Do you constantly feel out of breath during your workouts?
Have a shoulder impingement?
Slow gains in your resistance training or leave the gym exhausted?
This could all be caused by faulty breathing patterns during exercise.
I have already covered the key concepts of breathing in a previous article remembering to breathe in through the nose during our daily lives.
But it is also important to understand correct breathing mechanics while working out. So many of my clients look bemused when I explain to them how they are breathing wrong and when I correct them they feel stronger and totally agree that it all makes sense.
Respiration is the most important mechanism in the human body.
It literally supports life and has an affect on every other system.
So it baffles me that exercisers still commonly accept the myth that we should always exhale or breath out on exertion.
For example, everyone time we lift a weight we should exhale and inhale or breathe in when we lower the weight. I have lost count of the number of times a trainer has told their unknowing client ‘Always breathe out on the effort!’
Understanding basic physiology and the biomechanics of joints and bones during respiration will tell us that this is completely wrong.
It is a very simple concept to remember when thinking about the fetal position.
This is the position of the body of a prenatal fetus as it develops in the womb.
The back is curved, the head is bowed and the limbs are bent and drawn up to the torso. Many people assume this position when sleeping and especially when the body becomes cold.
So if you refer to the fetal position when exercising, we should exhale when the body goes into a fetal position with the spine flexed and inhale when the body comes out of the fetal position and spine extended.
You can understand how this makes logical sense if you curl up into a ball whilst breathing out and then stand tall whilst breathing in.
It should feel very natural and it does.
Going into the fetal position can be demonstrated when we perform an abdominal crunch, we inhale when we stretch back and exhale as we crunch.
If we are doing a bench press then we will inhale as we lower the bar and exhale as we push it away. Most people will naturally get this right.
But if we are performing a standing cable row with knuckles up we should be inhaling as we bring the cable towards us and exhaling as we lower the weight back down.
This breathing is the reverse of what most gym users are doing.
This also applies to the squat where we should breathe out as we lower ourselves down into the fetal position and breathe in as we stand up out of the fetal position.
Breathing through our diaphragm helps massage our internal organs and aids food to move along the intestines.
Incorrect breathing is usually responsible for constipation, as the diaphragm does not get used to perform this function.
Back pain can also be linked to poor breathing as the diaphragm attaches to the lower spine and helps decompress L4/L5, which is the most common place for a slipped or bulging disc!
Nutrition plays a pivotal role in breathing too.
If we eat C.R.A.P food (Carbonated drinks, Refined carbs, Additives and Preservatives) this sets off inflammation in the body and produces too much histamine, which will mean our blood vessels, constrict and makes us breathe deeper and harder.
Chronic dehydration rids our airways of moisture and mucus will build up to keep airways moist which again affects our respiration and can begin the onset of diseases such asthma, allergies and chronic bronchitis.
If you can relate to any of these ailments then there is a strong chance you have a faulty breathing pattern.
The good news is that this can be easily corrected.
Try sitting correctly and inhale through your nose whilst keeping your shoulders down. Inhale for 5 seconds initiating through the belly, hold the breath for 5 seconds and exhale for another 5 seconds.
You can also try alternating your breathing through your nostrils.
Pinch the left nostril and take a deep breath in and out through your right nostril and vice versa. Repeat up to 20 times through each nostril.
Finally, if you follow the guidelines below you may never need to see your Doctor again!
- Practise Qi Gong or Tai Chi.
- Drink 3 litres of water every day. Stay hydrated.
- Eat clean. Avoid food and drink that is carbonated, refined, with additives and preservatives.
- Add a pinch of grey salt (or Celtic sea salt) in water as salt is a natural antihistamine!
- Avoid overuse of abdominal crunches and pushing exercises.