Women in labor know full well the importance of breathing. Deliberate breath control is a natural (vs. medicinal) key to managing pain. Those studying the Martial Arts know it too. Actors, singers, dancers must all incorporate breathing into their art. But the importance of breathing to successful fitness improvement is often overlooked.
Let’s start with the clinical basics. When you breathe in, you deliver oxygen to your muscles; when you breathe out you remove carbon dioxide from your system. (Carbon dioxide is the waste gas that is produced when carbon is combined with oxygen as part of the body’s energy-making processes.)
Most runners or cardio-enthusiasts understand the importance of proper breathing to achieve endurance for the length of their run/cardio. It’s kind of automatic. But proper breathing for those performing resistance training (weight lifting) does not happen automatically within the body, and many times the breath is even held during exercise.
The fact is that successful resistance training must include the proper oxygen delivery and removal of carbon dioxide to the muscles. Not only is this crucial to allow energy to continue throughout your entire workout, but the specific focus of your breathing will allow you to lift more weight, more often, and therefore, burn more calories and exhaust the muscle. Exhausting the muscle is the first step to rebuilding it (through proper nutrition and rest), thereby creating more lean muscle tissue which eats fat.
When you hold your breath you increase tension throughout your entire body. For proper muscle training, you need to isolate the tension to within only the muscle(s) you are seeking to work. In other words, if your back and arms are tightened (tense) while performing a chest press, your chest is sharing the weight load and therefore not benefitting form the targeted exercise.
So here’s a quick guideline I instruct all my new clients to memorize: when lifting, pushing or pulling (the exertion) breath OUT. So if you are performing a biceps curl, take a breath in before you start, then exhale on the exertion (the lifting of the weight) and breath IN again as you lower the weight to starting position. If you are performing a leg press, take a breath in before you start, then exhale on the exertion (the pushing of the weight) and breath IN again as you lower the weight to starting position.
It’s a simple thing but it can make a huge difference in your abilities to achieve your fitness goals.