I'm sure you've heard the statement, 'It's as easy as breathing.' Or at least that some things are so easy that they go without saying. Yet it's easy to underestimate how important correct breathing is for many different processes in the body, and how it can affect everyday things. For example, how we perform in sports or when we sing. Find out here how you can improve your breathing with the bellicon and thus better control your voice.
Breathing - the basis of our health as long as we are not stressed
Theoretically explained, breathing means: When breathing in, oxygen is taken into the lungs (external respiration). The oxygen is transported to the body via the blood and used for various metabolic processes (internal respiration). The carbon dioxide produced is carried back to the lungs via the blood. When you exhale, this carbon dioxide is released back outside.
In practice it can easily happen that we breathe too lightly, too short or too fast. A common reason for this can be stress. This causes the respiratory muscles to cramp, which makes breathing even more difficult, making it difficult for us to sing and speak. In addition, our organs are not supplied with enough oxygen, which can also lead to headaches, fatigue, lack of concentration and even gastrointestinal problems.
In the long run, correct breathing is essential for our body, as well as our voice and breathing volume. Doing sport in such a situation may sound difficult for some. Why should I do something that exhausts me? Then I breath even harder? And when you're feeling tired and have a headache, it's more tempting to curl up in bed than head to the gym. But it's worth it!
How to use momentum to improve your breathing and muscles
Sport in general, but also on the bellicon mini trampoline, can not only help you to alleviate symptoms, but also preventively improve your breathing. The holistic training on the trampoline not only releases endorphins and relaxes you, but also helps you to relax your muscles.
Targeted minitrampoline training to increase the performance and power of your voice
Between September 2019 and June 2020, Axel Heil, together with Manuel Feisst and Juliane Dennert, conducted a study with 20 professional classical singers on vocal performance under the influence of targeted mini-trampoline training on breathing stability and breath control.
Objects of investigation and study participants
The 20 study participants were divided into a control group, which continued their singing work as usual in order to maintain or expand the existing standard of performance, and an intervention group. This group trained with targeted mini-trampoline training over 36 weeks (6 training sessions of 42 days each) in addition to their everyday singing work.
The study participants were professional singers who took part in coaching with Axel Heil. The mini-trampoline training was carried out with a bellicon mini-trampoline.
For the mini trampoline training, 6 videos of 20 minutes each were produced and a training program of 6 x 6 weeks each was set up. Within the 6 weeks they had to train 21 times. The course of the training was divided into an introductory phase, a coordination phase, two progressive phases and two stabilization phases. The subjects documented their training in a digital diary. Before the start of the first training video and three times every 12 weeks after the start of the training, various variables were measured.
The researchers came to the conclusion that the duration of breathing at a stable frequency and the duration of phonation increased significantly for the group exercising with the mini-trampoline. The difference or duration and frequency of the other parameters did not increase or only slightly increased with increasing training duration. Furthermore, no connection was found between forced vital capacity and maximum phonation duration. The researchers concluded from this that the mini-trampoline training significantly improves the performance of professional classical singers, based on breathing coordination, compared to everyday singing work.
We met Axel Heil for an interview after the study and asked him about his experiences with and during the study:
Mr. Heil, how did you come up with the idea for your study?
I only used the bellicon myself at first because I wanted to do sports because of my back, and jogging and swimming are not really something for me. I had a lot of fun bouncing, I often had creative spurts and many new ideas during and after the training. After about three months I noticed that my own singing was better than before. But since I hadn't practiced that much or done anything else differently, I assumed that it had to be the training with the bellicon. I also found out about exercises for the respiratory muscles and made connections to training with the bellicon. The improvement that followed was more effective than I had ever experienced. And if my discoveries were really true, I wanted others to benefit from them as well.
But first I wanted to prove that the effects were really related to trampoline training. So I got in touch with my brother who is a professor of medicine. He helped me set up a study with 20 professional classical singers. bellicon kindly made the necessary equipment available to me.
How was your study structured?
First of all, I wanted to test the effects of training with the bellicon on professional singers. Of the 20 subjects I was able to get involved in the study, thirteen of them trained with the bellicon, while the other seven, the control group, continued their usual breathing and voice exercises as normal.
