Happy Thursday to you,
I hope all is well and you are happy and healthy.
This week I’ve been adding the finishing touches to my 21 workout finishers program which I’m hoping to launch next week.
If you purchased the previous version of my finisher workouts or my complete workout package then you’ll be receiving the latest version as soon as it is ready, free of charge 🙂
I’ll also be offering the program at a substantial discount, for the first 48 hours, to all my newsletter subscribers, so look out for that email if you are interested.
Right, let’s look at getting your breathing right when you exercise…
Breathing during exercise
Do you think about your breathing during exercise? Are you sometimes confused about when you should be breathing in or breathing out?
Knowing when to breathe in, hold your breath or breathe out can have a big impact on both your natural movements and also your performance.
First let’s look at the impact the breath has on the body:
- Breathing IN – excites the extensor muscles of the body
- Breathing OUT – excites the flexor muscles of the body
When you breathe in your postural muscles activate and help stand you upright.
You may have noticed that when you take a deep breath IN you stand tall and actually grow a little in height.
The opposite is true when you breathe OUT, your flexor muscles activate and you are pulled down and towards your centre.
You can try a little experiment by standing with your back against a wall and notice how you grow taller on your IN breath and shorter on your OUT breath.
How does this relate to exercise?
When you are performing an exercise you need to move inline with your breathing.
Take the squat for example:
As you drop down into the squat you should breathe OUT as you are moving towards your centre and into flexion and then breathe IN as you stand and return back to extension.
This make total sense because you can feel the air being squeezed out of you on the way down and you want to open up and allow air in as you stand.
However, everything changes when you add load.
Performing the above breathing works beautifully for bodyweight squats but as soon as you add some heavy loads everything changes.
When you are using heavy loads your spine requires additional support to prevent it from becoming injured.
Enter the diaphragm…
The diaphragm along with your pelvic floor and transverse abdominis (TVA) muscles combine together to form a pressure cylinder that protects your spine.
But as the diaphragm is a breathing muscle and stabilising muscle it cannot do both jobs and so sacrifices breathing for a split second or two.
This is the reason why during heavy lifts the breath is held for a split second and then pushed out through tight lips in a long consistent breath.
So how should you breathe during exercise?
If the load is light and manageable then you should work with your body’s natural flow and breathe IN as you extend and OUT as you flex.
For example with little or no load:
- Row – IN as you pull towards yourself and OUT as you lower
- Push Up – IN as you lower and OUT as you push
- Swing – OUT as you lower and IN as you extend
- Squat – OUT as you lower and IN as you stand
If you naturally feel the need to hold your breath due to the excess weight then you should reverse the breathing of certain exercises.
For example with heavy load:
- Swing – IN at top, HOLD as you lower and OUT through tight lips as you stand
- Squat – IN at top, HOLD as you lower and OUT through tight lips as you stand
Basically the breath HOLD creates the compression chamber that supports your spine and the breathing out through tight lips allows you to empty the chamber without losing the support too quickly.
The more muscles the exercise uses the more oxygen required to fuel the movement and the more it will affect your cardio.
Add in restricted breathing patterns under heavy load and you can see why heavy squats or deadlifts can be quite a cardio workout.
Please be careful when using these breathing patterns.
Poor breathing can leave your spine unprotected so always practice with little or no load first.
Here’s a drill to help focus your breathing:
- Bodyweight Breathing Squats – 10
- Two handed Swing – 10 x 10 (rest for only 5 – 8 breaths)
Begin with the bodyweight breathing squats perform 10 repetitions, OUT on the way down and IN on the way up.
Only move as fast as your breathing will allow.
Next perform 10 sets of 10 two handed swings using the breath hold technique, IN at the top, HOLD as you lower and OUT as you swing back up through tight lips.
Rest between sets for 5 – 8 breaths only. Stop if you start to lose form.
Lots to think about during this workout 🙂
This week question:
Q. “Greg, you often use forward and reverse lunges, which one should I start with and how should I hold the kettlebell?”
A. All beginners should start with the reverse lunge. The reverse lunge limits the drift of the front knee and helps you master the movement.
The forward lunge is a more complicated movement and beginners can often have problems negotiating the forward travel with the downward phase.
The easiest way to hold the kettlebell at first is with both hands in front of the chest.
Practice 10 repetitions on each side and work up to 3 sets over the course of a few weeks. You can then start holding the kettlebell with one hand in the racked position against the chest.
That’s all for today.
Take care of yourself and each other,
P.S. Don’t want to design your own workouts, see my latest programs here