Breathing Like A Baby.

Have you ever watched a baby breathe?


They are “Buddha belly breathers”. You will see their bellies go up and down, up and down, as they use their diaphragm to fill their little lungs all the way up. And while we may think of the lungs as doing all the work, it is actually the diaphragm that is your primary breathing muscle.




The diaphragm is a thin wide sheet of muscle that separates the rib cage from the abdomen. It is dome shaped at rest, but when it contracts it flattens out significantly. When this happens the organs below it have to go somewhere, so they push down and out, which is why good diaphragmatic breathing causes your belly, sides, and back to expand. In conjunction with the pelvic floor (which is why your guts can only go down so far) a stable “core” is created. When the diaphragm and pelvic floor are lined up on top of each other, with the viscera pushing out in all directions, your core is working as it should, and the more power, strength and injury resilience you will possess.


But have you ever seen a baby scream? We probably focus on all the noise they are making, but take a look at how they are breathing, just don’t wait too long, or they really get wound up!


Do you see what’s happening? No more Buddha belly. Now the muscles of the chest, neck and shoulders are doing all the work. These muscles are activated during times of stress, when we get kicked into “fight or flight” mode. We breathe shallower, faster, with our shoulders up in our ears instead of relaxed. This is not a good place to be. Change that diaper already!


Well as you are no doubt aware, babies aren’t the only ones who stress out. So many of the clients who walk through our doors live in a chronic stress state. Work, home, pour nutrition, lack of sleep – they all contribute. Because of this they have forgotten how to breathe correctly, with the diaphragm. Instead they are constantly in “stress breathing” mode, and they are suffering for it. Forward head posture, poor thoracic mobility, and neck and shoulder pain. Many times when you talk to such clients they will tell you that their neck is always “tight”, they know they have a bad habit of carrying their shoulders up high, they go for frequent massage; we hear those stories more and more. Think about it. If you are breathing and/or carrying yourself that way all the time, that means those muscles are in some level of contraction all the time – no wonder they are tired and sore!

beautiful young sportswoman has a pain in her shoulder

More often than not, those same clients will score a “1” on their shoulder mobility screen. When that happens, it’s time to dig in and do your breakouts  to find out why. While there can be a number of reasons, AC impingement among them, often times we find it can be a matter of teaching them to restore good breathing patterns that makes all the difference.


Now I suspect some of you may be thinking – “Teach people to breathe, are you crazy? They will never go for it.” And I won’t lie (although I am crazy), there is much education and persistence that will be needed here. It amazes me that we still struggle to get grown men and women to be still and quiet long enough to focus on “low level” things like this. We don’t lay around and do breathing for 10 minute stretches, but a couple minutes of focused work in this area can make all the difference.


My favorite way to start retraining “Buddha belly breathing” is with crocodile breathing. In crocodile breathing you lie face down on the floor with your forehead resting on the back of your hands. Inhale through the nose, and focus breathing into your belly. By laying face down you are creating feedback; we say “the floor is the front of the core”, and by giving the belly something to push against, it makes it easier to breathe into IMG_0241the back and sides. Get hands on with your clients here; by putting your hands on their low back and then sides, you can ask them to “breathe into my hands”, which gives a targeted focus. Some will get it right away, those who don’t are usually still not breathing down low. Make sure their shoulders are relaxed and down; even lying down many people are not aware they are in the “stress position”.


From crocodile breathing you can work on the same thing in the supine position, and then move to more challenging breathing work, such as 3-month breathing progressions, cat/cow with breathing, and kneeling holds with breathing.


Don’t be shy about rescreening Shoulder Mobility. It’s high on the FMS hierarchy for a reason. Oftentimes clearing up SM, particularly if breathing retraining helped, will result in a whole host of other dysfunction being cleared up as well. That’s because posture will improve, the ability to create intra-abdominal pressure and therefore stability can improve as well. All this makes for a better moving, stronger and ultimately happier client. That is what we all want.


