Video Highlights

- The brain/respiration connection.
- Assessments to test your current extension.
- Easy to follow drill instructions.

Brain-Based Breathing for Better Extension – Episode 388


Hi guys!

We’re here today with another quick brain-based breathing tip to hopefully help improve your extension capacity.

Whenever we talk about breathing there a couple different ideas that we can look at.

The Breathing Gym is our newest at-home training product. It is designed to teach you how to build your own personal breathing program for endurance, optimal performance, a better brain, and even better extension!

We have voluntary, and we have involuntary, and basically what this means is that we have different areas of the brain that are going to be involved in different phases of respiration, and different types of breathing.

One of our favorites to share with our athletes is to work on what we call pontine-based breathing.

So, if you know your brainstem at all, the midbrain, the pons and the medulla, and the pons sits in the middle.  Now an interesting part about this section of the brain is that when it’s activated it tends to influence or increase extensor tone in the body.

So it increases activity in our extensor muscles.

So what we’re gonna do today is a quick breathing exercise to target the pons, and the way we’re going to see if this helps you is I want you to do a couple of pre-assessments looking at your extension.

So get a nice neutral stance.  I want you to tilt your head back toward the ceiling.  Just get an idea of how comfortable you are moving into extension. You can then go into spinal extension, whatever you want to work on.

I also recommend that you check your shoulder extension capabilities, and then, most importantly, I want you to look at hip extension.

A lot of the people that you know, in the general fitness world, everyone’s worried about their hip flexors.  What they really want is improved hip extension.

So get into a half kneeling position tighten the glutes drive forward and get an idea of where you’re at with regards to hip extension, and test on both sides.

Now for the breathing what we know about the pons, is that it very responsive to extremely deep inhalation.

Better Extension: A woman on her knees bending backwards and grabbing one of her feet.

So basically when we take a big, big, big breath in, the stretch of the lungs is going to send signals to the pons and pons is going to light up.

It’s going to get a lot of activity, and then it’s going to help us with the exhalation.

So we can drive increased pontine activity through deep inhalation.

What we’re going to have you focus on first is deep inhalation on the left side of the body.  In most cases, because most of us are right-handed, when we look at how the brain functions, we tend to have less activity in our right cortex.

And if you don’t know this, in general, when we talk about muscular control – particularly voluntary movement – the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body. And, that happens even in the midline, although it’s a little bit more mixed.

So here’s the simple exercise.

We’re going to do deep, deep inhalations on the left side of the body.

The way that I like to have you do that is simply begin in a neutral stance, reach out to the side with your left arm, do a right lateral tilt, and then take a deep breath in. Suck in all the air that you can. Deep, deep, deep, deep and then a passive or relaxed exhale.

We’re going to do that three to five times.

Deep, deep, deep, passive exhale.  Repeat that once more.

Laterally bend, reach up, you can go a little bit further, deep breath in, passive exhale.

The Breathing Gym is our newest at-home training product. It is designed to teach you how to build your own personal breathing program for endurance, optimal performance, a better brain, and even better extension!

All right. Three to five reps of that and then go back and retest your extensions. See how your shoulders are doing. And then finally, we’ll come back down and check that half-kneeling position, and in general, if you’re like most people and your pons can use a little bit of activation, you will see improvements in your extension, extensor activity and extension mobility.

Now, obviously, you’re not going to keep that mobility unless you do something when you’re there.

We like to use this idea as a preparatory movement for maybe getting in, doing some isometric work or some end range of motion exercises.

But breathing ,particularly targeted breathing, for the brain can be a great way to preset your body to maximize your ranges of motion and mobility that you can add some strength to at the end.


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Upgrade Your Respiration – Episode 387
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4 Drills for Your Best Balance – Episode 389

12 Comments. Leave new

  • Respiratory center in pons is not related with rubrospinal tract.

    It’s just relaxing effect.

    Could you send me a reference that PRG is related with rubrospinal tract?

    • No one mentioned the rubrospinal tract here so not sure what you’re talking about?

      • Thanks for reply.

        You told me breathing exercise(Deep inhalation) can target to pons.

        And this can activate extensor muscle.

        So, I thought you told us about medial rubrospinal tract because it’s responsible for controlling extensor muscle.

        But, as I know, in the pons, PRG(Pons respiratory group) and pontine reticular formation is not overlapped.

        That’s why I told you deep inhalation can not make extensor be activated

        Please tell me more details and reference if I’m wrong.

        I cannot find any reference which deep inhalation make extensor be activated.


  • Hey. Why did you delete my question?

    I said respiratory center in pons is not related with rubrospinal(medial) tract.

    And also said if PRG truly is related with rubrospinal tract, send me a reference.

    Is there any problem with it?

    It’t just opinion and question !

  • Bernadette Craft
    June 16, 2021 10:16 am

    That is entirely fascinating. Thanks for the pearl of wisdom!!

  • Matthias Riepert
    June 20, 2021 6:22 am

    Hello Tony,
    it´s not clear to me why the drill is performed on the left side to target the right side of the brain? Can you clarify please.
    Thanks; Matthias

    • Dr. Cobb was simply trying to target what is typically an under active hemisphere for people, because most people are right handed so their right cortex is less active.


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