Breathing is the gesture we repeat most during each day and more than 20,000 times, 24 hours a day, between 14 and 16 respiratory acts per minute, and about 800 per hour. The diaphragm is a huge dome-shaped muscle located in the lower part of the rib cage.
On a purely mechanical level, when it contracts, together with the help of the intercostal muscles, it lowers the pressure in the chest cavity and this allows air to enter the lungs. When you exhale, the diaphragm relaxes, together with the intercostal muscles, letting the air out.
But step-by-step we will see why this muscle, as said very underrated, is so important for a tennis player, for a sportsman, and for anyone. 80% of the population is unable to fully exploit the qualities of this muscle which, in addition to playing an important role in stabilizing the core, anatomically forms the cap of a central box of muscles that work synergistically (internal and external diagonally, quadratus lumborum muscle, pelvic floor, and transverse abdomen) as well.
Proper diaphragm work improves breathing and oxygenation, reduces stress and anxiety (essential in the tennis court), improves posture and prevents certain types of injuries especially in the core area and more precisely in the lumbar spine.
The diaphragm is able to oxygenate the blood effectively since flattening occurs when it contracts which in turn promotes greater blood supply to the lungs. In addition, those who are used to performing diaphragmatic breathing exercises, therefore working in depth, prevent the diaphragm from blocking and cause stress to disappear or drop considerably.
Another fundamental factor correlates with the improvement of posture. This situation occurs following simple anatomical laws; given that the diaphragm is closely correlated with the large psoas and quadratus lumborum muscle, two very important muscles for correct posture, diaphragmatic breathing helps improve posture thanks to the work it does on relaxing the central area of the body working synergistically both anteriorly (large psoas muscle) and posteriorly (quadratus lumborum muscle).
This explains why, especially at the lumbar level, there are enormous benefits if the diaphragm works correctly and effectively. In modern physical preparation this muscle is trained very little even if with simple breathing exercises you can immediately have enormous benefits.
Let's see how: Example: lie on the ground in a supine position and with your knees slightly bent, place your hands on your stomach; one hand immediately below the ribs and one hand held to the first but below, towards the pelvis.
By concentrating on breathing, one tries to inflate the belly, without straining and without lifting the ribs and the chest, and the sensation must be that of feeling the stomach rise. Then slowly exhale from the mouth creating a small hole between the lips and deflate the belly effortlessly.
Repeat starting with two minutes and gradually arrive at five minutes. The proposed exercise is simple and improvements can be noted immediately. Get to work now!!