You may hear that demanding male trainer at CBF shout “Breathe!” As if anybody needs to be reminded! If you’ve lived long enough to be there, you’ve lived long enough to know how to breathe, right?
Actually, during most of your daily life your breathing takes care of itself without you giving it a thought. However, during exercise, things are very different. Your body is under significant stress as your skeletal muscles, heart and brain demand oxygen and energy to fuel your movement.
Here are a few breathing techniques you can use to help yourself exercise effectively and safely.
First, NEVER hold your breath. Sometimes people hold their breaths to get an extra push on a weight or max out the last ten seconds of the ropes. Don’t. Holding your breath can spike your blood pressure to dangerous levels because it restricts blood flow back to the heart, making it work even harder. Grunt, pant, gasp, but never stop breathing.
Second, when you are working with resistance, such as a kettlebell, machine, or tubes, exhale as you lift (when muscles contract) and inhale when lowering (when muscles stretch). For instance, when doing the kettlebell swing, exhale when you contract your glutes and hamstrings to send the bell up, then inhale as it swings down between your legs. When doing a lat pull down on the machine, exhale as you pull the weight down, inhale as it goes back up. Ditto with tubes. Exhale as you push your hands out in a chest press, inhale as they come back.
Third, when doing an exercise targeted at your core, like band knee to knees, walkaways, or primal moves, purse your lips as you exhale. Do a quick experiment on yourself. Put your hand on your belly, take a deep breath, and exhale hard with your mouth open wide. Now do the same thing, only this time exhale hard through pursed lips. Feel how your abdomen tightens. You just activated the transverse abdominus, a powerful band of muscles that is key to proper core activation and exercise performance
Finally, when you are running or sprinting, maintain an erect, head-up posture to maximize the volume of your thoracic cavity, thus space for lungs to expand. Breath so deep so your belly button goes out and in, as your chest rises and falls. Help your body engage the breathing muscles in your ribs and back that are idle when you are not exerting.
With good breathing technique, you’ll find you have more strength and endurance than you thought.