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May 30, 2024

Breathing During Exercise

I am going to make this one very short and sweet.

You need to breathe while doing exercises. Thank you and good day.

Okay, maybe we'll make it a little longer…

Many people struggle with this which sounds odd, but its true! There are so many people that forget to breathe or do not know the proper way to breathe.

If you are not breathing during your exercises; start too! Breathing is fun and keeps you alive, it will also increase your performance. 

Seriously, though, if you do struggle with not breathing during exercise, then there are a few options for you.

  1. You can use the breathing for that I go over in the next part of this blog. It will make you start to think about how to PROPERLY breathe which will in turn make you breathe. (Should do this regardless!)
  2. You can train breathing patterns during low intensity movements and exercise. This will give you the practice you need, but with less risk of becoming light headed.

Okay, so now what is the importance of breathing mechanics during exercise.

Lets go over the proper mechanics first.

In almost ALL cases you should…

Breathe in (inhale) on the easy part of the movement or at the top position of a movement

Breathe Out (Exhale) during the hard part of the movement when you are “pushing” to get the weight up.

Take a deadlift.

You should inhale at the top or on your way down to the bar.

Then you should exhale on your way standing up with the weight.

Why? Good question!

Inhaling is going to increase the amount of air in your lungs and the volume of your trunk. It expands out your rib cage and will actually “turn off” your abdominal and stability muscles. 

The exhale will increase the pressure in your trunk in order to expel the air. This will activate you abdominal and stability muscles.

This increase in pressure during the exhale will increase the stability of your trunk and provide a better “foundation” for your body to produce force.

A good rule of thumb is that increasing trunk stability will lead to increased force production. The best way to increase trunk stability is to do the exhale during the hard part of the movement.

Now, many people may ask “what about that video of the guy/gal who was deadlift? They were not exhaling as they were lifting the bar? What gives?!”

This is true! The way to achieve the most trunk stability is actually by not actively exhaling the air inside your lungs.

When you inhale you increase the volume of your trunk. When you exhale; the pressure in your trunk is increased in order to expel the air. However, the pressure does not have to be overly high in order to get the air out, and by the end of the lift your trunk volume is basically back to normal.

Now imagine you inhale and increase the volume of your trunk. Then you do essentially a Valsalva maneuver (basically an exhale without letting any air go). This can greatly increase the pressure in your trunk which will then allow you to produce more force into whatever movement you are doing.

Not breathing in the case of the deadlift is actually exhaling without letting any air go.

Make sense? Hopefully! 

Now lets talk about 2 more key factors when it comes to breathing and exercise.

Both of them have to do with breathing through your nose.

No one wants to be a mouth breather, but at some point during exercise it happens to us all. However, I would argue that it probably happens too soon for most of us and we are missing out on a ton of great benefit.

If we were to breathe through our nose for low to moderate intensity exercise; there are a ton of benefits that come with that.

  1. You release more nitric oxide which will lead to bronchodilation and vasodilation. It also increases your red blood cells ability to transport oxygen
  2. You will be more conscious about your breathing (as we discussed, pretty important)
  3. It will lessen your oxygen consumption for the same amount of work
  4. It will keep your heart rate lower during the same amount of work

Here are some good times to use nasal only breathing

  • At work
  • On a walk
  • On a light run
  • Warming up for a workout
  • The early part of a workout
  • Any other time that you can during a workout
  • WHEN YOU SLEEP (this is too big of a topic to go into, but trust me!)

The next breathing through your nose topic is actually about when you stop breathing through your nose.

At a point during a exercise routine, even if you are a nasal breathing master, you will still need to start breathing through your mouth. This happens when the need to expel CO2 becomes to great that nasal breathing is no longer an option.

But, eventually that set or workout finishes, and you need to recover in order to prepare for the next set or just daily life.

What do you do?

Ill let you guess… Nasal Breathing? YUP!

As soon as you are able, try to breathe in and out through your nose. This will decrease the time it takes to get your heart rate down, and it will put your body in a better environment to buffer out CO2 and metabolites from your body.

This is crucial to learn if you are an athlete. My sport growing up was hockey.

Playing hockey is basically 30-45s of a panic attack on ice, followed by 2-3 minutes recovering on the bench for your next shift. Getting your heart rate down during the time on the bench is crucial! It allows you to be more prepared and physiologically ready for the upcoming shift.

Exercise works on the same principle. The faster you can get your heart rate down, the more you will have in the tank for future tasks.

So, as soon as you finish a set of an exercise; try to breathe through your nose as soon as possible. Slow your breathing down, and get ready for the next exercise ahead.

As always, if you have any questions please reach out at

Yours in strength,


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