Okay, when was the last time you thought about how you breathe when you’re training, like really thought about it and focused on doing it mindfully?
Was it after your last heavy set when you felt a little dizzy, or when you realized you hadn’t breathed for the last few reps? Yeah, you know what I mean.
The reason I ask is because I have this new client, Rich. Fresh to the gym, first session in and Rich was struggling to control his breathing. Why? For the same reason, most of us forget how to breathe when working out – because our bodies are too focused on intensely pushing weight.
Breathing is a fundamental aspect of any good workout, often overlooked but crucial for maximizing your efforts and ensuring a safe and effective training session. Understanding the significance of proper breathing techniques can give performance benefits and contribute to your overall fitness goals and everyday life.
In this blog, we'll explore proper breathing during exercise and delve into specific breathing techniques for different types of body exercise.
Why Proper Breathing During Exercise is Important
How to breathe properly when working out is a fundamental tool to unlocking the full potential of your workout regimen. Breathing is not just a natural bodily function; it plays a pivotal role in optimizing performance, minimizing fatigue, and safeguarding against potential injuries.
Breathing during cardio exercise is also intimately linked to the management of carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and blood pressure in your body. When you breathe during exercise, your muscles produce CO2 as a byproduct of energy metabolism. Efficient breathing helps expel this waste gas from your body, preventing a buildup that can lead to low blood pressure, dizziness, or even respiratory distress. For those with lung disease, recommend breathing patterns that would help minimize respiratory distress.
The over-exertion makes it that much harder for us to remember to breathe. And what does it result in? A red face, an intense stare off into the distance, and just a little bit of terror that you might’ve bitten off more than he could chew. And, of course, a little less or more oxygen is used than required post-set.
How to Breathe When Doing Cardio Exercise
Okay, but don’t worry. Rich is alright. He’s made huge advances in his lifts and has been smashing his PBs week after week, all through correct techniques. How, you ask?
Here are 3 things I taught Rich to help him transform his breathing so that he can start smashing his goals without worrying about running out of breath, energy, or enough oxygen altogether.
- Out With Effort! - Inhaling as you lower the weight and breathing out with effort is a great cue to focus on your oxygen intake. Think about all the times you lift, push, or move an object day-to-day. While pushing a heavy trolley, you wouldn’t inhale, you would exhale. The same goes for when you’re pushing at the gym.
- Exhale and Tense Core - Breathing oxygen is a muscular contraction that creates a vacuum in your diaphragm. Naturally, this is a great way to improve the rigidity of our core. Focus on exhaling and tensing your abs while you do so.
Inhale and Tense For Squats - Loading up for a back squat is a little different from your average lift. Before you lower, inhale and create pressure through your abdomen.
Inhale and exhale, then repeat.
Focus on deep diaphragmatic breathing – inhale through your nose, allowing your belly to expand. This belly breathing technique encourages more oxygen intake and promotes a steady rhythm of heart rate, helping you control your energy throughout the cardio session.
While inhaling through your nose warms and filters the air, exhaling through your mouth allows for a more rapid release of carbon dioxide. This combination optimizes more oxygen exchange, enhancing respiratory efficiency and reducing the risk of hyperventilation.
How to Breathe Consistently During Cardio Workout
Consistency in your breathing patterns is key to maintaining endurance during cardio workouts. Establish a steady rhythm by syncing your breath with your movements. For example, if you're running or doing aerobic exercise, coordinate your breath with your steps – inhale for two or three steps, and release for the same count. This rhythmic breathing will help you maintain a steady pace, reduce the feeling of breathlessness, and improve your athletic performance.
Pay attention to your posture during cardio activities. Standing or sitting upright opens up your chest and muscles, allowing for unrestricted breathing. Slouching or hunching over can compress your diaphragm and lungs and impede airflow, leading to inefficient breathing and increased fatigue.
If you feel short of breath, consider adjusting your pace or intensity to find a sustainable rhythm. Implement controlled, intentional breaths during rest intervals to facilitate recovery and prepare for the next bout of exertion.
How to Breathe When Strength Training
Whether you're lifting weights, bodyweight exercising, or engaging in resistance training, understanding how to breathe effectively can significantly impact your performance, muscle engagement, and overall safety during strength workouts.
For instance, when performing a bicep curl, exhale as you lift the weight and inhale as you lower it. This technique enhances your stability, supports your muscles, and gives you more energy to perform.
When embarking on a strength training session, one of the foundational principles of synchronizing your breathe during exercise. A general guideline for breathing is to exhale during the exertion phase (the phase where you lift or push) and do belly breathing during the relaxation or recovery phase (the phase where you lower or return to the starting position) up to your lung capacity.
When to Inhale and Exhale While Weightlifting
In weightlifting, the timing of your breath is a powerful tool in optimizing your strength. In general, inhale before you start lifting weights, and exhale during the effort. This helps maintain intra-abdominal tension, stabilizing your core muscles and enhancing your ability in lifting heavier weights. Remember to practice releasing the oxygen from your lungs forcefully during the most challenging part of the lifting, allowing you to engage your core muscles more effectively.
Breathing Properly When You're Doing a HIIT Workout
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is renowned for its efficiency in weight loss for a healthy lifestyle, improving cardiovascular fitness, and promoting overall conditioning. However, the intense and dynamic nature of HIIT workouts requires a strategic approach to using proper breathing techniques for optimal performance and safety.
During the high-intensity phases, when you're exerting maximal effort, focus on taking quick, shallow breaths. Practice inhaling rapidly through your nose and exhaling forcefully from your belly through your mouth.
As you transition to the recovery or lower-intensity phases in HIIT, use this time to establish a controlled and deeper breathing pattern. Inhale through your nose to facilitate a more relaxed and more oxygen intake, and exhale from your belly through your mouth to expel carbon dioxide effectively.
Holding Your Breath
Holding your breath is a common but potentially detrimental habit that can hinder your exercise performance and even pose risks to your health. Holding your breath during physical stretching, particularly in strength training, can lead to increased intra-abdominal or body stress, compromised stability, and a decrease in overall exercise effectiveness.
When you hold your breath, especially during heavy lifts or intense exercises, your blood flow can skyrocket. This sudden increase in blood pressure puts undue stress on your cardiovascular system, potentially leading to dizziness, headaches, and in extreme cases, even fainting.
Breaking the habit of breath-holding requires a conscious effort to cultivate a new pattern of breathing during your workouts. Breathe deeply through your nose during the relaxation phase or the eccentric part of an exercise, and breathe out the air in your lungs through your mouth during the effort or concentric phase.
Now, here’s the thing. Breathing is about more than just breathing properly and giving as much oxygen as required to perform our lifts. It is also about giving our abdominal muscles and core the support they need, so that they can in turn support the rest of our body in our workouts.
This prevents injuries, reduces areas of weakness, and recruits our entire body to move serious weight. In other words, when you breathe properly, your whole body works together to get enough oxygen to get you those gains.
If you experience persistent pain or notice significant symptoms in your health or body consider seeking professional guidance from personal trainers, a fitness coach, or a life coach who can help identify underlying issues during stretching our bodies.
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