Workout of the Day

Do You Suck at Breathing?


I’d like you to participate in a little drill with me.

First, sit down on the ground, legs straight, and reach forward as far as you can to touch your toes, and really let your back round forward as you reach. In this position, take three deep, controlled breaths.

Now, stand up straight, pull your shoulders up and back and then completely relax them to let them settle in a neutral position, hold the crown of your head high, and ensure that your spine is in a neutral position. In this position, take three deep, controlled breaths. Feels good, right?

If you performed the above drill properly, you should have noticed a significant difference between the two breathing attempts. The first likely felt a bit shortened or limited, perhaps you felt like your ribs and abdomen had little room to expand to take in air. The latter position likely felt open, breaths were deeper, more relaxing, more physiologically satisfying. And this really shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Breathing is a mechanism primarily of the movement of the diaphragm. Just like the other skeletal muscles in your body, the diaphragm contracts and relaxes, in this case to pull air into your lungs. But because of its location in the body, the diaphragm’s movement can easily be limited by torso position -- it shares space with lots of other important things like ribs and organs. When our posture posture deviates from neutral, the other structures of the torso get in the way of the diaphragm doing its job. Not a great situation.

The thing is, if you’re sitting at your desk with your shoulders hunched forward, low back rounded, and ribs compressed down, or if you’re standing around with your neck craned forward and shoulders slumped, you’re essentially choking off part of your capacity to breathe. This is like putting a kink in the hose of your car’s fuel delivery system -- you may not notice it all that much if you’re unaware, but step on the pedal and you’ll be missing out on lots of performance, and your engine will never really be running at capacity. The implications of this are obvious in exercise, but it has meaningful consequences in day to day life, too.

Sure, typing emails isn’t a max effort physical endeavor, but what do you think would happen to your energy levels, your recovery capacities, or your mental performance if you suddenly doubled the amount of oxygen your body is receiving every hour of the day?

(P.S. If you really want to put the breathing and posture drill to the test, try the same exercise with 60s of max effort burpees/air bike/rowing/whatever, followed immediately by ten deep breaths in the rounded forward position; then, after some rest, perform the same 60s max effort movement followed immediately by ten deep breaths in the standing, properly postured position. Which leaves you feeling more recovered?)

- PS


  • Standing triple jump - 6x3


  • 3 rounds

  • In 90s

    • 8 burpee box jump overs

    • Max time unbroken plank hold

  • Rest 30s

  • In 90s

    • 24 push-ups

    • Max time unbroken ring support hold

  • Rest 30s