Incorporating breathwork into your strength training sessions can have several benefits, including improved performance, increased focus, enhanced mind-muscle connection, and better overall body control. Here are some ways you can harness breathwork in your next strength training session.
Sleep (It Starts the Night Before)
When it comes to breathwork, most people focus on the cadence and biomechanics of breathing. However, one crucial factor often gets overlooked: the biochemistry of breathing. Think of breathwork as a three-legged stool. If one is off, you don't have a stable foundation to sit on. To become a better breather, you also need to become a better sleeper. Sleep promotes muscle growth and recovery, balances hormones like testosterone, boosts energy levels, improves focus, and prevents injuries.
For more tips on getting a good night's sleep, refer to our other blog on sleep.
Here are ways to ensure you get a good night's rest and start your day on the right foot:
- Use mouth tape for nasal breathing (keep your mouth closed).
- Use nasal strips to open up the nasal pathway.
- Sleep on your side (the mouth joint is a hinge joint).
- Spend 10-15 minutes in sunlight to increase serotonin and melatonin production.
- Sleep in a cool room.
- Take hot showers before sleep.
- Wear earplugs if you have noisy neighbors.
Doing breathwork 5-10 minutes before your training session can be a great tool to prepare your mind and body for what's ahead. Conscious breathing has the ability to increase your focus and concentration, as well as improve oxygenation and circulation. A simple breathing cadence you can do is box breathing, which follows a 4:4:4:4 pattern (4 seconds inhale, 4 seconds hold, 4 seconds exhale, and 4 seconds hold). Repeat this for 10 rounds.
For more on box breathing, check it out in the Float App.
Warm Up (Strength Training for Breathing Muscles)
If you want to strengthen a muscle, you need to work it harder than normal. The diaphragm, our primary respiratory muscle, is dome-shaped. Breathing through the nasal route adds 50% more resistance than through the mouth, making the breathing muscles stronger. Strengthening your diaphragm can improve your lung capacity and overall breathing. Adapting to nasal breathing takes practice, depending on your sensitivity to CO2 (BOLT score) and how diligently you practice nasal breathing. This switch can increase oxygenation for your muscles and cells by up to 20%.
Breathwork for Lifting (Inhale to Load, Exhale to Explode)
Strength starts from the inside out, not the outside in. Proper breathing technique is essential for lifting, maintaining stability, protecting your spine, and maximizing strength. Before initiating a lift, take a deep breath and brace your core using the Valsalva maneuver. Inhale deeply into your diaphragm, tighten your abdominal muscles, and exhale forcefully through pursed lips during the exertion phase. Aim for a smooth and continuous flow of breath, coordinating with the movement pattern.
INHALE TO LOAD, EXHALE TO EXPLODE.
Breathwork in Your Rest Period
After a challenging set, your breathing may be heavy, and you might be breathing in and out of your mouth. This is normal, but the faster you recover, the more work capacity you can squeeze into your training session. Here's a method to "catch your breath" and return to normal breathing:
THE NOSE TO MOUTH CONTINUUM
After a hard set:
- inhale mouth -> exhale mouth,
- inhale nose -> exhale mouth,
- inhale nose -> exhale nose,
Repeat for 2-3 rounds in each phase.
Once you achieve nose-to-nose breathing, you are fully recovered to hit your next round.
Breathwork Post Workout
Let's make cool downs cool again! You should never leave the gym more stressed out than when you came in. The cool down is the perfect opportunity for conscious breathing to stimulate your parasympathetic system (rest and digest mode). Your exhale breath is the breath of relaxation. One of my favorite breathing techniques to finish a hard training session is a 4/8 cadence.
- Lay down.
- Place your right hand on your heart (keep your chest still).
- Left hand on your belly button (observe its rise and fall).
- As you inhale, your left hand rises.
- As you exhale, your belly falls.
- Repeat for 10 rounds.
(Check our the Float app for the Recovery exercise)
Breathwork is a skill that requires practice and patience. Gradually incorporate these techniques into your strength training routine and pay attention to how your body responds. Over time, you will develop a more intuitive understanding of how breathwork can support and enhance your physical performance. Whether you're a strength enthusiast, endurance athlete, or simply seeking overall well-being, harnessing the power of breath will undoubtedly enhance your training experience and bring you closer to achieving your goals.
Unlock the power of breathwork and improve your physical and mental well-being with Float - the ultimate breathing app that makes it easy to breathe. Customize your experience with a breathing test and choose from exercise categories for calm, sleep, focus, quick relief, and energize. Used by top coaches and athletes, Float combines an audio guide, haptic feedback, and sound cues for a truly immersive breathing experience. Download Float now and get started with customized breathing exercises.