By Kyle Finneron
What do you think is the most important variable when you are training? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not your pre-workout drink, or the food you have had for that day. People tend to forget that the most important ingredient to your training success is oxygen. If you don’t believe me then try holding your breath and see how it affects your performance.
Since it happens subconsciously, people tend to forget that our breath is really what gives us life. There are a number of breathing techniques that can help improve performance and relaxation after exercise.
Many people take shallow breaths, only pulling oxygen into the top section of the lungs. To practice taking fuller, deeper breaths follow these excersizes.
The belly breath
Place on hand on your belly button, begin your breath by pushing your abdomen out against your hand, this will initiate your breath and will pull the oxygen deeper into your lungs, continue inhaling though the nose. Then, contract your abdomen and exhale though your nose, try to pull your belly button to your spine. Repeat this pattern with a two-count inhale, one-count exhale tempo.
Once you have completed a few belly breaths and are used to breathing deeper, next practice taking a full breath.
The full breath
Start with a belly breath. After you feel like you can’t draw any more air in with your belly, draw more air in with your diaphragm. The final little inhale will be with your chest which should rise to make room. Remember the whole breath should be drawn in through the nose. Finally reverse the order and exhale, from the chest, then the diaphragm, then finally the belly.
Use these breaths during training when you can, for example in between sets or when you’re changing weights. These deep breathes can also be very helpful to help you relax and de-stress. A great tempo when looking to relax is a 5-5-5-5 tempo or a box breath. This will involve a five-count inhale, a five-count hold of the breath, a five-count exhale and a five-count hold with all the air expelled.
The Valsalva maneuver
The final breathing maneuver is called the Valsalva maneuver. It has been believed to be the best breathing pattern when completing powerlifting (squat, deadlift, and bench press) and Olympic (clean and jerk and snatch) lifts. The Valsalva maneuver increases one’s ability to create internal abdominal pressure and stabilize your trunk. To perform this maneuver you will take a deep breath, about 75 percent of your full breath, and hold it. You will press your breath against a closed glottis. Think of trying to hold your breath in while trying to exhale or when you try and pop your ears in an airplane.
This maneuver is effective, if used correctly, for a short burst, for example, if you’re going after a one-rep max.
Trainers note: This move should NOT be used if you are performing moderate intensity exercises. The increased abdominal pressure can cause a spike in blood pressure and possibly even burst blood vessels in your eyes or forehead. It has happened to me before I knew any better and let me tell you it’s not fun!
Any time you are exercising and not attempting a one-rep max, or exerting everything you have into a single lift, just breath normally. Forgetting to breath happens to experience gym-goers just as it happens to beginners.