Proper Breathing Revs Up Workouts

When you’re in the middle of an intense sweat session, you generally aren’t spending a whole lot of time paying attention to how you breathe — you’re just getting it done, anyway you can to survive.

But exactly how and when you inhale and exhale does impact how efficiently you take in oxygen, and impacts your endurance as you push yourself further toward your goals, whether you’re strength or cardio training. Shallow or erratic breathing can lead to lightheadedness or other problems that will cut your progress short.

You can optimize the inflow of oxygen, outflow of carbon dioxide and everything else that happens during respiration through diaphragmatic breathing, which draws from this muscle at the bottom of your lungs rather than the upper chest.

Doing this will completely fill your lungs and help you brace your core, as the diaphragm is one of the muscles that make up this central powerhouse.

Strength training

The recommended breathing technique here is probably better known and more widely followed. Exhaling when you lift a weight (including bodyweight) and inhaling as you lower it reduces the risk of such internal effects as raised blood pressure, hernia and blood vessel strain during exertion and gives you more power so you can lift more weight with less effort and gain strength that much faster.

Pursing your lips while you exhale drains the oxygen more slowly so you can benefit from it as long as you can.

Cardio exercise

Theories on the optimal breathing pattern for running and other aerobic exercises vary, but inhaling and exhaling as deeply and evenly as possible is always a sure bet. This brings in more nitric oxide to expand your blood vessels and increase blood flow into your heart, powering you as you jump or stride ahead.

The right interval varies between people, but once you find the rate that works for you — for instance, three foot strokes while running or two complete pedals while cycling — you’ll be surprised how much of a difference it can make to your performance.