It's easy to forget how important our breath is. Sure, oxygen is the essence of keeping us alive, but that is the last thing we think about when lifting weights or doing other strenuous activities.
Proper breathing, especially when heavyweights are involved, is one of the most crucial techniques involved for a successful workout. Breathing can decrease the chance of injury, assist with lifting more weight, and build a stronger core. So what is the proper way to breathe when lifting?
The proper technique for breathing depends greatly on the exercise you are performing. For instance, when lifting extremely heavy weights, it is beneficial to hold your breath for just a moment. This method is called the Valsalva maneuver.
When jogging, most people will take longer breaths to match their stride; taking two steps when inhaling, and two steps when exhaling.
It is important to note that there is no golden rule for breathing when exercising, the goal is to find what works best for you.
The Valsalva maneuver is popular amongst experienced gym rats and bodybuilders. If you're newer to the gym, you actually may be using this technique and not even realize it as it is a natural reaction from the body.
This maneuver involves inhaling before beginning the rep, holding one's breath when performing the rep, and then exhaling against a closed glottis at the end of the rep, therefore producing maximum force.
This maneuver must be performed carefully! If you hold your breath for too long or perform it incorrectly, you could potentially pass out at the gym or raise your blood pressure. When inhaling and holding the breath, think of filling your belly with air, and then activating the abdomen, squeezing your belly button towards your spine. This bubble of air protects your spine from lifting the heavyweight as well as increases your power output. Just don't forget to breathe!
Another method commonly used during strength training is a steady flow of inhaling and exhaling with movement. Take the bench press, for example, exhale slowly and continuously while pressing the bar away from your chest, inhale at the top or on the return of the movement. Don't forget to keep your core engaged during this technique to keep your spine protected.
And then there's the mouth vs. nose debate. Some say it is best to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. This is recommended because of the amount of carbon dioxide you receive is greater when inhaling with the mouth, and you want as much oxygen as possible to go to your muscles when lifting.
Breathing through the nose also forces inhalation to slow down because the air travels through a pipe with a smaller diameter than when inhaling through the mouth. This reduced speed promotes relaxation and also strengthens inspiratory muscles. It is suggested to only breathe through the mouth when performing exercises that require a higher demand for oxygen (sprinting).
Still not sure what breathing technique is good for you? Then just act natural! Your body is more intelligent than you think and will acclimate accordingly when performing physical activities. The most important thing to remember is to breathe from the diaphragm and not the chest.
Yours in Health,