George Hackenschmidt – Real Strength Now Master Series


Sometimes, people ask me how I developed my method of exercise, which is based upon conscious breath and conscious movement. I use weights. I use body weight exercises. I use my breathing stick, but everything, regardless of the exercise, is in coordination with the breath, which always originates (inhalation) with the nose.

This began when I was 10 years old and broke my neck. Initially, I was wrapped in a body cast, to stabilize my spine. When I came out of that cast, my muscles had atrophied, including the muscles that controlled the expansion and contraction of my ribcage, allowing the full use of the lungs. I needed to learn to begin to breathe again, to ... use my diaphragm and intercostal muscles (breathing muscles). Then, I was introduced to weights: dumbbells, and barbells.

During that time, I started reading books about old strong men. George Hackenschmidt was one of these men. Right now, I have a book in front of me that I haven't seen in many, many years. It's called "The Way to Live," written by Hackenschmidt. It was first published in 1908. Hackenschmidt was one of the great Prussian strong men. He was also a champion wrestler. And he advocated the use of barbells and progressive resistance exercise, to build the body, progressive resistance exercise. But, above and beyond that, he advocated breathing. Here’s a passage he wrote over 100 years ago, something that science has proved to be true.

In Hackenschmidt own words: ‘The principal food for man is pure air. Partake of it as much as you possibly can. Breathe much, and as deeply as you can, through the nose. Breathing through the nose is the only proper way of respiration, and at the same time, an important regulator for the movement of the body. For if, for any kind of work, the breath through the nose ceases to be sufficient, one ought to either discontinue the work or restrict the movement until breathing has again become normal. Various deep breathing exercises are recommended by professors and other so-called authorities on physical culture.

Not wishing to be dragged into any discussion, I will refrain from criticizing these and will confine myself to strongly recommending all my readers to content themselves with the simplest and most natural deep breathing exercise in existence. One which everyone can practice without trouble, and which requires no argument to demonstrate its superiority over all others. This consists simply of running exercise in the open air. Run as much as you can, and as often as you can, and whenever you come across a hill, run up it. This will force you to inhale deep breaths, and will also accustom you to breathe through your nose.

Besides the chest and lung development resulting therefrom, you will soon appreciate the benefits that your leg muscles will derive. I cannot lay too great stress upon the great usefulness of proper breathing, by which means we introduce into our system the essential oxygen and discharge a quantity of waste matter.’ Science has proved the truth of these words. Fact: 70% of our body waste is discharged through exhalation, and 80% of our body fat. If you can't run, you can walk while using correct breathing. If you can't walk, you can use a stationary bike or a breathing stick. It's breath and movement that counts, and breathing through your nose is paramount.

I've just read an article about Olympic runners. And several of them are practicing nose breathing. When they get to the point where they can't use the nose, and they're forced to use the mouth, they slow down and acclimate themselves to nasal breathing. Why? Because it's a deeper breath; it oxygenates the body better. It creates greater aerobic metabolism, which means it creates energy. Oxygen travels to every cell in the body. If you habitually breathe through your mouth - shallow breath – you are doing yourself a disservice.

It's also been proved recently that nasal breathing - not mouth - connects directly to the limbic system of the brain, the system that controls fight or flight; the system that calms us. In fact, the rhythm of the breath and the rhythm of thoughts coincide. I can't say enough about learning to breathe through the nose, and I can't say enough about combining that breath with movement. But, I'm not saying anything that George Hackenschmidt didn’t say 100 years ago.


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