And it’s all because you breathe like a baby.


How cool is that?


Dean Carlson

Corrective Exercise: The Antibiotic for Dysfunctional Movement

Have you ever gotten sick and been prescribed an antibiotic to clear up the infection or bug you may have? Of course you have. I don’t think the concept of using an antibiotic is foreign to anyone, so it makes for a great analogy with corrective exercise. If you want to be successful at clearing dysfunctional movement and enhancing performance, getting your clients to do a little homework is almost a necessity. Not many trainers Jared's Camera 495or therapist I know have the luxury of seeing their clients on a daily basis, so to improve results, teaching your clients a couple things to do on their own can go a long way.


About a year ago, I came up with a great analogy that has really helped reinforce the importance of doing some minimal work to help clear up general, foundational movement. Like I said previously, in order to enhance our results, we’re going to need our clients doing a little extra reinforcement on their own. When I’m explaining the corrective exercise/s to clients, I’ll usually bring up the antibiotic analogy. Since I’ve started using this analogy, I’ve seen an increase in compliance. I think relating something new (corrective exercise or specific warm-ups) to something their familiar with (taking an antibiotic) helps them understand a little better…and with a better understanding comes an increase in adherence.


If you know anything about antibiotics, you should know that when you’re prescribed an antibiotic, you usually have to take it a few times a day for a set number of days, or until your prescription is gone. Even if you start to feel a little better within the first day, you’ll still take the prescription until it’s gone. The consistency of taking your medications helps your body heal. Corrective exercise is no different. Both mobility and motor control issues can take some time to clear up, and honestly it varies from individual to individual, so improving consistency is one of the most important things you can do. Their lifestyle and other non-gym related activities are more than likely a leading culprit to the way they move, so the more you can intervene and put in some reinforcements the better.


So, if you’re having any issues with compliance with your clients, I’d suggest using this analogy. The ability to relate this new concept to something they’re familiar with will help enhance your results while making your clients and prospects much happier. Clients and prospects are always happy when they understand things and feel comfortable. If you consistently talk over their head and fail to understand how to relate things to things they’re familiar with, you’re probably going to have issues with compliance. Hope this analogy helps improve your clients’ adherence to your programming and helps you get some serious results. As always, I’d love to hear any questions you guys have in the comments below.

Breaking down the T-Spine

Have you ever struggled with shoulder mobility issues…either with yourself, or with some of your clients? If so, the thoracic spine should be the first place to check. When we see limitations within shoulder mobility, one of the first things we need to do is to screen out the T-Spine. This will give us the information to help guide our programming. I’m going to write a different program and choose different exercises based upon my findings, so this additional information can come in to be extremely valuable when you’re developing a program.


When I’m looking at the T-Spine, I want to see a few different motions and see what it can and can’t do. I’m going to check to see how well you can flex your T-Spine and go into a flexion pattern. I’m also going to address extension and see how well the T-Spine tolerates extension patterns. Finally, I’m going to see how well the T-Spine rotates. The combination of flexion, extension, and rotation give you a complete snapshot of what’s going on with the spine. The screens I’m going to show you below will help you breakdown the T-spine and dial in your upper body programming.



In the videos, I talk about the range of motion you should be able to see within the spine. First things first…we need to find out if we’re dealing with a mobility issue, or a stability issue. If we find limitations, we’re going to address either the mobility or stability problem that’s limiting the spine to move well. Review the videos above to find out more about how to identify if it’s a true mobility issue, or if the limitation is coming from a stability or motor control issue. These findings will help guide your programming. Check out the videos below to see how we address both mobility and stability. These are a few of our favorite exercises and drills to help improve the way the T-spine moves:



Foam Roll TSpine

Tennis Ball TSpine

Bench TSpine Ext.

Assisted Lumbar Locked Reachbacks


Prone T Spine Ext.

What’s That Back There?

Upper Rolling Prone to Supine

Quadruped Reachbacks

Kneeling Rotations