Proper breathing


To breathe or not to breathe, to breathe in or to breathe out, how long should the inhale be and how short should the exhale be?


Many beginners in fitness (and even already quite experienced “fitnessists”) ask this question. At school, in physical education classes, we were taught one thing, now in the fitness club we learn completely different things … How is it right after all?

Breathing is such a natural process for us that most often we do not even notice how we breathe. But as soon as the oxygen is cut off, life slows down. Breathing plays an equally important role during training: after all, if you learn to control your breathing, you can significantly ease the load on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems and increase the effectiveness of the training process.

It turns out that breathing depends on what exercise we perform.

Flexibility exercises

These are exercises that, as a rule, trainees include in the warm-up — tilts, turns, rotation of the body, swing, circular movements of the arms and legs. In these exercises, inhalation is done in positions that promote the expansion of the chest, and exhalation is done when it contracts. For example, when bending forward, touching the floor with your hands, inhale should be done in a position where the torso is straightened, arms are lowered and slightly laid back. It has been experimentally proven that it is this posture that contributes to the filling of the lungs with air to the greatest extent. And exhalation must be done by leaning forward: the chest and abdominal organs are compressed at this moment, which helps to more fully expel air.

Strength exercises

In these exercises, everything depends on muscle tension — it is recommended to exhale at the moment of the greatest muscle effort, and inhale at the moment of the least. That is, if you lift your legs up from a supine position, then inhale while raising your legs, and exhale while lowering them down, when the tension of the abdominal muscles is greater. When pushing up from the floor in a prone position, inhale while bending your arms, and exhale while straightening.

The main rule in this case is not to hold your breath! Holding your breath — especially during the most intense stage of the exercise (for example, traction, bench press, etc.) can cause a short-term loss of consciousness due to oxygen starvation of the brain. In addition, due to holding your breath, blood pressure can increase significantly. So breathe freely!

Cyclic exercises

During these exercises (walking, running, cycling, swimming, etc.) it is especially important to breathe correctly, because the body’s need for oxygen increases several times.

When running, first of all, the rhythm and frequency of breathing coordinated with the movements of the body are needed. Random, with pauses or, on the contrary, too frequent breathing disrupts the rhythm of running, complicates coordination and does not provide sufficient ventilation of the lungs. For example, when running slowly, for each inhalation and exhalation, there are 3-4 steps, and when moving at an average speed, for each inhalation and exhalation, 1-2 steps.

A completely different character of breathing during fast running for short distances. Here the need for oxygen is so great that the most perfect breathing cannot satisfy it. In this case, the body, as physiologists say, «works in debt.»

In swimming, breathing is dictated by style. If you are breaststroke, you can only inhale when you raise your head above the water; if crawl — then at the end of the stroke, when the face is turned to the side and the mouth is above the water. In other phases of swimming, you can only exhale air into the water.

Performing cyclic movements, try to breathe evenly and deeply, focusing on exhalation. The fuller the exhalation, the deeper the inhalation will be and the better the ventilation of the lungs. However, everything needs a sense of proportion. Excessively deep breathing can backfire.

Studies have shown that with a moderate load it is advisable to breathe so that the tidal volume is 25-40% of the vital capacity of the lungs, and with a heavy load — 40-70%. Of course, it is impossible to independently determine the tidal volume with an accuracy of one percent, but it is possible to get closer to the required indicators if desired and perseverance. The range of motion of the chest will serve as a reference point. Take the fullest breath in and the same exhalation and see how much your chest has expanded. With a moderate load, it is advisable to breathe so that it expands by one third of the maximum, and with a heavy load — by two thirds.

Also, when exercising, try to breathe through your nose. This condition is especially important if training takes place on the street. Outside air, passing through the nasal passages, is heated, cleaned of dust and microorganisms. When we breathe through the mouth, air immediately enters the nasopharynx, dust and microbes partially settle on the tonsils, and partially penetrate the trachea and bronchi. Pollution and hypothermia of the respiratory tract often cause colds and infectious diseases.


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