Breathing and Athletic Performance

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Athletes use a variety of tactics to improve their performance: increasing weekly mileage, incorporating strength training into training, cleaning up their diet. According to Bob Prichard, though, one of the biggest insights into performance comes from your chest.

Prichard, president of the Somax Performance Institute in Belvedere Tiburon, California, has found that an athlete’s chest expansion tends to have the biggest impact on his or her results. After initially seeing the difference microfiber release made in athletic performance as an undergraduate, Prichard applied that principle to diaphragm movement and found that releasing microfibers and scar tissue in the diaphragm can lead to improved performance.

“Many athletes have a lot of restriction in expansion of the rib cage, stomach and diaphragm areas,” Prichard says. “As I release microfibers and scar tissues and increase their breathing range, they’ve made enormous improvements in running and swimming.”

To understand breathing range, Prichard recommends lying on the floor and having someone measure the circumference of your stomach and chest at rest. Taking a deep breath will allow you to see how much your chest moves. Ideally, an athlete would want his or her chest to expand by 20 percent.

“When the chest and diaphragm are restricted, they don’t move much,” Prichard says. “It puts an added burden on the diaphragm, which can lead to diaphragmatic fatigue. … A lot of respiratory distress and fatigue endurance athletes feel is a result of restrictions in their breathing.”

Scar tissue builds up over time, either from respiratory conditions like allergies or from expected stress, including coughing or carrying heavy bags. Prichard has found that releasing that tissue can positively impact athletic and academic performance and yields psychological benefits as well.

“We breathe 17,000 times per day,” Prichard says. “While running is really good for you, most people will only run in a day an hour at the most. The other 23, they’re just not getting enough oxygen to their brain because their chest and ribcage aren’t moving. That’s why I say it’s more important for people to measure their breathing range than weight. It has more of an impact not only on performance as an athlete but also how well you’ll do at school and work.”

For more information on the Somax Performance Institute, visit