Breathing Techniques That Boost Strength Training

You take between 17,000 and 23,000 breaths a day and have been every day since the moment of your birth. By now you’d expect yourself to be a pro at this whole breathing thing, but most people have failed to utilize the breath to its full potential. In fact, you may not even notice your breath as you eat, walk to work, or read this article. The only time you may be aware of the breath is when you finish a hill sprint or cross the finish line of a 10K. The other 99% of the time we’re unconsciously breathing as our respiratory system works to keep us alive.

Harnessing the power of the breath and using it in physical activity can actually improve physical athletic performance through gains in strength and endurance. There is a proper way to breathe during every physical activity from cardio to yoga, and strength training is no exception. Give your entire body a boost and see the results in your energy and intensity levels when you make an effort to control the breath.

Prepare yourself

Man doing bench press

Man doing bench press | iStock.com

The warm up before you dive into the day’s workout is the perfect time to focus on the breath. Breathing has the ability to impact athletic performance, so while you stretch or take a few moments to prepare yourself for the workout ahead practice long inhales and exhales. Deep breathing has been shown to increase activity in the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms your demeanor and tranquilizes the fight-or-flight response. Once you’ve gained control of your breath and you are breathing long, deep inhales and exhales, put one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. You can feel your body inhale the air in. Hold for a moment before releasing. The key is to make sure that your abdominals rise before your chest to find that deep, full breath.

Heavy strength training

The golden rule of strength training is to breathe out as you lift the weight. To do this properly, take a long inhale and begin breathing out right as you pick up the weight. Draw out the exhale as long and as controlled as you’re able while performing the rep. As you lower the weight back down, breathe in through your nose. Try to avoid breathing through your mouth which often results in shallow, quick breaths. Instead, take slower, longer, and deeper inhales and exhales through your nose. When done properly, you can actually use the breath to power your muscles to do more.

To create stability

Man performs barbell squats

Man performs barbell squats | iStock.com

For advanced lifters or those trying to create stability, you can use the Valsalva Maneuver or bracing to perform strength training exercises with more strength and avoid feelings of unsteadiness. You can use your breath to get you there by inhaling before performing big movements. This is called bracing. As you inhale brace your abdominals before performing the movement. Hold the air inside the lungs as you complete the rep. This simple breathing adjustment is called the Valsalva Maneuver, and it has a noticeable impact on your strength goals, allowing you to lift more weight and burn more calories during your workouts.

Post-workout recovery

gym workout

Gym memberships can break your budget | iStock.com

After a workout, you may typically jump up to complete the next item on your to-do list. One of the most difficult things to do in life is to truly relax and surrender your body. Diaphragmatic breathing after a workout balances your nervous system and your hormones, while allowing your body to release and relax. Lie on your stomach, and rest your forehead on the back of your hands. Breathe into each segment of the spine starting with three to five breaths into the chest and upper rib cage, then the middle of the back, and finally into the lower back. Every time you inhale, lift the torso off the ground. With every exhale, feel your stomach pull away form the ground. Try to bring your attention and awareness to your breath, allowing your body to go into a state of deep relaxation.

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