The Breathing Gear System™ | Brian MacKenzie

Issue #16

The Complexity of Respiratory Muscle Training & The Breathing Gears System™

When we think about respiratory muscles, it is easy to overlook the complexity and nuance that goes into their training. The Breathing Gear System has been developed to encourage people to consider the training of our primary respiratory muscles through learning more about differential control of respiration rate (RR) and tidal volume (VT). However, research and experience show there is much more at play than what we understand about metabolic acidosis when it comes to nonlinear increases in ventilation (V̇e) above compensatory thresholds- respiratory compensation rate (RCP). In addition, there is a complex relationship between primary and secondary respiratory muscles and the metaboreflex (blood stealing) for regulating ventilation during exercise and bouts of intense stress.

Two (larger) primary muscle groups are involved in respiration – the diaphragm and the external intercostals. Together these muscles work in a coordinated manner to maintain proper ventilation during rest and exercise. Control of RR and VT are two critical aspects of respiration that can be trained with The Breathing Gear System. By controlling RR and VT independently in suitable environments, you can prepare your body to become more efficient at regulating your breathing under most stress or physical activity.

Recent research has also shown a complex relationship between primary and secondary respiratory muscles and blood stealing that contribute to the nonlinear response of V̇e above RCP during incremental exercise. In addition, it is believed that central command (Central Governor – Brain/Nervous System) contributes to more than just metabolic acidosis when regulating V̇e during intense physical activity or high-stress situations. This means that beyond merely increasing oxygen intake, proper training of primary respiratory muscles may help us better control our breathing even under extreme circumstances. Therefore, training these muscles is critically important to anyone participating in exercise or professional sports, as energy and electrolyte balance are downstream effects (breathing and biochemistry directly impact each other). Blood Stealing means we are now switching how we use energy sooner than necessary. Consider this in an MMA athlete fighting in round 3, 4 or 5. Or a Baseball Player in the 8th or 9th inning of a longer than normal game, or a marathon runner midway through a race/training session.

The Breathing Gear System focuses on training primary and secondary respiratory muscles to achieve optimal respiration rates for different levels of physical activity or stress response through a coordinated effort with the mind; central command/governor theory. Through this system, we can learn how best to use our breath for improved performance while reducing fatigue levels caused by improper breathing patterns. Furthermore, we can also explore how different breathing exercises help us better cope with stressful events by improving our ability to regulate our breathing even when faced with extreme conditions. This work is hierarchically detailed in our SH//FT Health, Skill of Stress, Art of Breath courses, and Get Started with Breathwork (free). 

Understanding how everything from central command down works together helps us better appreciate the complexity behind proper respiration muscle training for improved performance and an ideal stress response. Through The Breathing Gear System, we learn how best to use our breath for enhanced performance while reducing fatigue levels caused ultimately by improper breathing patterns. With these tools, we can explore how different breathing exercises help us better cope with stressful events by improving our ability to regulate our breathing when faced with extreme circumstances in physical performances, war fighting, first responder work, catastrophic accidents, public speaking, to emotional outburst and exercise to name a few; limitless. 

brian mackenzie

Brian Mackenzie is an innovator in human performance on stress adaptation and a pioneer in the development and application of custom protocols to optimize human health and performance. His clients and work have included: Ari Emanuel, William Morris Endeavor, Sheppard Mullin, Deloitte, Google, Tim Ferriss, U.S. Military (Navy, Army, Marines), Canadian Military (CANSOF), San Quentin State Prison, The UFC Performance Institute, Altis, Jon “Bones” Jones, Laird Hamilton, Tia Clair Toomey (3X CrossFit Games Champion), Rich Froning Jr. (4X CrossFit Games Champion) and many others.


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