform the motions effortlessly and without conscious thought. Doing so helps avert muscle strains and damaged joints.

Tai-Chi classes are taught throughout the world. In the United States contact your local senior center, the YWCA or YMCA or check with the gyms in your area. You can even look it up on the internet; there are scores of sites listed.

241016 It is never too late to strength train

241016 It is never too late to strength train

There are numerous studies showing that people who do resistance training have significantly improved their muscle strength and performance. These changes show up in as little as two months. This held true even with the frail and over age 80 population. Not only does resistance training improve strength it can also help prevent and treat sarcopenia.

According to an analysis conducted in 2010 by the Aging and Research Reviews, strenuous, intense workouts are the most effective. You can bet they did not use soup cans in these intense workouts. However, if you are seriously out of condition you probably will have to start out gradually. Find a qualified strength trainer, one with good credentials from a nationally recognized association, and get started.

In order to help prevent or treat sarcopenia, strength train regularly and make sure that you are getting enough protein and your system on a daily basis.

A basic strength program stressing the major muscle groups, consisting of three sets of eight repetitions, performed 2 to 3 times a week will show increases in strength and functionality within a short period. These targeted muscle groups should involve the shoulders, arms, upper back, chest, abdominals, lower back, the quads and hamstrings of the legs and the calves.

Begin with a warm-up with some sort of an aerobic exercise to the point where you are breathing heavier, your pulse is going faster and you have a slight sweat. Now it is time to start lifting.

Begin with the weight that you can handle 10 to 12 times. In over the course of a week or so add weight until the last two repetitions of the set are difficult. Rest 2 minutes and repeat the exercise set again. If you’re able to complete three sets of eight repetitions with a specific weight then that weight is to light and more needs to be added to the bar.

On the days that you are not strength training, do some sort of aerobic exercise for 20 to 30 minutes. Keep track of what you’re doing. You are going to notice improvements in your strength level and in your ability to move a lot easier in your daily life.

060616 Getting the most from your breathing (1/3)

Getting the most from your breathing 

Breathing, as we all know is an important function of life. It is just as important knowing how to breathe or not breathe, while lifting. Surfing through the internet will be a roller coaster ride if you are looking for helpful directions in the proper way to breathe. Some say, in fact most are saying to breathe out as you lift the weight. Unless there is a medical reason for breathing out as you enter the concentric phase of the lift don’t do it.

Breathing out works as long as the weight is light, insignificant, and puny because your body doesn’t need to stabilize itself as much. However, once the load increases up to a level that will make a difference in your strength levels, you will automatically hold your breath near to, at, and through the sticking point. Try and see for yourself.

Now I am not so naïve as to think some of you will not force yourself to consciously breathe, during the heaviest part of the lift just to show that you can do it. However, if you (or your partner if you have one) are truly paying attention to your breathing patterns, you will notice that you hold your breath during the heaviest part of the lift.

This is similar to trying to achieve muscle isolation; with light weights it may work. But once again, with heavier weights your body will reach out for assistance from surrounding muscles to complete the lift. The body does what it has to do to complete a task, whether it be recruiting other muscles or breathing adjustments.

Regarding breathing, you can make these adjustments to enhance your ability to move heavier weight. It will take a conscious effort on your part to successfully change a previous non-helpful habit such as forcing yourself to breathe out throughout the concentric portion of the heaviest part of the lift.

Instead, some coaches disregard the prebreathing phase altogether and recommend using a modified version of the Valsalva maneuver throughout the lift[1]. As previously stated, you will automatically hold your breath during the heaviest part of the lift—this is normal. What is not normal is using it throughout the entirety of the lift. Problems may arise when using the Valsalva maneuver.

[1] Valsalva Maneuver

The Valsalva maneuver is performed by attempting to forcibly exhale while keeping the mouth and nose closed.