penny barnshaw garage fitness girl

How to Breathe for a Better Workout


It seems strange to be writing about breathing, especially when it’s something that comes so naturally to us! But the truth is, many of us don’t know how to breathe properly for a better workout. It’s actually something you need to learn.

If we hold our breath when we’re doing an exercise, it means we’re trying to get extra strength out of our core, which isn’t good. We need to be oxygenating the muscles and not compensating elsewhere in the body. When we cut off the oxygen in order to finish a movement, we can also risk muscle cramping and even hernias in extreme cases. 

In addition to what I’ve shared below, it’s also important to use the entire abdominal area for oxygen, not just the top of your chest. You’ll have more energy to finish your workout because air is fuel! 

Here’s what you need to know to breathe better during your workouts: 

During Planks

It’s really common for people to stop breathing as they perform a plank exercise. However, it’s important to keep breathing to stay stable, and if you’re not breathing the move is more difficult than it otherwise would be! Remember that engaging your stomach muscles is quite different to holding in your breath!

During HIIT Workouts

HIIT workouts are hard, so it’s not surprising that many people start taking in big breaths through their mouths to get in oxygen, fast! However, remember that the nose is the best way to get oxygen into the body, for a whole bunch of reasons (there’s even entire books written on the topic!). Breathe in through your nose but feel free to breathe out through your mouth when you need to. If you get to a point where you’re too out of breath to breathe in through your nose, don’t be afraid to take a break until you can resume again.

During Strength Workouts

It’s really important to breathe properly when you’re lifting weights. It not only makes your workouts more effective, it can also help you ensure you’re not losing proper form. The basic rule is to exhale as you raise the weight, then inhale as you’re lowering. Same thing for a push-up: exhale as you raise yourself up off the floor, inhale as you lower yourself back down. So always exhale for the exertion. 

If you can’t help but hold your breath during your strength workouts, a good trick is to start counting each rep out loud. 

The Bottom Line on Breathing

While breathing is one of the most natural things we can do, paying attention to your breath during a workout can help you in many ways. You will lift heavier, your workouts will be more effective, and you will reduce cramping. Over time, it will become more natural, and you won’t need to think about it as much. 

Stay mindful of your breathing as you move, and happy training! Don’t forget to follow me on YouTube so you never miss one of my follow-along workouts (I upload new workouts each week). You can also sign up to my newsletter to stay up-to-date and receive my free monthly workout calendars. 

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