Sometimes the most trivial simple things in life can add up as some of the biggest factors in our ultimate successes and failures. Proper breathing is one of those things. Without oxygen we would not survive more than a few minutes!
Think about that, our brain dies in about 10 minutes without oxygen. Yet for the most part we take breathing for granted. Proper breathing when you train specifically will give you enhanced bloodflow to your muscular system, greater strength, endurance and even enhanced flexibility.
We know oxygen is vital for life and breathing is a function of autonomic nervous system (therefore it occurs automatically). Since it is such an automatic function we tend to not put much thought into it. However, mastery of your breathing will not only transfer into better more effective workouts, the enhanced oxygen will help eliminate stress and improve energy levels. So how do we master this vital function? The answer is it depends. Every sport or activity is different so will the same breathing patterns work across the board?
Breathing for Strength Training:
A simple rule of thumb for strength training; inhale deeply as you lower the weight. Exhale fully as you lift. Repeat. One breath per rep, maintaining a tight core throughout. Obviously, there are a few exceptions to this rule, if you are doing extremely slow negatives or fast tempo movements you may find it difficult or impossible to time one breath per rep. As a general rule of thumb here you cannot go wrong.
For compounds movements such as squats, deadlifts, bench press and even some kettlebell work power breathing techniques can greatly boost performance. To initiate a power breath make sure to start from the diaphragm. Put as much air in your lungs as possible making sure to fill not only your chest but also your abdomen with oxygen.
This breath will be taken at the top of the movement in this case, before you initiate movement. Hold it in as you lower the weight. Explosively push the air out of your lungs as you drive the weight upward. To ensure you are actively forcing oxygen out of your lungs, purse your lips as you exhale. Once you master this breathing technique you should see a 20-30% increase in strength.
Breathing Exercises for Life:
Throughout your day whenever you need a boost start to focus on you breathing. Take six full slow deep breaths. Focus on the air filling your lungs and nothing else. It is almost impossible to keep a negative thought in your mind when you focus on your breathing! Remember, the small things always add up!