#1 Deep Breathing Exercise for Improving Lung Capacity, Correcting Poor Breathing Habits, and Trimming Your Waistline.
Call it the ‘vacuum’, Farmer Burns Stomach Flattener, or 5 seconds Abs. But no matter what name you affix to it the exercise I will teach you below is easily the best exercise in existence for improving your lung capacity, correcting poor breathing habits, and trimming your waistline.
Breathing is central to good health, so it only seems right to make a simple breathing exercise the foundation of your current health regiment. Farmer Burns along with many other elite physical culturists over the course of the centuries have stated;
“Breathing has made many a sick man well, and many a weak man strong.”
I think two of the best benefits of this exercise are that it cone be done anywhere and by anyone. Most abdominal exercises you are familiar with must be done on the floor or with a bulky piece of equipment. Secondly, most abdominal exercises you are familiar with are only suitable for those who have a decent base level of fitness, certainly not someone who has been bed ridden for months. Well guess what with a little practice this little exercise can be done in a full tuxedo without your bow tie getting even slightly out of place. It can also be done by a patient whose feet haven’t touched the floor in months.
This exercise can be done standing, sitting, lying down, in the shower, on the toilet, waiting in line, sitting in traffic, on a long flight, at work, on a long walk, in a restaurant, etc. I hope you get the idea. IF you can think of a situation, you can probably do the vacuum in conjunction with it. The people who have truly mastered this exercise can actually do it in conjunction with some of the other exercises they do. So instead of spending hours each week on your abs if you have five minutes or find yourself in any one of the above mentioned situations you can get a complete ab workout and oxygenate your blood stream in the process.
I will describe this exercise to you in detail before I go on to the specific benefits of it. It is best to learn the exercise from a standing position until you become familiar with the muscles being worked and the coordination needed to execute a proper repetition.
1) Stand normally with good posture. Begin inhaling through your nose and as you are doing do push your stomach out and try to direct your inhaled breath into your stomach. This will seem weird at first but with a little practice you will find you can take in much more air than a normal inhalation involving just your chest. This inhalation phase should take approximately 5 seconds.
2) Once you have reach your peak inhalation hold your breath for 5 seconds while simultaneously tensing your abs. Persons with high blood pressure should either skip this step or shorten it to 1 or 2 seconds.
3) Then through pursed lips begin exhaling slowly, while simultaneously drawing your belly button towards your spine and continuously tensing your abdominals. When your abs are drawn in correctly you may look like a malnourished Ethiopian child like we all remember seeing in World Vision commercials. You will have a ‘hollow’ and likely be able to see some if not all of your ribs. The exhalation phase should take 5 seconds as well. It should be forceful and you should be able to hear and feel the air rushing out of you in a controlled manner. Drawing in the lower abs is of primary importance. You may notice a strengthening of the pelvic floor by practicing this exercise as well.
4) This can be considered a bonus step but the feeling is worthwhile. After all the air is exhaled tighten up all your ab muscles that much more and you can even hunch forward a bit to get an extra squeeze. Try holding this for 5 seconds as well before you begin the next inhalation phase. Even the most advanced fitness experts should notice a tight feeling, almost borderline cramping in their abs within the first rep or two.
It may take a while to get this all figures out but once you have it you can often practice it while doing 2 or 3 other things-it almost becomes instinctive. Shoot for a minimum of 10 reps per session.
When holding each phase for 5 seconds becomes too easy try lengthening each phase to 7 seconds, then 10, then 15 and so on. It isn’t uncommon for breath masters to be able to make one complete rep of this exercise last for 1 minute.
Whether or not this exercise actually burns fat is somewhat debatable but physiologically speaking the main reason people do cardio is to force their bodies to consume more oxygen is to ‘oxidize’ the fat or to ‘burn’ the fat. It is the same process believe it or not. You are consuming massive amounts of oxygen by performing this exercise, which in turn reaches your tissues and burns the fat away. So in theory, skip the treadmill and do a few sets of this exercise. You will feel much more energized. I can’t actually prove it but if you try it you will begin to understand what I am talking about.
