How to Strengthen the Diaphragm

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Your diaphragm is a deep abdominal muscle that works with the muscles in your ribs and obliques to assist the lungs in the mechanics of breathing. Most people who breathe with their chest lack diaphragm activation, which can cause them to have tight muscles in their chest, shoulders and neck. This can cause early onset of exercise fatigue and lack of stamina from poor breathing mechanics, says physical therapist Gray Cook, author of the book “Movement.” Exercises that improve diaphragm breathing should incorporate isolation techniques that isolate the breathing muscles and integrative exercises that combine diaphragm breathing with movement.

Supine Abdominal Breathing

Lie on the ground on your back with your feet flat on the ground about hip-width apart. Put your hands on top of your belly.

Inhale deeply for five seconds, and your belly should rise like a balloon filled with air. Do not shrug your shoulders as you breathe.

Exhale slowly for five seconds, and push your belly into your body cavity. Perform two sets of 10 to 20 deep breaths.

Transversus Abdominal Breathing

Kneel on the ground on your hands and knees. Position your hands below your shoulders and your knees below your knee joints. Keep your head in alignment with your spine and pelvis.

Inhale into your belly slowly for five seconds, and it should expand like a balloon toward the ground. Do not move your spine.

Exhale slowly for five seconds and push your belly into your body cavity. Perform two sets of 10 to 20 deep breaths.

Lunge and Breathe

Stand with your right foot in front of you and with both feet pointing forward. Tighten your left buttock slightly to maintain your posture.

Shift your weight toward your right foot, and raise your arms over your head. Inhale deeply for five seconds into your belly as you hold this position. Exhale slowly for five seconds and push your belly into your body cavity.

Breathe five times without moving your body. Lower your arms and switch your leg position. Repeat the exercise two to three more times on each leg.

Tips

Fitness professional Ann Frederick, co-author of "Stretch to Win," recommends that you inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Relax your face as you perform all abdominal breathing exercises.

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