Importance of Breath Work
You’re probably thinking, “what do you mean? I breathe every day all day”. The answer is yes, but are you breathing correctly to optimally support your movements and deliver oxygen to all your muscles. Then the answer is probably either “ Well, no or maybe not”.
“When you [think about] the rate, quality, and control of your breathing in your training, you can get better results,” Mike Clancy, C.S.C.S., an NYC-based strength coach. That’s right: Breathing, something you do all day every day, can impact your athletic performance. Proper breathing can help you lift heavier; it can give you more muscular endurance in weight lifting and cardio-centric activities like running, swimming, and biking; and it can help you recover more quickly during high-intensity activities and sports like basketball and soccer, he says.
Typically when we breathe in our day to day and during workouts, we’re breathing in and out of our chests. This actually results in faster, more shallow short breathing that can cause feelings of stress and anxiousness and get tired faster. The key here is to learn more about how to properly breathe with your diaphragm or “diaphragmatic breathing”. This will allow for you to fill up the abdominal area with oxygen and exhale from here as well which ensures proper core activation and also delivers oxygen to all your muscles in use so you don’t get tired as easily. Even more of a reason to do this properly, you can avoid those gnarly cramps and side aches that you might normally get during a workout.
“Every inhale and exhale changes the volume of the lungs, which changes the position of the thoracic spine, the ribs, the pelvis, the shoulders, and the intra-abdominal pressure,” Dean Somerset, C.S.C.S., Edmonton, Alberta–based kinesiologist and exercise physiologist. For that reason, the way you breathe can impact how hard or easy it is to get through a workout. Be sure to ask your coach with every major lift that you’re participating in, what the breathing pattern should be for the optimal performance of that movement.
For example during a squat, you would inhale during the lowering portion (eccentric), and then exhale during the rising portion (concentric). This is the case for lifting exercises. For endurance based exercises such as bking, running, or swimming, a good breathing rate is inhaling for 2 to 3 seconds, and exhaling for 2 to 3 seconds. During mobility exercises like stretching and yoga longer inhales and exhales will allow you to reach deeper into each of the movements, such as 4 to 5 seconds each inhale and exhale.
All in all, breathing like this takes practice and skill during your workouts. To some it comes natural to others it takes a few tries. Work with your coach 1-on-1 in your classes and ask for help. Your gains will thank you!