Breathing Pattern

Breathing is frequently and mistakenly separated from core function. The ‘core’ functions and is built upon Intra Abdominal Pressure (IAP). This is regulated largely the diaphragm, although all other muscles of the abdominal cylinder (diaphragm, pelvic floor, abdominal muscles and multifidus). Together they work compress the abdominal contents creating and regulating IAP.

The diaphragm has 3 functions, it is used for respiration, posture and as a sphincter for the oesophagus. Its decent allows for inspiration, postural tasks and occlusion of the lower oesophagus.

The diaphragm, pelvic floor and muscle of the abdominal wall are all dependent on the function of each other. If function of any one changes, this will influence the others.

It is important to note that the pressure created from muscle tone is not about isometrics, these muscles need to co-ordinate to work concentrically, isometrically and eccentrically… hence the term ‘regulation’. This provides spinal stabilisation, force closure across the pelvis and efficient force transfer from the trunk to extremities, facilitating the kinetic chain.

This video shows how you can use respiration to guide, give feedback and train muscles which regulate IAP.

Bucket handle movement for the bottom ribs is important and considered necessary for respiratory function. Being able to attain a 360 degree eccentric expansion around the lumbar region with breathing is desired in core activation and respiratory training.

Once this is all achieved, progression through static and dynamic positions and activities are needed to load and challenge respiration. This can then be further progressed to extremity loading across various planes with combinations.

I would like to stress that breathing patterns cannot be exercised, rather established. Meaning do not have an approach which looks to overload via repetitions. Instead look to improve respiratory function via consistency, as the muscles involved are of an endurance nature, and like all skills, motor changes happen over time. As we breathe on average 20,000 times each day, we must be conscious that we are improving something which is already quite deeply ingrained.

Further information:


Postural function of the diaphragm in persons with and without chronic low back pain. J Sport Rehabil. 2015 Nov;24(4):342-8.

‘The core‘: understanding it, and retraining its dysfunction. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2013 Oct;17(4):541-59.

Breathing pattern disorders and functional movement. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2014 Feb;9(1):28-39.

The value of blowing up a balloon. N Am J Sports Phys Ther. 2010 Sep;5(3):179-88.