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Home Karate Articles Elvis and your Diaphragm.

Elvis and your Diaphragm.

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Elvis Presley died because he was constipated.

There is a reason why this is important to us as martial artists , but to see why, you need to understand the way we breath.

There are two ways to breath in. The primary way is to contract the diaphragm. This is a large sheet of muscle that lies at the base of the ribs. By pulling this down, you lower the air pressure in the chest cavity so pulling air into your lungs. (a bit like pulling air into a bicycle pump)

The other way to breath is to expand the rib cage and pull the shoulders up. This has the same effect, but is a 'secondary' method of breathing. This is why when you are training hard your shoulders go up and down as the body calls on all available resources to get as much air in as it can.

There are also two methods of breathing out. The first is just to relax the diaphragm. (You can't actively get the diaphragm to breath out). This results in quite a slow "sigh" of a breath and is probably all you are doing right now. The other method is to 'squeeze' the air out which is obviously a lot quicker. This is done by contracting the muscles around the trunk of the body. This increases the pressure in the trunk which then pushes the diaphragm up into the chest cavity. The internal pressure in the chest goes up, so pushing the air out of the lungs. ( like pushing air OUT of a bicycle pump)

This also has a knock on effect that's rather handy. By tensing all the muscles around the core and increasing the internal pressure, the spine is stabilised and held firmly in place - making the whole of the lower part of the body a far more rigid structure.

OK so what has this to do with the King of Rock n Roll? Well, as he attempted to go to the loo, he strongly contracted his stomach muscles. It is reckoned he also held his breath. So what did this do? He increased the pressure in his stomach, and by not breathing out, he increased the pressure within his chest cavity. Using the idea of a bicycle pump once more, its like pushing in the plunger, but keeping a finger over the hole. The air in the cylinder comes under high pressure. As well as the lungs, the chest also contains the heart. By increasing the pressure in the chest, he effectively 'squeezed' his own heart which in turn lead to a heart attack.

If, when punching, you too hold your breath, you are squeezing your heart in the same way. Being hit whilst holding your breath could lead to a sudden increase of pressure around the heart . Add to that the increased load put on the heart whilst training and you begin to see that holding your breath whilst punching is not a good idea!

This is why the cause of death for Elvis, is important to martial artists.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 July 2009 08:46