I can’t count the number of times I was told to stand up straight or to put my hands on top of my head to breathe during football.
“Put your hands up! It opens the lungs!”
Well turns out that our body’s intuition may have a little more insight into what we need than football coaches thought…
Putting your hands over your head actually makes breathing much more difficult. As you do this you naturally arch your back slightly and essentially take away your diaphragm’s ability to work well. This position forces you to use your shoulders and neck to breathe instead of the true breathing muscles.
The position most athletes naturally go to when trying to recover their breath is bent over with their hands on their knees. This, however, is often taught to be a sign of weakness. Unfortunately so was drinking water until we realized that athletes do in fact need to hydrate 🙄.
When you put your hands on your knees you place your torso in good postural alignment. This helps the diaphragm to fully activate. At the same you also take the load of your torso off of your breathing muscles. Now, they not only function in their correct position, but can do so with much less resistance.
I won’t argue there are some mental benefits to standing up straight during competition to show signs of resilience. But, when you need to prioritize recovery over that slight mental edge don’t hesitate to place your hands on your knees. And definitely avoid putting them on top of your head.
P.S. If you want to see a great example of a top athlete using this position to purposefully recover check out Rich Froning during CrossFit Open Workout 19.2. 👇