To Breathe or Not to Breathe ...

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To breathe or not to breathe during an exercise, that is the question. You’re probably thinking … of course you should breathe during an exercise and you are correct. However, did you know that most people breathe incorrectly when performing an exercise? Many times individuals breathe in when they should be breathing out and vice versa, or they also hold their breath. This is an important topic of discussion and within this blog article we will be discussing why breathing correctly is important, as well as give you examples of when you should be breathing in versus out.

When taking a breath in, the body moves into what we call axial extension meaning that the body is expanding. You can feel this by closing your eyes and taking a deep breath in, feel how your chest inflates and the spine gets taller. Now, let the air out and feel your chest collapse and your spine begin to round, this is called axial flexion. This is how the breath moves in our bodies naturally and it is this movement that needs to be replicated when performing an exercise. There are exceptions to the rule and we will touch upon those later in this article.

Let’s take a body row, for example. When performing this exercise you hold cables in both hands, you pull with your arms by bending your elbows and squeeze the shoulder blades. The proper breathing sequence for this exercise is to breathe in as you pull the weight back and breathe out as the weight moves back to the start position. If you are not sure why look at the movement in a mirror. As you pull the cables back your chest is expanding. Therefore you should take a breath in and when you move back to the start position your chest is collapsing therefore you should be exhaling. Let’s take a lat pull down as our next example. When do you think you should be breathing in verses breathing out … if you said breathe in as you pull down (chest expanding) and breath out as you move to the start position- arms over head (chest collapsing) then you are correct.

Performing proper breathing is vital to having a safe workout and what I mean by this specifically is that your body systems are programmed and have set ways of doing things naturally hence what naturally happens when you breathe in and out. When you hold your breath or breathe improperly during an exercise neurologically as well as muscularly you begin to work against the body and this is how muscle spasms and injury can happen, not to mention breath is healing and helps to move stagnant energy.

Now, there are exceptions to the rule and these are for when you are performing difficult movements such as lifting heavy weight in a dead lift or performing power exercises such as weighted wood chops. When performing such exercises there is a point of the movement that we call the “sticking point”—where there is a greater load placed on the body and in certain situations you want to breathe out at the sticking point regardless of axial extension or flexion.


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