We hear it all the time in dance classes and rehearsals, “Don’t hold your breath!” But rarely do we hear about, or learn, how to breathe when lifting weights.
At first, breathing while you lift seems simple enough. After all, you just breath while you workout just as you would any other workout. But as the lifts become heavier and more advanced, you might find yourself wanting to take a closer look at how you’re breathing when lifting weights.
Learning how to breathe when lifting weights properly is surprisingly important.
Not only does breathing supply your muscles with the oxygen needed to produce energy and increase performance, but proper breathing helps to stabilize your core. This activates the muscles needed to lift heavier loads and increases your intra-abdominal pressure which braces the core and protects the spine from injury.
Experts say the best way to breathe when lifting weights is to breath out as you lift the weight and breathe in as you lower the weight. And whatever you do, don’t hold your breath!
This will ensure that you are actively bracing your core as you lift the weight.
Now, this is easy enough to figure out when you’re doing bicep curls, or overhead presses. But what about squats and dead lifts?
So, another way to talk about this coordination is to think of it as inhaling during the eccentric portion of the lift and exhale on the concentric portion.
With this in mind, and using a squat as an example, you would inhale as you lower down into your squat, and exhale as you lift the weight up to standing.
This type of breath coordination takes practice. But the best way to improve is to practice, of course!
Now, let’s talk about breathing while bracing your core.
As I mentioned earlier, learning how to breathe while lifting weights helps to brace your core and, as as result, helps to protect your spine from injury as you lift heavier.
One of the best ways to help you brace your core while you breathing is learning how to utilize what’s called “diaphragmatic breathing.”
Diaphragmatic breathing is a technique for increasing the oxygen needed during times of stress. Studies have even shown that diaphragmatic breath has potential to improve cognitive performance and reduce the negative physiological effects of stress.
To practice diaphragmatic breathing, lay on your back. Breathing in this position for a few moments, you should notice that your tummy will gently rise and fall.
This happens because your diaphragm contracts when inhaling to pull the lungs down and make room for more air. As a result, the stomach expands to make room for the, now, lower diaphragm.
While you are practicing diaphragmatic breathing on your back, place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
As you inhale through the nose and exhale through your mouth, you should notice that the hand on your chest stays relatively still while the one on your tummy is rising up and down.
Once you’ve spent some time noticing how this works for your body, take a moment and emphasize the exhale, using your core muscles to help press the air out.
As you do this, you should notice that the exhale does in fact help you to brace your core.
The next step…
Practice this type of breathing often enough that you can begin to marry it to your lifting technique.
One of the easiest places to start is adding this breath to you core workouts.
Then, start adding this technique into exercises like chest presses, overhead presses, and lat pull downs.
Finally, add this type of breathing into your more challenging lifts like squats, deadlifts, and lunges.
Once you’ve mastered this type of breath, it won’t be long before you feel the effects!
The fact is, learning how to breath while lifting weights can completely change your energy levels during your workouts. and help you go from plateau to personal best!
So, give this a try and let us know what you think!
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