Breathing and What you need to learn

Whether you are new to training or have been at it for years, one of the most important things is technique, on that I think we can all agree.  With many of the movements we perform in the gym, or in life, strength without solid movement patterns is largely inefficient.  

So what do we do?  We drill technique, over and over.  We cut that path in the grass until it becomes second nature.  

Many of us get into the WOD (workout of the day) and, with gentle reminders from your friendly neighborhood coaches, exhibit that good technique.

More often than not, we focus on good movement technique and forget about one of the most elemental actions in life:  


We get into a gnarly set of 12 deadlifts followed by 12 burpees and wonder why our heart rate is spiking and we've got nothing in the tank, even after an anaerobic strength movement.  Well, if you held your breath for the last 6 reps of that deadlift you've wrecked yourself for the burpees.  So, BREATHE!

Let's take a step back.  Almost every movement has a positive and negative phase, concentric and eccentric if you want to nerd out.  Learning when and how to inhale and exhale while performing those movements can be very important in navigating even the toughest of workouts.

For example, in a sit-up you want to exhale as you go into the sit-up and inhale as you come down.  If you did the reverse, you would be in a compressed position while full of air which is not nearly as comfortable.  Deadlifts are another example.  Breathe in before starting the lift to provide support for the body and exhale and re-inhale at the top. This works for thrusters as well.  As you warm up for each movement, take a little time to think about how you will breathe, or ask your coach.

Next is breathing during your rest in the WOD.  If you throw your hands on your knees and put your head down you have just constricted your airway and have made it difficult to get as much air in. Burpees are another example, if you rest at the bottom sprawled out on your belly, you can't breathe efficiently.  While you are "resting," your body is compressing your lungs and you wont be able to breathe efficiently, limiting your ability to get your heart rate down to actually utilize your rest time.

Keep that head up to maximize airflow and take slow, long breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth.

This breathing technique works not only mid-workout, but in stressful situations as well.

Try it out.  Inhale through your nose filling your belly then chest for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts and exhale through your mouth chest then belly for 4 counts.  Repeat this pattern and focus on nothing but counting the breath cycle.  Do this 4 times... and the next time 5 and so on.  Drill this technique while you are calm and it will become 2nd nature while you are stressed.

Let's not kid ourselves here, this is no magic bullet but it will help a little, and every little bit helps.

Matt Gawlik
CrossFit Trainer