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Waiting To Exhale


Waiting To Exhale

Good day Fit Fam,

I wanted to take the time to talk to everyone about a question coaches get asked frequently. “How do I breathe?”. This is a great question as many find it challenging to breathe while we are working out.

So lets get some answers. How should you breathe while; squatting, thrusters, jumping, running, ect, so it would seem we all struggle with breathing properly. When someone first asks me this question my initial answer is, “Just do it, don’t worry about how or when, just focus on breathing”.

Start here because many times trying to breathe “correctly” can throw off how you move, so the first step is just breathe. It doesn’t matter that your breathing may be erratic, it’s a great start to just be able to breathe while you’re moving. 

Now step two: How to breathe correctly.

Many times you’ll find that you hold your breath which is natural. It’s natural to hold your breath at the most challenging part. As an example, during an overhead press, holding your breath at the start, right when you want to press that weight off your body. You do this  because your brain doesn’t fully understand the difference between intentional exercise and your body being in danger.

When you hold your breath you create internal pressure, bracing your entire body. The body feels the weight and your brain thinks you are about to be crushed, so you take a deep breath and hold it, creating that pressure to have a better chance of pressing the weight off your body. This can be used to your advantage, but many times you’ll forget to let that air out. So part one is when to let the breath out, exhale, and that should be done right as, or just after moving the weight. For an overhead press that’s during the push, during a squat while standing, and for a deadlift pulling the weight up off the floor.

Sticking with the overhead press example, it’s okay and often good to take that initial deep breath, brace and then as the bar begins to move, exhale. So now infer that the time to take a breath, inhale, is as the weight returns. As gravity pulls the bar down, breathe in, brace when it hits the shoulders, start the press again and exhale, inhale as the bar returns, brace, repeat. 

Learning how to do this will force slower movement at first, but that can also be a good thing, as it will allow you to maintain your breathing, which will make it easier to sustain through big sets. As a bonus you will feel stronger due to a greater amount of oxygenated blood flowing which allows for greater endurance and muscle contraction.

So now after learning how to breathe and understanding the why, the final piece. How do I breathe even better? There are all sorts of breathing techniques you can practice, but my personal favorite is Triangle Breathing which is very simple. Start by:

  • Inhale: 3 seconds
  • Hold: 3 seconds
  • Exhale: 3 seconds

While you are doing this also practice what is known as Belly Breathing. This means while taking a breath focus on filling your whole lungs, starting at the bottom. An easy way to know if you are doing this correctly is to lay on your back with a hand on your stomach and a hand on your chest. Feel your stomach rise before your chest when inhaling, attempt to remain relaxed while holding, and feel your stomach fall first while exhaling.

A great time to practice is while laying in bed as this style of breathing is relaxing. Practice every night until you are able to:

  • Inhale: 10 seconds
  • Hold: 10 seconds
  • Exhale: 10 seconds

You will never breathe so fully or consciously while exercising, but by training to use all of your lungs you’ll become more efficient and circulate more oxygen into your blood. Oxygen is a critical component for strong muscle contraction (more to come on that in the future).

Now you have more information on the how and why to breathe inside of a workout. Like anything, this takes time and effort to train and use effectively. So for a quick recap:

  • Step 1: Just breathe
  • Step 2: Exhale during the most challenging part of the lift, the contraction, i.e. push or pull.
  • Step 3: Practice Triangle Breathing to increase lung capacity and blood oxygen levels.

I hope this helps you all on your fitness journey. See you all soon!

  • Coach Tye