How to breathe when you train! TFW Portland


Today I’m going to talk to you about something pretty important... breathing!

It’s something we do everyday and you would definitely know if you stopped doing it. There are different ways to breathe while you are training (or when you’re trying to do anything with your body!) I want to cover the 3 main types of breathing that you’ll use in the different stages of your training and what they do to your body. 

There’s 3 main purposes that you want to select a breath for when training.

#1. Breathing for pure strength. 

This involves deep breathing— deep between your diaphragm and pelvic floor. Expanding your obliques (turning on your abs with your breath); you are filling up the sides of your body the way you would see a cow or horse breath into their ribcages. 

Do this when you are going to load the spine in an axial position, because you want to stabilize your spine with your breath. 

Some examples of when you should use this include:


-back squat

-overhead press

Breathing in this way, you’re tilting the ribcage DOWN toward the pelvic floor. Tilting pelvic floor back so you are posteriorly tilting your hips and creating a drum thru the center of your body to stabilize and give you little more power or force through your breath. 

This keeps your spine safe under load. Your abs are keeping your spine from bending when you have a heavy load on your shoulders/hands. Note: this isn’t the kind of breath you’re going to use for long periods of time. It’s going to be 5-6 reps at a time, at the most.

In addition, you’re going to have a long rest period afterward, with normal breathing. We don’t breathe under load that way for very long because that would create breathing dysfunction. It’s easy to strain the diaphragm that way. We only use this technique for a short period of time during the workout. 

#2. Breathing for performance. 

Most training occurs in this 2nd category, in which you are breathing for performance. You’re often exhaling forcefully while you are in the concentric phase (like, explosively “pushing up" during a push-up, or the upward portion of a KB swing).

Inhale when your tissue lengths, exhale when tissue shortens. That’s a natural pattern the body takes!

When I breathe out forcefully, everything wants to contract. I happen to be contracting my body when I do a KB swing or bicep curl and that contraction will have more force with inhaling and exhaling every rep. Every rep gets an in-breath on the way down (doing a push up, for example), and an exhale forcing out the air on the way up.

This is sustainable throughout your workout. I can do 15, 30, or 50 pushups this way because I need to breathe if I’m going to complete the task at hand. The breathing supports the activity!

Last but not least!

#3. Long, slow breath. 

A box breath, so to speak. Something I would do to set up for a meditation, but not during a meditation. It’s great to stretch using this method because when the body has a long exhale, it signals to the nervous system to relax. 

When you relax your face and breathe out with a long exhale, the tissue wants to lengthen and soften. You can do a nice hamstring stretch (OR lats or pecs!) when you exhale. Supporting that relaxation with your breath makes your stretch that much more effective. A long box breath when you’re doing a stretch would make it harder to do a high performance training that you wanna do if you’re actually trying to build muscle. 

You want to choose the breath for the activity. If I’m doing a max deadlift, I’m going to hold my breath and use my abs to create more strength. If I’m doing high reps (or anything where I’m not worried about blowing a disc or doing damage because of the high load)... THEN I want to exhale on the concentric, inhale on the eccentric. 

When you are relaxing the tissue, you want to have relaxing breath. When strengthening, you wanna have strong breath.

Let’s go a little further.

How do I know when to use pure strength vs long term performance?

The body will instinctively tell you what to do. If you’re holding your breath when you pick something up, it’s a sign! When you lift something light enough that you can breathe while participating, use your performance breath.

Let’s say I want to pick up a 50 lb bag of sand. I start to pick it up and what happens? I will hold my breath naturally. If you try to loosen a lug nut from a tire, you will suck in your breath and the body with naturally react. That’s how you know you need pure strength over performance breath.

NOTE: If you’re someone who has never done any sort of activity, you might hold your breath during a push up. But you should reduce the stress of that movement by practicing breathing during your reps!

In conclusion, breath is important. It can make you better at relaxing and stretching and better at lifting heavy weights if you use it appropriately. 

So, practice. Practice. PRACTICE YOUR BREATH! Because it enhances everything that you do. 

Coach Josh here from TFW Portland... hoping that your breath helps YOU bring out the warrior within.

You've gotta use these wisely during your workout!

You've gotta use these wisely during your workout!