Better Breathing, Better Performance

Breathing is one of those things that you take for granted everyday. If you’re alive, you’re breathing, that’s a simple concept to understand.

However, when it comes to performance, postures, and pain; there’s a lot to be said about learning how to breathe properly to maximize power, and improve endurance. The more efficiently you learn to breathe, the greater amounts of oxygen can get to your muscle tissue; and the greater stability you can offer your core during lifting.

During inspiration, in order to bring in the greatest amount of oxygen, the belly should move outwards, versus the shoulders upwards. This movement will allow for the larger muscles of inspiration to work, as opposed to the smaller muscles of the neck; and result in greater air into your lungs. As the lungs fill with air, it increases intra-abdominal pressure that will serve to stabilize the spine. The greater oxygen intake will also allow for the ability to maintain a deeper, slower breathing pattern; in addition to bringing more needed oxygen to muscles during exercise.

When lifting weights, the proper breathing can serve some great benefits. Contraction of the intercostal muscles (between the ribs) also serve to stabilize the rib cage, making it more rigid. The stiffening of the rib cage enables it to oppose the tendency to collapse slightly under the influence of the negative pressure generated by the movement of the diaphragm. Intercostal muscle contraction also brings about stiffening of the rib cage during lifting, pushing, and pulling movements, which makes the intercostal muscles an important contributor to these movements.
Weightlifters will benefit from improved core stability, which may produce an improvement in maximal lift performances for lifts where trunk stiffness and stability contribute to the ability to overcome a load (ie. Press, squat, deadlift, clean, snatch, etc).

In addition to the improved cored stability, and it’s carry-over to more power; improvements in stability have also been shown to improve mobility, most notably of the hips and shoulders. Those improvements in stability/mobility may allow an athlete to reach more beneficial positions in their sport, as well as the possibility of reducing injury risk.

For endurance sports (running and cycling); proper breathing will may offer some additional benefits. Enhanced core stability will reduce spinal loading and knee stress, and will improve leg drive. Improvements of postural control can also be seen, and will have an overall positive benefit to the endurance athlete.

As you can see, working on better breathing technique can serve a great benefit in the athletic arena; just as much as when at rest. Try it. Test it. Feel free to email any questions to if you need some help.