Hitting a new personal record is glorious. It can takes months of training to finally reach the numbers you have been working so hard for. After all that training and meticulous effort, are you failing to observe one vital detail that could make or break your stats?
When it comes to sports performance, there is one influence that doesn’t get much attention: breathing. Breathing brings oxygen in and out of the lungs. During inhalation, oxygen enters the blood and disburses throughout the body. After oxygen makes its rounds, its byproduct, carbon dioxide, is brought back to be transferred from the blood and exhaled. Simply put, breathing supports bodily function. It is also an influential part in sports performance.
Breathing can have a negative or positive effect on exercise and performance. When breathing isn't controlled, you will start to lose energy and there will be a negative shift in performance. Focus will fade and fatigue will set in. On the contrary, when you are tuned in to your breathing pattern, homeostasis is balanced, focus is clear, and performance at maximum capacity is achievable. Control brings better results.
Over-breathing can lead to poor results by decreasing oxygen available throughout the body. This decrease can cause a range of problems: loss of focus, muscle fatigue, memory loss, decreased coordination, decreased reaction time, cramping, injury, anxiety, and disturbed sleeping patterns. A continuous pattern of poor breathing along with the negative physiological effects is similar to the “pain–spasm–pain cycle” that is associated with chronic pain conditions. Pain leads to spasms which increases pain and in turn increases spasms. In this instance, it is the poor breathing patterns that perpetuate the feelings, pain, and mental challenges.
Getting assessed for proper breathing mechanics can be very beneficial in a training program. The Hi-Lo test is a simple way to assess the correct use of the diaphragm and rib cage during inhalation. Many people incorrectly and over abundantly use accessory muscles when they should be focusing on breathing through the diaphragm. If breathing restrictions are found during an assessment with a personal trainer or performance coach, a treatment plan can be created to improve altered patterns.
Check out this short video from Therapeutics Associates Physical Therapy to learn how to assess your breathing patterns and maximize performance in the gym and on the track.
The most important takeaways for proper breath work include:
Examine breathing and diaphragm activity
Critically observe inhalation and exhalation
Breathing should begin with a contraction of the pelvic floor
When lifting weights: inhale on the load and exhale on exertion
Be careful not to over-breath when running
Torso fascial restrictions should be treated
Proper rehabilitation exercises should be used for those in need