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Breathing Technique: Importance of Breathing

Posted on 19 September, 2016 at 14:05

One of the most common questions that I get from my clients is: "When should I breathe?" I have noticed that, very often, exercising takes so much focus on finding the correct form, that breathing becomes compromised. It’s an odd thing to remind someone that they have to keep breathing. But it happens, and it happens often.

I will start by addressing the possible breathing options and why they can be useful. First off, there is the action known as the inhale. This may seem intuitive, but the inhale is important to help get oxygen into the body. Furthermore, when inhaling, you are increasing the amount of potential pressure that your diaphragm can create. As the pressure builds, your diaphragm presses down into your abdominal wall. As you inhale, if you were to tense up your stomach muscles (as if you were about to take a punch), you would start to feel a pressure build up. This is called intra-abdominal pressure.

Intra-abdominal pressure increases directly proportionate to the amount of air in your lungs. This is important because creating this pressure establishes a very strong and sturdy core, which can be used to safely and effectively produce force to move near maximal loads. In other words, intra-abdominal pressure allows you to push your strength limits effectively. For example, if you were going to squat a very heavy repetition, then you will benefit from inhaling a huge breathe, brace your core and hold that pressure in during the eccentric portion of the squat, and only releasing that pressure with an exhale during the final half of the concentric portion of the movement.

To recap, we inhale for air and to build pressure, we hold our breath to keep pressure, and we exhale to release pressure. This is a very high level look at how breathing effects resistance training. Intra-abdominal pressure is useful for compound lifts (multi-joint activity, such as the squat or bench press), but maybe not what we want to using for high repetition sets and for isolation movements (single-joint activity, such as a bicep curl).

During low intensity, high repetition, isolation lifts, it is much more efficient to focus on breathing in a steady rhythm. In other words, think about inhaling during the eccentric portion of a lift (eccentric: lengthening of muscle) and exhaling during the concentric portion of a lift (concentric: contraction of muscle). Certainly, you should be bracing your core for all exercises, whether inhaling or exhaling. This will be the way that I have my clients breath for most exercises, most of the time. Holding intra-abdominal pressure has its uses, but it will cause an increase in blood pressure and should be used only in trained, supervised individuals with strength based goals and no signs of hypertension.

Proper breathing technique is one of the most crucial aspects of exercising safely. Focusing on your breathing habbits can allow for effectively building muscle, increasing cardiovascular output and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Hope this helps!



Categories: Exercises, Motivation

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