how to breathe while training?

“Breathe!” Personal trainers and their peers like to remind you of this, as if you don’t know how. You’ve been inhaling and exhaling all your life. But during a workout, you might not be getting it right. Whether you’re running, walking or doing squats, learn the best techniques to get the smoothest performance out of your activity.

Working out can be tough and tiring. Of course, challenging yourself a little more each time you exercise is necessary if you’re trying to reach a specific fitness goal. But don’t forget about the other, smaller tweaks that can improve your workout performance and, by extension, your results. One of those small things that can make a big difference is paying attention to your breathing.

During a workout, your focus is most likely on completing the exercise at hand with good form. And while that’s the meat of it, there’s another part of the equation that often gets critically overlooked — proper breathing.

Paying attention to your breathing during strength training can really work for you.

It allows your body more control, keeping you calm and alert throughout your workout so you can actively engage all your muscles. It might even give you the ability to lift more.

And in the long term, practicing proper breathing will:

  • reduce the amount of air you need to breathe in and out during given exercise
  • help your muscles produce less carbon dioxide
  • improve blood circulation and heart health
  • maximize your workout and fitness level


Assuming you are at sea level, the air that you breathe in is approximately 21 percent oxygen and 78 percent nitrogen. Once this air enters your mouth, it passes through the larynx (the organ commonly known as the “voice box”), then the vocal cords, then the trachea (the windpipe), then the right and left main bronchus (passageways that bring air to the lungs), then the bronchiole (smaller branches of the bronchi) and then to the alveoli, which are tiny air sacs in your lungs that separate the air into oxygen and carbon dioxide. The newly separated oxygen is then pumped to the heart, brain, and other muscles through the body, and the carbon dioxide is expelled through the mouth or nose.

Proper breathing can help you lift heavier; it can give you more muscular endurance in weight lifting and cardio-centric activities like running, swimming, and biking; and it can help you recover more quickly during high-intensity activities and sports like basketball and soccer, he says.

Your diaphragm is a muscle located between your thoracic cavity (chest) and abdominal cavity, and it should be the main workhorse that powers your breathing, whether you’re exercising or not. Yet many of us don’t fully engage this muscle when breathing, and instead take shorter, more shallow breaths that begin and end in the chest. Breathing in this shallow way, you won’t be able to deliver as much oxygenated air to your lungs. This increases your heart rate and blood pressure, which can ultimately increase feelings of anxiety and stress, and even make you feel short of breath.

Diaphragmatic breathing, on the other hand, is your best bet for efficient, effective breathing. This specific type of breathing, which engages the diaphragm muscle with every breath, involves slowly breathing in through the nose or mouth (preferably the nose), filling up your abdominal area (versus your chest) with air, and then slowly exhaling as the stomach collapses. When exercising, diaphragmatic breathing can help ensure core activation and that you’re breathing deeply enough to deliver enough oxygen to the muscles, which prevents them from fatiguing earlier.

How to breathe while running?

Many experts will say that to fully oxygenate the muscles and clear the body of carbon dioxide you should breathe a 3:2 inhale-to-exhale ratio; full inhales and full exhales. This means you INHALE on the LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT foot strikes and EXHALE fully on the RIGHT, LEFT foot strikes. This pattern is not that hard to turn into a habit, but it may require you to slow your pace down for a few runs to master the technique. You will notice a lower heart rate as you are able to get more oxygen in and more importantly push all the carbon dioxide out of your body. You may notice that you naturally drop to a 2:1 ratio when you are really pushing it to the finish. That is OK. But realize it is difficult to maintain a pace that requires you to breathe at a 2:1 ratio. The CO2 in your body will increase if your breathing patterns are short and hurried. This will increase your heart rate and lactic acid production, and decrease your endurance in any cardiovascular event (running, swimming, biking, etc.)

many runners find it most comfortable to take one breath for every two foot strikes, says Alison McConnell, a breathing expert and author of Breathe Strong Perform Better. This means taking two steps (one left, one right) while breathing in and two steps while breathing out—also known as the 2:2 rhythm. Because the diaphragm and surrounding organs are all subject to the forces of gravity, McConnell says, synchronizing the breath to running cadence will keep the organs from putting unnecessary pressure on the diaphragm, which can impede breathing (and make running more uncomfortable than it needs to be) and My advice is to breathe via the mouth during exercise, as this is the route of least resistance.

On the flip side, some experts say that nose breathing has its own benefits, including increased CO2 saturation in the blood, which creates a more calming effect, says Roy Sugarman, Ph.D., director of applied neuroscience for Athletes’ Performance and the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team. Breathing in through the nose can also help warm the air entering the lungs (cold weather workouts, we’re looking at you!) and might minimize allergen intake, says professional triathlete and Ironwoman Terra Castro. Bottom line: Test the airways, and see what feels right for you and your lungs.


How to breathe while doing core?

During core and abdominal exercises, it’s common to stop breathing as you crunch your body in half or pull your belly in tight. But keep breathing to help stabilize your torso. Breathing allows the muscles on the front — such as the rectus abdominis and obliques — to do their job easily and maintain this balancing position longer. In other words, it makes your plank more effective.