The second half of this fabulous exercise is the muscular strengthening portion. The drawing in of the stomach and the tensing portion at the end serves to strengthen and tone your abs in a different way than anything else. You see when most people train abs they focus almost completely on the six pack or the rectus abdominus muscles. While these muscles have some benefit ultimately they just add muscular bulk to your midsection. Not exactly what you want if are trying to trim down. Furthermore the majority of the exercise that work the rectus abdominus create muscle imbalance and muscle strain.
The vacuum works all your abdominal muscles but most specifically a muscle called the transverse abdominus.(TVA) The muscle does what the name indicates and runs across the abdomen creating a natural girdle of sorts. As we age this muscle becomes incredibly weak. This is why even if some one doesn’t have much visible abdominal fat they can still appear to have a belly of sorts. The vacuum tightens the TVA like nothing else so your girdle pulls everything in together giving you a slim look. Of course this takes some dedicated effort as in at least a few weeks of doing 10 reps of doing this exercise everyday. In the past it is not uncommon for me to have knocked off 3 inches from my waistline by consistently practicing this exercise and changing nothing else.
Have you ever been sitting or lying on the spot and suddenly felt short of breath or felt like you are breathing in an extremely shallow manner. I bet if you really think about it these are also the times you feel tired or stressed out as well. This is because much of the fatigue people experience is from shallow or improper breathing therefore resulting in poor oxygen intake. In addition when we are stressed or frustrated we tend to breathe more rapidly but also more shallow. This again results in poor oxygenation and an uncomfortable feeling which only heightens the stress. But when you feel these things do a few reps of the vacuum and you will instantly feel energized, or if stressed you will feel more relieved and more in control of your situation. It is often recommended you do this exercise when you first wake up to correctly set your breathing patterns, oxygenate your bloodstream giving you more energy, and it helps put you in a positive frame of mind.
You will likely find a few weeks of practice makes other cardiovascular endeavours easier because your lungs have stretched and your actually chanmber your lungs sit in has expanded allowing your lungs more room to expand. Furthermore, your breathing muscles, particularly your diaphragm, are stronger. Also note when you are panting and puffing after a tough exercise bout you will likely see your stomach going in and out rapidly.
Probably one last benefit of the exercise is that it puts us back into infant like breathing patterns. You see when we are first born we have perfectly correct breathing patterns. Most healthy infants as you may have observed are tummy breathers. You can watch as they inhale their stomach expands. Conversely with each exhale the stomach gets pulled in. Sure sounds like the exercise I just described doesn’t it. Then through laziness, mimicry, and poor posture we slowly lose these habits. Similarly most infants and toddlers have perfect movement patterns. Instead of bending over at the waist to pick something up they squat down. They have good posture, etc. Then again laziness and mimicry destroy these patterns. A mentor of mine once said the fastest way to grow old is to sit on the couch. How true. Not only are you completely non active but your body is becoming accustomed to an unnatural position. Hence why so many older people have such stiff hips. But if we maintain the habit of sitting on the floor regularly and in random positions, changing frequently we can maintain much of our youthful limberness. Another coach points out that most of his clients who have poor spinal curvature and poor squatters, were early walkers. As in they learned to walk before many of their peers. While this seems good from a motor function standpoint it is not good for spinal development and hip strength. The crawling phase of babies is what helps develop the ‘S’ curve of the spine and strengthens the hips for further activities later in life. So don’t push your kids to walk too soon.
As you can see the foundation of health can be found in childlike patterns as instinctive behaviors that gave us energy and vitality as children can do the same for adults.
So practice the vacuum correctly and consistently for several weeks and I’m sure you will be a believer. And you may notice things I didn’t even mention here. Improved digestion and elimination are 2 more common testimonies. Have fun with it!
By the way I cannot take credit for this exercise. As with all information there is nothing new but only great discoveries being rediscovered. So if you want to get the full story on this exercise and many other highly effective ab exercises that don’t even involve lying on the floor, go to www.mattfurey.com and pick up a copy of Combat ABS.