Breathing Techniques for YOUR Situation
Written by Dylan Cox
I’d like to take a short look at what breathing is and why it’s important, and then we will take a look at a couple thoughts and techniques to improve your breathing before workouts/other stressful events and during them as well.
WHY?! Proper Breathing is Important!
It is undoubtedly obvious why proper breathing is important, but one good thing to remember is that the longer your body is deprived of oxygen, the more acidic your blood becomes, and thus performance will suffer. Proper prepping of the body with breathing exercises can improve blood flow and also create a kind of “euphoria” allowing your body to perform to a higher level than if you weren’t focusing on your oxygen intake, both physiologically and mentally.
Performance is one reason, but focus is also important. Being focused on the task at hand is just as important as performing said task. In order to do that, the brain needs to have as much O2 possible. Focusing on breathing correctly rather than just a lot, think quality vs quantity here, will create better work output, more precise responses from our central nervous system and even quicker reflexes.
In this blog post, we will talk about a technique that I really like which is taught by the Navy to the SEALs. It goes without being said that the world’s best warriors need to be at the top of their game and ready to do anything necessary to complete the objective; and with using their technique, you can be better prepared to achieve yours as well. But more on that later.
Valsalva Maneuver – The Ol’ Standby Breathing Technique
There is a bunch of research available out there and different styles of breathing techniques. A common practice of athletes is associated with the concentric and eccentric phases of movement. During the eccentric phase, or slightly before depending on the movement being performed, is when inhalation should take place as this gives the most capacity for oxygen to enter the lungs. This phase is the part of the movement not requiring the most effort to perform, such as the initial downward movement of the squat or for the pull-up, returning to fully extended arm positioning. During the concentric phase, the “working” part of the movement, exhaling should be performed such as you when you are standing up from a squat for example. Taking a deep breath before performing a big, heavy lift can also help the athlete with bracing as it is a reminder to keep the midline tight and braced. Check out this article on the Valsalva Maneuver for step-by-step directions on how to achieve this.
A Systematic Approach – Box Breathing
A different technique I have found very useful before stressful situations or workouts – the one I mentioned above – is taught by Mark Divine of SealFit. He is an ex-Navy SEAL and owns a gym up in Encinitas. He teaches a breathing technique called box breathing, which is a method of breathing that Navy SEALs use.
Basically, the breathing technique involves three different parts of the breath. Initially it starts with the belly breath and then moves to the diaphragm moving up and pulling the breath out to the lungs and finishing with a chest rise/expansion. The box breathing method involves a systematic approach to breathing by repeating this sequence of belly, diaphragm, chest and then reversing this process on the exhale.
Box breathing is used to not only calm the mind and flood the body with powerful oxygen but also prepare the body to perform at its highest level at any moment.
Other Common & Beneficial Breathing Practices
This is just one example of many theories out there about breathing strategies and techniques. For instance, nose breathing is recommended because it increases the body’s absorption of oxygen and ultimately increases performance of the body during a workout. It can also help to decrease recovery time which means you’re on your way to the next lift or movement sooner.
Another tactic is getting into a rhythmic breathing pattern based on the exercise you are performing. An example would be during a set of wall balls, inhaling and maybe even taking two full breaths while the ball is traveling to the target and back down to you and then inhaling as you are squatting down thus exhaling on your way back up to throw.
I implore you to do some research and find out what works best for you! Practice your breathing during the workouts, practice preparing your body before workouts, and maybe even throw in some breathing work after!
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