When I was just starting out in the gym, my lifting buddy would always have to remind me to breathe. She’d joke about how red in the face I’d get as I was trying to improve my bench press. Thanks to her commentary, I realized that I wasn’t breathing effectively during my workouts and that I needed to practice! I’m sure many of you can relate. Breathing is such an unconscious action that we’re often unaware of how we breathe (or don’t breathe), especially when we’re focused on working out.
So what’s the big deal with breathing exercises? Why do we even have to practice it if our body does it automatically? There are several reasons to place high importance on breathing exercises.
Breathing improves endurance, recovery and overall strength. It allows us to eliminate carbon dioxide and inhale oxygen that is crucial for our survival. Breathing helps our posture as well and enables us to push harder in the gym, therefore allowing us to burn more calories and accomplish our fitness goals!
You’re clearly already breathing exercises. But let’s go over some important techniques or approaches to breathing so that the next time you get in the gym, you can maximize your workout from the lungs out!
Breathing Exercises To Do During a Workout
- Eccentric and concentric timing: When you’re just starting out in the gym, most experts recommend that you exhale when the exercise is the hardest (during the lifting phase) and inhale when the exercise is at its easiest point (when bringing the weight back to the starting point).
- Count or sing: If sticking to a technique is overwhelming for you, just count or sing! You can try counting your reps out loud to force the issue of breathing or sing along with your gym music. Who cares if people stare at you for making noise!
- Belly breathing: This is a much more effective way to breathe than chest breathing, which is short and tense. When you inhale through your nose, picture a balloon in your stomach being filled up with the air you’re breathing. Then envision the balloon deflating as you blow the air out, or exhale through your mouth. This type of deep, belly breathing helps reduce anxiety and stress, aids circulation and gives us a significant energy blast throughout the day! You can also practice this technique by lying on the floor with a book on your belly; as you exhale you should see the book descend with your belly, and as you inhale you should be lifting the book up along with your stomach.
- Nose or mouth?: Many studies support using your nose to breathe more than you use your mouth, because it’s a better way to receive oxygen. It improves your posture and regulates your breathing. Mouth breathers tend to have trouble keeping their breath in rhythm and can fatigue quicker.
Whatever breathing exercises you choose to use in the gym, don’t forget to breathe! Effective breathing will help you tackle your goals in the gym and beyond.