There were six phases, each lasting six weeks. In each phase, the participants with the bellicon received a new training video from me. The videos built on each other in terms of intensity. Every three months, i.e. after every second video, all specified parameters were measured for all 20 participants so that we could ultimately see whether there was a development and how it compares to the control group.
When could the first progress be seen?
It only became really clear during the data analysis at the end of the study. But after about a third of the time, the participants were already telling me about the first clear changes. I have seen some of these without measurements. For example, one of the singers B. lost 15 kilograms, that can’t be overlooked. Many reported experiencing more fitness. I remember after the 4th video, which was already very intense, some were skeptical about whether they would succeed in the exercises in the 5th and 6th video. But that also worked surprisingly well and the numbers in the evaluation showed a significant increase in performance.
And what were the final results of your study?
The initial suspicion that gave me the idea for the study in the first place has been confirmed. A clear improvement in breathing and the maximum phonation duration could be seen. In particular, the duration of breathing has increased among the participants, which indicates a strengthening and optimization of the coordination of the inspiratory and expiratory muscles. Overall, voice flexibility and breath control have been shown to improve.
That sounds good. Breathing and phonation duration, can you explain the benefits of improving these values?
The duration of each breath can be used to determine how good the ability to coordinate the muscles is for inhaling and exhaling. This is important for everyone who works with the voice, as it relieves it, or for those who play wind instruments, for example. The better the breathing duration, the more relaxed the voice can perform. Based on this, the phonation time determines how long the singers can hold a tone at a certain pitch and volume. Since there is better access to breathing control, the voice is relaxed and can vibrate better and thus sound better.
And the inspiratory and expiratory muscles – what exactly are they?
There are always many small muscles that play a role. The most important muscle for inspiration, i.e. inhalation, is the diaphragm, which tenses and lowers when breathing in. During expiration, i.e. breathing out, the activity of the pelvic floor, abdominal and chest muscles ensures that the diaphragm can relax evenly and rise again. Strictly speaking, they ensure stable and guided exhalation.
That leads us to the bellicon - what role does the mini trampoline play in strengthening these muscles?
Especially for singers with performance requirements, constant repetition of the exercises tends to strengthen the entire musculature. That means there are tensions that can no longer be completely released or cramps, which means that breathing can no longer be adequately balanced. This puts a strain on your voice over time. Accordingly, these tensions can stand in the way of an optimal development of the voice at an early stage. Due to the extremely even bouncing on the mini trampoline, the entire musculature of the body is in a constant tensing and relaxing movement. As a result, breathing exercises can be made longer and of higher quality. This means that training with the bellicon is not only fun and trains my body, it also accelerates and improves the development of my breathing and thus my voice. In addition to the positive side effects already mentioned, such as improved fitness, there is also a decisive advantage for everyone who suffers from stage fright when performing: Bouncing on the mini trampoline works your entire body. Similar to during performances, adrenaline is released. This inadvertently creates a condition similar to stage fright. In this way, the participants could practice breathing evenly even with an increased breathing rate and adrenaline release, thereby ensuring the quality of their vocal performance and calming their nerves.
Do you already have ideas for follow-up studies?
There are two major areas that would really interest me. On the one hand, that would be what the results would look like for people who are not professional classical singers. All of our participants had between 3 and 20 years of training and employment behind them. But what happens to untrained voices? Or with beginners. I could imagine that some of the problems that can arise from not paying enough attention to breathing capacity in training could be avoided. But there are also so many other professions in which the voice is important but is not trained, or at least not sufficiently trained as it could be. Maybe even should be. Let's just take the teachers who stand in front of their classes for several hours every day, sales representatives or people from marketing. That's a huge pool of people that the results of such studies could help.
The other area focuses on diseases that affect the lungs. In my study, as far as I could measure, there was no significant change in lung capacity. But they were also trained singers. Possibly there would be clearer progress in the lung capacity of sick people, or at least in the utilization of the remaining ones.
In general, I think that it is good for everyone - regardless of whether they are ill, healthy or in jobs that require their voice - to be able to consciously deal with their breathing. Breathing is not only an important aspect to control the voice. It can also help with relaxation or to prevent stress and strain-related symptoms. In any case, the performance of the respiratory muscles can be easily improved with the mini trampoline in combination with breathing and voice exercises.