Here's something I bet most of you don't practice... breathing.
And why would you? When you've got something that seems to happen all its own and work perfectly well, why would you prioritise it when you have hardly enough time to fit in all the chest, bicep and traps exercises in one week... WHY??.. Because it just might be the change you need to make a number of significant improvements.
Diaphragmatic breathing is not a new concept, but it's one that many non-athletes don't pay much attention to. But why not when most of the guys at the top of their game utilise it?
Here's the idea:
Basically... you want to be able to breath in the most efficient manner which requires the least amount of energy and effort. Why waste energy on breathing that you could be spending elsewhere? You also want to try and take in the maximum amount of oxygen with the minimum amount of effort.
This type of breathing will improve circulation and also help to lower your heart rate and improve your mood through releasing endorphins. If you ever watch a top level boxer sit between rounds their stomach moves in and out quite significantly. They are breathing using their diaphragm to minimise energy wastage, maximise oxygen intake and also reduce their heart rate and compose themselves.
Recently I was assessed during an overhead squat by a competitive Olympic lifter. He explained to me that many people will overly inhale before certain exercises and inhale incorrectly, By doing this, they raise their rib cage and create an unnatural curvature of the spine. This in turn places excessive pressure on the spine and adds loads in non-deal areas such as the pelvis rather than taking the majority of the load in the hamstrings and glutes. It can also be one of the reasons why lots of people end up with the bar appearing behind them and their head leaning far forward at the bottom of the overhead squat. These same breathing mistake can be applied to any squat variation and a number of other key exercises.
This type of breathing can reduce cortisol levels (stress hormone), increase serotonin levels (happy hormone) and can gradually lower your resting heart rate. Try it before you go to bed. A few breathes in this fashion laying in bed and you'll gradually feel yourself relax and alleviate stress. Simple but very effective!
Other benefits have been listed as: Reducing the risk factors for heart disease such as lowering bad cholesterol (LDL), raising good cholesterol (HDL), lowing blood pressure and stabilizing blood sugars. Cuts chances of cancer by as much as 400%. Cuts chances of diabetes by strengthening the insulin beta receptor sites. Slows the aging process by increasing the secretion of human growth hormone (the anti-aging hormone). Optimizes the immune system by strengthening T-cell formation and improving lymphocyte production. Improves your mood by elevating the “feel good” hormone, serotonin, and other positive endorphins. Improves mental focus and concentration by increasing blood flow to the Pre-Frontal Cortex of the brain.
All sited here: http://www.samvarner.com/physical-wellness/deep-breathing.html
So... How do you do it?
Practice this simple drill: Lay flat on a bed or floor and place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach. Practice taking a deep breath in and consciously using your stomach muscles. If you're doing it correctly you should breathe in and your stomach should move outwards while your chest remains almost stationary.
It's not the most flattering as you appear to have a larger tummy than before, but rest your ego aside - this is the way forward.