ISSN#: 1555-7723  Publisher: Scott Sonnon - Senior Editor: Ryan Murdock  

The Trinity Breathing Exercise

by Scott Sonnon

Scott Sonnon is a multiple-sport International Champion, multiple-time USA National Team Coach, multiple time Martial Art and Fitness Hall of Fame inductee and nominee. Scott is recognized worldwide as a pioneer, not merely of a new approach to fitness but of an entirely new approach to health and total well-being.  

Scott invested nearly two decades and hundreds of thousands of dollars in research, development and refinement, training in 9 different countries, to design and continue the evolution of his "evolutionary" methodology. He has written several books and has published hundreds of articles in dozens of international journals in several languages. He has also produced over 50 videos on this modern evolution of ancient bodily wisdom. Scott's work has touched hundreds of thousands of fitness enthusiasts from all walks of life, from grannies to grandmasters. His clientele includes professional athletes, doctors, trainers, actors, coaches and health and fitness specialists.

As I’ve outlined in various books and articles, the Breath Mastery Scale:

One characteristic that some people misunderstand regards this final qualifier: conditions requiring effort may override the natural "bellows" breathing of the expansion/compression of the torso. For instance, if performing a bodyweight squat from flat foot squat to standing with arms extended upwards, one (typically) does not require any effort. Breathing passively bellows out with compression into the squat, and "sucks" back in with standing.

However, if one adds resistance, such as two heavy Clubbells™ in Shoulder Park, then one may require an active exhalation on the effort of standing, which in turn may create a passive inhalation on squatting. In other words, during normal activities requiring no effort you may exhibit a normal breathing protocol, though in times of crisis or challenge the effort protocol may override the normal protocol.

Moreover, there is a critical load which surpasses one's ability to maintain Discipline (active exhalation on effort).  At the point where you begin to Force your breath (hold it) in order to move an extremely heavy weight, the training value begins a rapid drop off.  In CST, we focus upon the development of at minimum Discipline.

If in real life, an event demands that one downshifts to Force, it happens as a matter of course, without training.  Discipline aids one in need to apply Force, but not the reverse.  Practicing Force can lead to Discipline, but never to Flow or Mastery.  The direct route to Flow and Mastery is through Discipline first and at minimum.

General versus Selective Tension Techniques

Even when people begin to internalize this distinction (typically at about 3 months of training) they still lack the ability to use proportional force to accomplish the task. This may be caused by general (or "high") tension strength training, as training in such a method to the exclusion of
Selective Tension strength training may neurologically program your muscle software to turn either on or off, rather than act as the dimmer switch that you need for real-world activities outside of the bubble of the gym.

This fact manifests itself most obviously in martial arts. If you maximally tense with each technique attempt your tension screams loudly at your opponent, telegraphing your every move. You also lose mobility, sensitivity to your opponent’s responses, and drain energy like a sieve.

I see this quite often in Clubbell® newbies who come at the practice with all their thunder in each repetition, as if the goal were to move even the lightest Clubbell® as forcefully as humanly possible. Fortunately, this is one of the most beneficial aspects of learning the art of the Clubbell®: It teaches you to focus upon the entire movement rather than merely the concentric action phase. It also teaches you how to use “just enough” force to carry the Clubbell® through each of the various phases of the movement.

Oh, you will require maximal tension throughout the movement, but unlike the strict loose-tight-loose protocol of linear lifts,
Clubbell® training teaches you how-loose and how-tight at any point in time throughout the exercise. This is a critical feature of CST that transfers to all other activities.

Organize your training schedule and cycles so that you neurologically program your muscle software to operate from relaxation to maximal tension to relaxationand all of the options in between.

This sensitivity to force proportionality transfers most obviously to martial arts. Tension and velocity rest at two opposite ends of the spectrum; so do force and sensitivity. To be able to FEEL how much force is necessary to accomplish a task and to be able to apply that force ‘under the radar’ of your opponent’s sensitivity is the key to masterful fighting.

Trinity Breathing

I use this technique, featured in Intu-Flow™, to teach people how to modulate the intensity of exhalation upon effort (as well as to experience the passive inhalation in controlled settings). It relates to three of the four types of breath volume in our lungs:

If you’re alive then Residual Breath is not an issue, so I will address, in the following order: Normal, Complementary and Supplementary Breath.

