The Best Breathing Techniques for a Variety of Workouts


You'd think that breathing would be something that comes naturally to most people, but you'd be surprised by how many people breathe totally wrong! That's right, we're talking about the way you breathe when you work out.

Your breathing techniques can make or break your workout. If you don't breathe properly when running, you will end up winded and exhausted just a few minutes into the run. If you don't breathe correctly when lifting weights, you could end up with a hernia or another serious injury. No wonder it's so important to breathe right!

Here are the right breathing techniques to use for your workouts:

Yoga Breathing Techniques

When doing Yoga, your goal is to match the length of your inhale to your exhale. This is called sama vritti (equal breathing).

Inhale to a count of three, hold for a second, exhale to a count of three, and wait a second before inhaling again. Focus on counting, and it will help you to stay in the moment and in that pose. Maintain the proper posture, and you'll find it's much easier to breathe when in all those twisted poses.

Breathing this way will lower your blood pressure, calm your nervous system, fight stress and help you to maintain the balancing and twisting poses.

Never hold your breath while in those tough poses! If you do, you're straining too hard and you should take a break to catch your breath.

Sports Breathing Techniques

Your goal should be to inhale from the diaphragm, and use your core muscles to brace your spine against the impact of a football tackle or hockey check. The diaphragm and core muscles will not only help to protect your spine from injury, but will make you harder to knock over.

Breathing while running is much harder (see below), but when you are preparing to take a hit, fill your diaphragm with air rather than your chest. Your rib cage should expand in all directions, and tighten the muscles of your core before being tackled.

When playing, focus on deep, calming breaths. It will reduce fatigue and keep your mind focused on the game.

Running Breathing Techniques

There is no single "correct" way to breathe when running, but what matters is that you find your rhythm
  • Many runners take a breath for every two steps, and this helps to set a 2:2 rhythm for breath.
  • Others prefer a 3:3 rhythm -- three foot strikes per inhale, and three more per exhale. For slower running/jogging, this can be a very good pattern for those with larger lungs.
  • Some opt for a 3:2 rhythm -- three foot strikes per inhale, and two per exhale. This is supposed to prevent your liver from being strained as you run.
It's vital that you settle into a rhythm while you run, as this will help to reduce the pressure on your diaphragm and organs.

Nose vs. Mouth

Many trainers will tell you to breath in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. This helps to increase carbon dioxide saturation in your blood, which will calm you down and keep your energy levels up. It can also prevent you from inhaling cold air during the winter, as well as reduce allergen inhalation.

However, if you feel more comfortable breathing through your mouth, do so. Just make sure to keep up with the rhythm!

Strength Training Breathing Techniques

Many newbie weightlifters make the mistake of holding their breath as they push or pull, and that can lead to serious injury. Thankfully, it's easy to learn how to breathe:

Inhale on the eccentric portion of your exercise (lowering the bar during a bench press, extending your arms after a curl, dropping into your squat).

Exhale on the concentric portion of your exercise (pushing the bar during a bench press, curling the weights, and pushing back up from the squat).

Make sure to keep your core muscles engaged, and keep your breathing rhythm consistent as you work out. If you need a bit of stability, hold your breath for one rep, but no more! Holding it for too long raises your blood pressure and can increase your risk of hernias.