The Breathing Techniques a Strength Coach Uses With His Clients to Optimize Their Performance
December 18, 2021

We founded Threes Physiyoga to build bridges between the different disciplines and communities within the healthcare and wellness continuum. We believe doing so best supports our overall wellbeing. And our podcast, The Body Puzzle, is the latest place where we’re putting these pieces together. Each episode includes insights from experts and specialists who will empower and challenge our beliefs. They’ll also expand our foundational knowledge, and boost our relationships to our own bodies and each other.

Tyler Tanaka, DPT, a certified strength coach, is not big on the terms “breathwork” or “breathing exercises.” It’s not because he doesn’t believe the breath is a power tool for facilitating physical movement—quite the opposite. Rather, he realizes it can be off putting for some, especially the clientele he works with as a physical therapist. “I am at the point in my career where I hide the fact that I’m doing breathing exercises with people if I can tell that somebody is kind of skeptical about some sort of alternative treatment,” he says. 

“For example, I’ll make them do a core exercise, and I’ll say, ‘Hey, you know how you’re breathing really shallow? Try and breathe all the way out. Okay, when you do that, pause for a second and then breathe in slowly through your nose.’ And then the position they’re in allows certain parts of their lungs to inflate. All of a sudden their back can relax,” explains Tanaka. 

It’s a sneaky (his word, not ours) but effective way to achieve an optimal outcome, which in the case of strength training means better form and greater muscular endurance. “Because if I do a set of 10 external shoulder rotations, and I’m holding my breath the whole time, I’m probably going to feel pretty crappy,” he says. “Whereas, if I focus on a full, nice, long exhale that expands the rib cage under the shoulder that’s working, all of a sudden you feel your rotator cuff working versus your upper trap and low back. It’s a huge difference.” 

Even if he’s not explaining his methods, Tanaka says his clients (which include surfers and ultimate fighting champions) do see the benefits of breathwork. “The results you can get from it are so powerful, but it really does need a degree of buy-in,” he says. “So I think that the way it’s packaged sometimes can cause misconceptions. There’s always those people who are very skeptical of a non-traditional approach.”

As such, he errs on the side of caution by opting for a straightforward approach in which he cues breath the same way he does other form checks. “I’ll cue them through a full exhale with a pause to get some vagus nerve activity going so that their nervous system starts to calm down,” he explains. “And then all of a sudden, you know, they can move their hip like 40 degrees more. And they’re like, ‘wow, that feels so much better.’ The proof is in the pudding and getting results like that is a lot more effective at creating buy-in in my experience.”

To hear more about how Tanaka uses breath to get better results with his clients—including overcoming imbalances in the body—tune into his episode of The Body Puzzle.




The Breath Series: Episode 3: A Physical Therapist and Strength Coach that applies Breath to Every Exercise, Tyler Tanaka, DPT

Tyler Tanaka shares how he uses the breath in his clinical practice as a Physical Therapist and Strength Coach.  He talks about the importance of how he “packages the breath” for different populations and provides some approaches that work for him.  He dives into the mechanics of breath and what language helps to facilitate an experience of breath in the body.


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