In martial arts these relate directly to tissue, muscle and organ strikes, respectively. The more that one locks down the core, exhaling through the strike, the deeper the penetration of the impact. With each of the 3 volumes of air expelled the body becomes increasingly more stabilized, and thus the power generation from the ground (if linear) or core (if circular) carries through the skeletal system.

The problem for most people in martial arts is that they come from a general, or "high", tension technique background. As a result, their technique is always sullied by too much tension, and tension too generalized throughout the body. It’s like trying to play a DVD on an LP turntable. I'm sure everyone involved in martial arts has experienced this befuddled knot of muscles too tense and energy too greatly expended, that accomplishes tremendously little.

You need Selective Tension software for your muscles so that your nervous system can associate with the sophistication of your style's skills.

NOTE: I should also state that this relation changes with expertise, since with continued skill refinement one uses a normal breath with even the deepest techniques. In other words, as skill increases, effort decreases. However, Trinity Breathing serves as a very useful exercise for teaching the entire spectrum of Core Activation.

The Trinity Squat

The incredibly powerful exercise is featured as the focal point of Intu-Flow.  The Trinity Squat involves standing with both arms in upper frame. Your rear arm moves across the body, led by the elbow.

Step 1: Normal Breath

Normal Breath means no effort involved. The action of moving your arm by twisting your core compresses to cause an exhale, and expands to cause an inhale, both of which are passive.

To help keep this from becoming a meaningless movement, keep your palm perpendicular to the ground at all times and focus on projecting and withdrawing the elbow rather than the hand. Lift the elbow no higher than parallel with the ground. Exhale on the projection passively; inhale on the withdrawal passively.

Step 2: Complementary Breath

Repeat as Step 1, but at the end of the elbow projection begin to project the palm farther, though not to elbow lockout. You will additionally feel your rear knee dip inward and your rear heel lift up as you shift more of your weight onto your front foot.

With this second “push” exhale deeper actively, but not entirely, not maximally. Feel your intercostals ‘squeeze’ as your torsion causes an extra volume of air to be expelled.

As you relax your core and withdraw your palm, two inhales occur: the relaxation of the core (or complementary), and then the normal breath.

Step 3: Supplementary Breath

Repeat as Step 2, but at the end of the palm projection rotate your elbow and lightly extend your arm to lockout with a fist at the end. You will additionally feel your rear knee dip slightly more and your rear heel turn over and outward as you extend and rotate your core maximally at a 90 degree angle to the direction that you originally faced.

This time exhale maximally, deep and diaphragmatically. Lock down your core entirely.

On this final step you will experience your shoulder action most greatly, both on the projection and the withdrawal. It rolls forward to project the elbow, then palm, then the rotating fist. It rolls backward to pull the rotating fist, palm, & elbow.

As you relax your core and withdraw your palm, three inhales occur: a relaxation of the maximal contraction of the core, an additional breath in between (complementary), and then the normal breath from twisting back into beginning frame.


These descriptions could become very detailed and complex. However, I only gave the overview so that you could experience the exercise immediately. For a deeper appreciation of the nuances reference Intu-Flow™.

This is an excellent exercise to include in your daily morning practice: 3 reps in each of the 3 steps. Doing so will go to great lengths towards helping you sophisticate your breath mastery – and as a result increase your tension/force sensitivity and proportional force output.


Alone... Together,

© Copyright RMAX International
NOTE: All of the terminology herein is the sole coined intellectual property of RMAX International. Coach Sonnon coined the above terms and trademark protected them. Because you read the following does not give you the right to call the terminology or descriptions your own work and misrepresent Coach Sonnon's long history of experience, research and development since 1989. Everything contained herein is Coach Sonnon's SPECIFIC SYSTEM and his trademark protected intellectual property.

ATTENTIONNothing within this information intends to constitute an explanation of the use of any product or the carrying out of any procedure or process introduced by or within any material.  This site and its officers and employees accept no responsibility for any liability, injuries or damages arising out of any person's attempt to rely upon any information contained herein. Consult your doctor before using this or any other exercise device. Do not use if you have an injury, or are experiencing pain or inflammation in your hands, wrists, forearms, elbows, or shoulders without first consulting your doctor. Use this product at your own risk. Failure to follow instructions and/or using this product in any way other than its intended use could result in injury.