Breathing for Performance

Welcome to my 5 part series on breathing!

Focused breathing work is often overlooked as a key to performance. I only learned about incorporating breathing techniques toward the end of my athletic career, but have found it to be extremely helpful for myself, my athletes and my clients.

Most athletes and people in general have altered breathing mechanics that can affect them in various ways. But efficient breathing plays a role in mobility, stability, ability to focus, concentrate and deal with stress in addition to contributing to recovery and sleep! I hope you find these tips as valuable as I have in training myself and my athletes and clients!

Feel free to contact me with questions or to learn more about how you can work with me - I’m available for seminars, workshops & speaking engagements as well as a limited number of direct individual movement work, either in person or online. 

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Part 1: Alignment and foundation breathing

The very first thing we need to do when starting to work on improving breathing patterns is to learn how to align the ribcage and pelvis and then to direct our breath (and intra-abdominal pressure) to create expansion all the way around our middle - not just in the belly! Remember, you MUST learn to relax - don’t spend energy trying to make this happen. Allow your body to find the right path!

Part 2: Breathing for activation and connection

1. Reps - start with just 3-5 reps per side. More is not always better!

2. When you start pushing your hand and knee together, start with a gentle push first, and then ramp it up and back down again as the breath finishes. The push should be relatively strong. The push paired with the breath reinforces and strengthens your position.

3. Make sure your balloon breath is forceful and long - try to take 4-8 counts to exhale all your air

4. Start at level 1 on the core movement, REGARDLESS of your ability level. Only progress to level 2 or 3 IF you don’t have any additional activation in your hip flexors or quads.

5. TROUBLESHOOTING: If you don’t feel this almost entirely in your core, try “scooping” the tailbone slightly - think about gently lifting it just barely off the floor to put the pelvis into a slight posterior tilt and then try the movement again.

Part 3: Breathing for mobility

Quick tips:
1. I prefer *moving* mobility, especially if done prior to training

2. Follow a mobility exercise with a stability movement to help capture that new range. Don’t just give yourself a bigger range without teaching your body how to use it!

3. Rep range is very individual. 2-3 reps might be plenty! More than 10 is typically not useful.

4. Focus on alignment and relaxation and move on the exhale or just after you exhale to find more range

5. When you feel stuck, relax and BREATHE!

Part 4: Breathing behind the brace

1. The first breath you take after setting the ribcage is the key to reinforcing your brace. The intra-abdominal pressure, coupled with the initial tension combine to create increased stability.

2. When you continue breathing AFTER you set your brace and take that diaphragmatic breath, fill the lungs completely, from bottom to top. Expand the entire ribcage, starting with the sides and low back, and *then* fill the entire lungs. Just don’t lose that alignment or tension (brace). Try 3-10 reps. The most important thing is quality! Don’t count bad reps.

I use this same breath for things like squats and deadlifts - to create a strong, stable torso to support the weight and protect my back.

Part 5: Breathing for recovery

This is great to do right after a training session but really could be done anytime. It could certainly be used at night when trying to wind down to go to sleep.

Just remember the three main points:
1. Make sure you are completely relaxed. You can do this sitting or lying down, but just make sure you get ALL of the tension out of your body.

2. Take deep, slow breaths, trying to make your exhale longer than your inhale. Whatever is deep and slow for you, start there and then work towards increasing the length of your breath.
Many people suggest pausing your breath before you exhale, but if you choose to do that, just make sure that you do not hold tension in your body while holding that breath.

3. Manage your stress response. It doesn’t help to aim for taking a breath that is a specific length if it stresses out your body to do so. You may be able to work up to it - you should find that your breaths progressively get deeper, longer and more relaxed.

If nothing else, just try taking 3 deep breaths every time you get in your car to go somewhere but before you start driving! You might be amazed at how well something this simple can help calm us down and elevate our mood.


Contact me here with questions or for more information about working with me!