For something that comes so naturally, we don’t utilise this tool enough! Whether you’re running, swimming, weight training or doing core work it’s important to know when and how to breathe.
The more efficiently and effectively you breathe, the better your training will be. As the aim is to lift heavier, move quicker and recover quicker between sets, make breathing your friend. If you find that you often get a “stitch” when you workout it is a clear sign that you’re not breathing well enough. A stitch is simply a build up of lactic acid in your muscle due to lack of oxygen. Unfortunately you have to breathe this out! The only way to get rid of a stitch is to breathe!!
We talk a lot about ‘belly breathing’ in the club, which can also be known as diaphragmatic breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing is where you utilise the entire core unit, breathing deeper into the tummy area rather than just your chest area (which is very common when we are stressed, pregnant and post natal).
Diaphragmatic breathing is a very effective and efficient way of breathing; you get more oxygen intake and more intrinsic core synergy (full correct usage of your core unit including your pelvic floor muscles).
If you’re a beginner at diaphragmatic breathing an easy way to know if you are doing this is to look at the movement of your belly. You can place one hand on your tummy, and another on your chest. When we breathe in (through the nose is ideal), the diaphragm lowers, and so forces your lungs to fill with air. Focus on the abdominal area rising instead of simply the chest when you inhale. As you exhale (through the mouth) the diaphragm presses upwards compressing the lunges and decreasing the amount of air. At the same time, the core unit works in collaboration with the diaphragm to contract, exhale and create “intrinsic core synergy” – a good and preferable balance of pressure in your core unit. giving us a few seconds of optimal movement time. So essentially it should feel like this – inhale, belly expands, exhale, belly contracts and decreases.
Breathing and strength training
Breathing and intra-abdominal pressure is something that we want to look into when it comes to Strength training and how this can help you lift more and have more support.
Firstly, let’s just define which “strength” training we are talking about. We have very low reps of 1-5 and then higher reps of 6-10. At the club, we very much work within the higher reps, so if you’re reading this and doing either our online strength training or in house classes, you’ll want to take note of this advice.
In these sort of rep ranges, you are looking at pure strength work. The weights are going to be much heavier than in the 6-10 rep range. In this case, breathing in before performing the loading phase of the movement, and holding this until the explosion or power movement has been performed is very beneficial. By sustaining a strong intra abdominal pressure with your breathing, your core and spine are much more supported.
E.G: A very heavy back squat with a 1RM
Inhaling when we lower increases the intra-abdominal pressure. Our core unit is stabilised, and there is plenty of oxygen available to the muscles. Most olympic weightlifters if you watch them will take a deep breath and then hold until the exercise is finished.
This could potentially be a mix of strength and hypertrophy work. In this case, exhaling on the up or the power movement can support your core and body, inhaling on the way down will ensure the muscles are getting enough oxygen, and the intra-abdominal pressure builds. Not as much intra-abdominal pressure is needed when working with heavy weights, so the breath can be fluid, with no breath holding taking place.
When should I breathe during cardiovascular exercise like running?
The answer to this is a little easier as you just need to concentrate on keeping it consistent and steady. This helps to ensure that the tiring muscles receive a constant supply of oxygen. Although this might be more difficult to put into practice and a lot of newbie runners struggle with the breathing aspect at the start. It might take a while to work out your breath during running, and at the start you might need to think of it in strides but after a while it becomes second nature. A tip: if you are running to music, you might find your breath matches the beat. Try running without
When should I breathe during yoga?
Very different to other forms of exercises, longer and deeper breaths are better as this allows you to release tension and move deeper into a stretch. It completely depends on what feels natural to you but inhales and exhales of about 4 to 5 seconds (or longer) are a good starting point.
Although breathing comes as an autonomous process, it’s important to pay attention but it can take a while to put into practice. The more you practice, the easier and natural it will become!