The diaphragm is a large thin sheet of muscle that divides the thoracic cavity and the abdominal cavity. It is one of the major respiratory muscles (the other respiratory muscles are the intercostal muscles). Without this muscle, we literally cannot live.

  • It is essential to the breathing. So why do we focus so much on training every other muscle in our body, while we ignore this vital muscle? I believe we simply do not realize the importance of the diaphragm, nor do we have an understanding of the innumerable benefits we can receive from training it.  While there are many benefits to strengthening the diaphragm we will focus on the five key benefits: efficient gas exchange, reduction of tension in the neck and shoulders, facilitating digestion and lymphatic drainage, rebalancing the nervous system, and strengthening the core.

 

  • It is essential to the breathing. So why do we focus so much on training every other muscle in our body, while we ignore this vital muscle? I believe we simply do not realize the importance of the diaphragm, nor do we have an understanding of the innumerable benefits we can receive from training it.  While there are many benefits to strengthening the diaphragm we will focus on the five key benefits: efficient gas exchange, reduction of tension in the neck and shoulders, facilitating digestion and lymphatic drainage, rebalancing the nervous system, and strengthening the core.

 

  • Gas exchange is the process of oxygen and carbon dioxide moving between the lungs and blood. The bottom third of your lungs is where approximately two-thirds of gas exchange takes place; therefore, oxygenation is more efficient when you use the diaphragm.

 

  • Diaphragmatic breathing rebalances the automatic nervous system by slowing down your heart rate and your breath rate (slower deeper breathing, as opposed to short shallow breathing).  This results in a shift from the sympathetic response (fight or flight), to parasympathetic responses (calm and relax). This deeper more efficient breathing also allows the muscles in the shoulder and neck to relax which reduces tension.

 

  • Breathing from the diaphragm also aids digestion by “massaging” the abdominal organs which also assists with lymphatic drainage. The majority of the lymphatic system is located directly below the diaphragm.

 

  • Because the diaphragm is a thin sheet of muscle that overlaps the abdomen when we strengthen our abs while ignoring the diaphragm this could actually result in poor posture, as well as poor breathing. Over developed abdomen and weak diaphragm can result in chest breathing which is also related to shortness of breath and decreased endurance.

 

  • To really strengthen your core you should exercise your diaphragm as well as your abdomen. They play nicely together and training both of these sets of muscles will result in improved posture as well as a flatter belly.

So, how exactly do we “train” our diaphragm? One option is to use a breathing resistance device like Expand-A-Lung. The inspiratory and expiratory resistance will strengthen your diaphragm and overtime will train your muscles to breathe properly even when you’re not thinking about it. Alternatively, you can use diaphragmatic breathing techniques.

While they do not offer the same benefits as using resistance they will refocus the breath so that you are properly using and engaging your diaphragm while breathing. One technique involves lying flat on your back with your head supported and lifted by a pillow.

Place another pillow under your knees. Relax your head, neck, and shoulders. Then, place one hand on your belly, and the other on your chest. Breathe in slowly through your nose so that you can feel your belly fill with air. Engage your stomach muscles as you exhale slowly through pursed lips.

There are many techniques to Strengthening the Diaphragm and see what works best for you.

 

 

 

 

 

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