When you work out in a gym there are several things you need to make sure you’re doing correctly. These include using the correct form for every exercise, ensuring that you do actually perform some leg workouts and leaving your ego at the door.
One of the aspects of working out many of us likely don’t pay enough attention to, however, is breathing technique. Breathing properly more than likely gets pushed to the bottom of the pile of things to take notice of, because you’re focusing much of your attention on ensuring you’re using the correct form or trying to smash out one or two more reps.
But if you breathe properly during a working set, those extra reps should become a walk in the park, as proper breathing only works to assist you. Fitness trainer, TikTok fitness influencer and owner of THRST, Mike Thurston, recently outlined proper breathing in a video, breaking down when to inhale and when to exhale.
Mike says ideally, “you breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth,” yes, you can forget about all the negative points of breathing through your mouth when you’re in the gym. But when should you breathe in and out?
As Mike explains, “Ideally, when you are going through the eccentric part of the movement, the muscle is lengthening, you breathe in.”
“Then, as you contract, go through the concentric phase, you breathe out.” He provides an example using the bench press, explaining you should breathe in as you lower the barbell towards your chest (causing the chest muscles to lengthen) and breathe out as you contract the chest muscles and push the barbell back up to the starting position.
He adds, “You’ll notice, if you do it properly, you’ll be able to get a few more reps in.”
We have previously discussed the importance of breathing when performing back squats, and the message then was much of the same: breathe in during the lowering of the movement, hold the breath to stabilise yourself and breathe out as you push up and back to the starting standing position. Yet, this breathing technique can be applied to all exercises you perform.
Healthline agrees with what Mike is saying and adds it can be incredibly common for one to hold their breath when working out – which, as AARP adds is most likely because holding our breath makes us feel stronger and more stable – but to make a habit of holding the breath can lead to some serious problems.
This is because holding your breath can cause your blood pressure to rise, which can result in dizziness, nausea or worse, a potential heart attack. Deep breathing can also help to naturally slow down the tempo of your reps and sets, which will increase the time under tension, helping your muscles to grow.
So, forget trying to lift a ridiculously heavyweight: if you can’t lift it with good form, or without holding your breath for stabilisation, it’s time to lighten the load.