That’s right, as much as you probably think that the activity you do daily can’t be done wrong, when it comes to exercise, there is actually a fine line between maintaining a proper breathing routine and breathing too little or too much. On our first Workout Wednesday, we’re going to take a look at some different ways improper breathing can make workouts less effective and how to avoid creating a bad habit of it.
We’ve all been there. Sitting under a weight that’s just a little too much for us at the current time either due to fatigue or lack of proper preparation. As we push out we hold our breath in hopes that it will magically increase our strength like a mommy lifting a bus to save their child. However, when your life isn’t in danger, and honestly any time you lift a weight, this is absolutely wrong.
Workouts require many things to be effective but the most important, especially when using weights or running, are calories, water, and oxygen. Your muscles need all of these to operate effectively and when not utilized correctly, can often hurt them instead. Imagine the upper body as a balloon and as you push your oxygen in and out, it actually puffs you up and releases it naturally. Now imagine you’re putting lots of air into the balloon at once and holding it there while applying pressure on it. It’ll pop! The same thing goes with your body as when you put pressure on your arms and then on your lungs by trying to hold in air like Superman, both will give out eventually. Improper breathing can often lead to blood vessel strains, hernias, and even high blood pressure. That’s the opposite of what we want!
So how do you optimize breathing so you don’t pop under the pressure? As military.com states in a very entertaining article on the subject “ALWAYS exhale on exertion.” To put it simply, at the actual lifting part, breathe out and when resetting to the neutral position, breathe in. This may seem a little difficult if you’re used to breathing improperly but once learned, will greatly benefit your workouts. Here’s a few tips to help during weighted workouts that can also be applied to many others.
- During the workout, try slowing down your reps to match your breathing. As you exhale out, reach the end of the exertion and try to time it so you hit the end of your breath at the same point. As you inhale, try to return back to the resting position right as it ends. This not only increases the length of the exercise (which makes for better workouts) but also increases the attention given to breathing correctly.
- Try to keep track of the 3:2 rule. This is where you breaths out for three seconds, then breathe in for two seconds. This will eventually make your reps line up with the breathing and you’ll be surprised with the results!
- Become a mouth breather! As long as you have some gum on hand, try breathing through your mouth during workouts. It’s far more audible than your nose and can typically help you keep track of whether or not you’ve breathed in or out recently.
Ab Workouts follow the same basic principle as weighted workouts however there is something more that we’re looking to focus on to make these effective. You still want to breathe out when doing the crunch but also want to make sure that you suck in your stomach which may sound unnatural but, it’s necessary. The reasoning is when we breathe out naturally, especially if you’ve been in theater, we tend to breathe out by letting our stomachs bulge a bit. It’s a way of relaxing all the muscles in our body BUT we’re not trying to do that during a crunch! So when we crunch, we want to focus on either keeping the muscles not only tightened but resistant to the natural push of our bodies wanting to relax during an exhale. While a bit more advanced of a step, this helps avoid the dreaded “bloated ab” look. While this doesn’t apply to everyone, often the reason even after dieting, daily workouts, and 30 minutes of abs is from not sucking in while breathing out.
The only major tip I can give on this one would be to focus on your workout and make sure that you feel a pull in the proper muscle groups that these are meant to focus on. If you get up from an ab workout and don’t have a hit, you probably didn’t perform the workout right and it’s time to reconsider how you’re approaching them. Instead, slow down the reps within reason and see if you can’t feel your abs contracting the way you would like them to and optimize your ab workout.
In closing, when it comes to weighted, cardio, Or ab focused workouts, proper breathing is essential to truly bring out the best you. While taking shortcuts may seem easier, putting in the effort with these steps will eventually give you exactly what you’re going for with higher weight loss, less muscle strain, and even more muscle tone in the end.
That’s all for today and until next time, think healthy, be healthy!