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Just Breath…

I get a lot of questions on breathing and how to do it. ?When I first starting training I had what is commonly referred to as exercise induced asthma. ?In my opinion, I believe it was more a case of fat induced asthma, but either way I had problems breathing. ?I used to do a lot running and when I did I would have to think ‘in, 2, 3, 4, out, 2, 3, 4.’ ?It was crazy and labor intensive, but the more I worked out the better it got.

The breathing that should be practiced in CrossFit and high intensity training in general isn’t super specific, but there are things that can help you…..

First, hold your breath through a heavy effort. ?Whenever you are doing a heavy lift like clean and jerk, snatch, deadlift, squat etc., you should breath a huge pocket of air in your belly, and then hold it through the lift. ?This is called the Valsalva maneuver. ?This actually increases the pressure in the spinal column, aka intrathecal pressure, and it puts a pocket of air in your torso in order for your abs to flex against your lower back. ?All of this helps stabilize your ‘core’ and puts your spine in a ?safe position. ?When I was studying music, we used to talk about thinking about your lungs like you are pouring a glass of water, filling them from the bottom up. ?The belly should expand when you fill the lungs up. ?If only your shoulders rise, you are not getting enough air into your lungs.

Here is a great video showing what happens when you breath. ?The diaphram contracts and creates negative pressure in the chest cavity, this causes air to rush in and expand the lungs. ?Check it out:

Here is a video of Mark Rippetoe talking about the Valsalva maneuver


Now what to do during the workout? ?Your are conditioning, and ‘holy crap this is hard,’ your breathing goes through the roof right? ?What should you do. ?I am a firm believer of you should focus on holding your breath through a lift and otherwise breath naturally during a conditioning segment. ?If you feel like you need to slow it down, take in a huge inhale through your nose, hold it for a second and then exhale it out, and do this for two to three breaths. ?This will serve two purposes, it will slow your breathing and heart rate, but it will also lower your blood pressure. ?It also allows you to mentally regroup. ?Once you’ve done a couple breaths go back to what you are doing and the rest should take care of itself. ?You should also make sure that while you are moving lighter loads, or for multiple reps, you need to re-breath. ?Even when I’m heavy squatting for more then 1 rep, I will re-breath at the top of each rep. ?Find that start position and re-breath for every rep, so you are getting oxygen exchange. ?For a deadlift, I tend to think of rep two starting at the top because I typically want to do them unbroken, so I will re-breath at the top of the rep for rep two.

One minor caveat…. you saw the mechanism of breathing in the first video. ?For some reason, me included, when people get tired, they want to bend over and put their hands on their knees. ?This is actually a negative position. ?It closes off your chest cavity and doesn’t allow you to get as much oxygen as possible. ?The best thing to do is stand up straight relax your arms and take in the deep breath described earlier. ?If you really want to, some people like to put their hands on top of their head to help open their chest cavity more. ?I personally believe this is not a good habit to get into, and I don’t believe it is overly beneficial, but whatever floats your boat.

Other then that, the more you train, the more efficient you become at your oxygen usage. ?Your heart will also become more efficient, and the heart rate will go down because you won’t need as many pumps to get the same amount of oxygen. ?When this happens you will also be able to control your breathing more efficiently.

What are some helpful tips you use for breathing?