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.
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.
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.
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.