Archive for the ‘Diaphram’ Category

21 October

The Diaphragm – The Core: Part Five


In an Eric Franklin class I once took about breathing, he started off by asking us to close our eyes and go to our favorite room in our house and visualize ten objects.  After about thirty seconds people could name their ten objects.  Then he asked us to do to the room in our body called the diaphragm and also name ten objects.  Well…that took longer.  Most of the class laughed at the request.  The point being is that we know more about our house than our own bodies.

The diaphragm is the last piece of the puzzle to discuss in our core section.  Remember, we have the trasversus abdominis creating the main portion of the cylinder in the front and around to the back via the lumbar fascia, the multifidi in the back, the pelvic floor at the bottom of the cylinder, and the diaphragm is the top of the cylinder.  The diaphragm is the main muscle of inhalation, and separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity.  Depending on how deep of a breath you take, the diaphragm will move 1/2 to 2  inches downward.

The diaphragm originates on three low back spinal segments via the left and right crus, lower six ribs and the bottom tip of the breastbone, called the xiphoid process.  I think xiphoid is a good name to remember for scrabble.  Xiphoid means tip in latin.  The diaphragm connects to itself via it’s own central tendon in the middle of the muscle. The central tendon is a little more dense than the rest of the diaphragm.  Like the center of a parachute is thicker than the ends.

Now take a deep inhale and tell me does the diaphragm ascend or descend when you inhale?  I have had knock down drag out fights in my class over this question.  Which do you think it is?  You may have a sensation of upward lift because the ribs are expanding to allow the lungs to fill with air, but the answer is that as you inhale the diaphragm concentrically contracts, pulling the fibers together and thus lowering the dome of the diaphragm to pull in the air.  Read the last sentence again if you need to.  It is a vacuum system, like a bellows that stokes a fire, or a bicycle pump.  Get a bicycle pump and place the tip upward and the handle down to the floor.  The handle represents you diaphragm. Pull the handle down toward the floor and air will be pulled in to the pump.  Same with the diaphragm, as it contracts and moves downward, air is pulled into the lungs.  There is a pressure change too that happens in breathing, but I won’t go into that now.  If you would like more write me and I will be happy to oblige.

What happens on an exhalation?  As you exhale, the fibers of the diaphragm stretch apart which is called an eccentric contraction.  The diaphragm is a muscle.  Therefore it is important that it is exercised in both a concentric and eccentric way.  The inhalation is the concentric contraction, and the exhalation is the eccentric contraction.  You know someone has not trained their diaphragm in an eccentric way if they have a weak, quivery voice.  As the diaphragm eccentrically contracts it pushes the air over the vocal cords to create sound.  If the person cannot generate enough force to push the air over the vocal chords, then they will have a soft, shaky voice.  Singers that can sing one note over a long period of time are demonstrating amazing control of their diaphragm in an eccentric contraction.


  1. Seated or standing, visualize the diaphragm descending on the inhale and ascending on the exhale.  You can play with this concept further by taking deeper breaths and visualizing the diaphragm descending further, up to two inches.  Then taking shorter breaths with the diaphragm moving less than that.  Basically, however deep the breath will generate that similar effort of movement in the diaphragm.
  2. Check that you have an equal inhale and exhale.  Count as you inhale.  Count as you exhale.  Is it the same number?  If not work making them equal, and then see if you can increase your inhale and exhale by two counts.  This is a fun exercise while walking.
  3. Take singing lessons.  Some of the best diaphragmatic exercises can be found in a singing class.  If you are too shy to take a class then get a book, or sing in the shower or car.