Two weeks ago I wrote a post about progression and how people should advance in their training. This week I want to talk about two things, visual and breathing exercises. I believe these to be relatively advanced topics in regards to training but at the same time beginners can easily use them. The future of training I believe will look much like the past, push, pull, squat, hinge heavy objects. However, in regards to the advancement of training and taking things to the next level, I believe that visual and breathing training may be the way.
What’s commonly known as crocodile breathing comes from the yoga world, as I understand it. I first learned about it from physical therapist and all around smart guy Gray Cook. It involves lying face down on the floor and essentially teaching yourself diaphragmatic breathing. It is not uncommon in this sedentary world we live in for people to “chest breath”. In other words, with a deep breath the person might even shrug their shoulders some. This can be a result of poor posture and potentially lead to poorer posture as well as neck and shoulder pain, and no one needs that in their life. Much like everything else, if you want to correct it, or “get better” at breathing, practice it. Take a few minutes of each day to retrain how you breathe and relax your upper body. It can be done through crocodile breathing specifically or by simply being focused on your breathing during your mobility drills. I don’t think I can emphasize the focus part enough. This is a simple activity, working joint mobility and breathing, yet focus and precision are needed, not just a mindless activity at a moderate intensity. We probably don’t emphasize that part often enough at the gym but we do encourage our clients to breathe into the area that they are trying to open during mobility drills. So, why exactly am I talking about this? Well, I have seen first hand when some people practice their breathing, thoracic spine mobility can improve greatly and tension is released in the head neck and shoulders. That means better moving, healthier shoulders without stretching all day! Combine that with some strength and stability training and you’ll be feeling great.
I will tell you that the whole idea of visual training is still very new to me. What little I have been able to digest about the benefits from visual training has come from Z-Health S-Phase and Max Shank teaching me his experience in Z. I haven’t yet taken the time to look into exactly what Nike is doing as far its new visual training glasses but I’ve heard they are pretty cool. First understand that eyesight and vision are not the same thing. Eyesight is the ability to see whereas vision involves understanding and processing the information. In the Z-Health S-Phase manual it states that “75%-90% of all learning comes through the visual pathway FIRST, any interference in the visual system can interfere with reaching maximum potential.” In my crude understanding at this juncture, training your vision can reduce threat within the body and allow a person to move with less restriction. Sounds a little strange, right? What I can tell you with certainty is that visual training works. I have again seen first-hand the benefits of these concepts in regard to better movement and health. Just in the past two weeks I have seen several people at Ambition Athletics dramatically improve their ability to touch their toes simply by practicing a specific visual drill. 3” or 4” toe touch improvement without stretching the hamstrings? Yes please. Not only that, but the same people have said that they generally feel much better while moving, walking, etc. Now, I’m not going to into all of the details of the drills but know that most of them are easy to teach and perform. Nothing too special, other than the results.
Again, I am certainly no expert in these concepts. However, what I do know is that I am very intrigued by them and more importantly; I have seen that they can make people better. If I can have clients and athletes work on these skills in between sets of lifting and improve their movement, then I am all for it. Visual training and breathing exercises are more tools in the toolbox that can be highly effective with a little practice and without much physical exertion. All of that being said, if you walk into Ambition Athletics and see someone wearing an eye patch, although we do love The Goonies, no one is trying to be one-eyed Willie and no one “shot their eye out” either.
– Mike Baltren