The next time you’re called to do a plank or any static core exercise, try this advice from yoga expert Ann Green:

As you exhale, draw the breath out as the rib cage contracts generously back to the midline — the deep core. Keep a four count “in” and a four count “out,” and really pay attention to the tissues, especially along the midline, coming back to deep core with your exhale.

Also, focus on relaxing the pelvic floor as you inhale, Green says, which will strengthen it — a wonderful health benefit as you age.

Every inhale and exhale changes the volume of the lungs, which changes the position of the thoracic spine, the ribs, the pelvis, the shoulders, and the inter-abdominal pressure. For that reason, the way you breathe can impact how hard or easy it is to get through a workout.


How to breathe while doing yoga?

long inhales and exhales will typically be best, That’s because longer, deeper breaths can help you better access your range of motion. If you’re not breathing, your body will lock up tension, so an elongated breathing pattern can do just the opposite: release tension and help you better move through your full range of motion. That’s key when you’re trying to move deeper into a stretch or pose.

For mobility movements, it’s best to aim for inhales and exhales of 4 to 5 seconds each—or even longer if possible, says Somerset.

sama vritti, or equal breathing.match an equal-length inhale to an equal-length exhale. This fundamental style of breath is said to calm the nervous system, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress, says yoga instructor and Greatist Expert Rebecca Pacheco. To power through more rigorous types of yoga, such as ashtanga, vinyasa, and power yoga, many yogis rely on ujjayi breath, (a.k.a. “victorious breath”). Simply breathe in and out through the nose, maintaining a slight contraction in the back of the throat. If you sound a bit like Darth Vader, you’re doing it right, Pacheco insists.

When it’s time for warrior IIIs, wheelbarrows, and other hard poses, it’s common to hold your breath. Take that as a sign of overexertion. Instead, take a break to refocus, breathe, and then hop back into the pose whenever you’re ready.

There is such a thing as strength training for the respiratory muscles, which has been shown to improve performance in endurance and high-intensity sports.


How to breathe while doing weight lifting?

Proper breathing during exercises where you exert yourself – such as lifting, pushing, or pulling – is much easier to remember and control than the 3:2 ratio during running long distance. To put it simply: always exhale on exertion. For example, when you are pushing a bench press off your chest, you exhale on the push and inhale as you bring it slowly to your chest. When you are doing a pullup, you exhale on the pulling up motion and inhale on the way down. Breathing during exertion is important in preventing internal injury such as hernia, blood vessel strain, and high blood pressure. Because weight lifting and PT can be potentially harmful when done incorrectly, it is advised to get clearance from a doctor before performing too much – too soon. To decrease that pressure, focus on breathing deep all the time – during workouts and in your daily activities.

It’s crucial to breathe properly when strength training. Not only does proper breathing support the exertion of the exercise and allow you to lift more with better control, but not breathing can lead to hernias.

Luckily, there’s a simple technique. Let’s use a bicep curl as an example. Exhale as you raise the weights to curl, then inhale as you’re lowering. For a push-up, inhale as you lower to the floor, and exhale when you press yourself up.

Staying in tune with this breathing can even help ensure you’re not lifting weight that’s too heavy for you. “If you find yourself grunting or pausing in breath, it might be an indication that you’ve jumped too high in weight,” says Katy Bowman, a biomechanist and author of Dynamic Aging. “Lower the amount you’re lifting until you can execute the move while breathing smoothly.”

Aside from the gas exchange element of getting more oxygen into your body, breathing can help create core pressure that stabilizes your spine, which helps you lift heavier.


How to breathe while doing HIIT?

High-intensity interval training can leave you breathless — and quickly. Let’s say you’re doing 30 seconds of jumping jacks during a routine. You’re probably taking big breaths in through your mouth to get more oxygen fast. But this actually decreases blood levels of carbon dioxide, inhibiting the body’s ability to release oxygen into the cells.

Your nose is the preferred way to get oxygen into your body. “The body is exquisitely designed to breathe through the nose,” says Kate Hanley, a life coach who teaches relaxation techniques. “The hairs in your nose help purify the air and remove potential irritants and toxins, and the nasal passages and sinuses help with regulating the temperature of the air you inhale.”

If you get to a point where you’re too out of breath and start to lose your form, slow down until you can resume again.


Bottom line

To get better at taking consistent and even inhales and exhales, practice during cooldown and stretching, as well.

Spend two to five minutes focusing on extending your exhales, allowing you to bring your parasympathetic nervous system online. This system rules the relaxation response, digestion and recovery. Ultimately, you need both sides of the coin — exertion and rest — for true fitness and health, yet we rarely focus on conditioning our body for rest.

Practicing your breathing while stretching allows you to condition your body in this way. It also allows you to seamlessly move between the activity and rest, maintaining proper breath throughout the entire workout.

When you’ve mastered an even inhale and exhale, it’s time to focus on exercise-specific breathing. This will allow you to maximize the benefits of each exercise and avoid the dangers of forgetting to breathe.