Breathing should be one of the most simple and mindless things that we do every day. Yet, most of us SUCK at breathing! It’s important you breathe right when you’re resting and exercising, so you can work harder during workouts and you don’t feel physical from breathing wrong all day. With diaphragmatic breathing exercises like the crocodile breath, you can improve your breathing while working out so you can see results.
Diaphragmatic breathing during workout
Want to have more endurance when you work out so you can work harder and get stronger? The solution may not be heavier weights at the gym, but focusing on your breath during exercises.
Why does your breathing suck? There are two main reasons why, and you’re probably doing the first one even if you don’t think that’s how you breathe.
- You breathe solely with your chest.
- You’re stressed.
Let’s evaluate your breathing. Ask yourself these questions.
- Do you find it hard to take a deep breath normally?
- Do your shoulders hurt?
- Does your low back hurt?
- Does your neck hurt?
- Do you have a weak core?
- Do you have bladder control issues?
If you answered yes to ANY of these questions you probably have a breathing dysfunction. It might sound odd that you have dysfunctional breathing if you have bladder control issues or your shoulders hurt but let me explain why that may be the case.
The majority of us breathe solely with our chest. Yes, that’s part of breathing, but we don’t’/can’t breathe with our belly’s or diaphragm like we should.
By solely breathing with your chest, it causes you to develop overuse of your neck muscles to lift your chest. Plus, it leads to tightness in your shoulders because your chest gets pulled too tight from not relaxing during normal breathing.
This repetitive motion of breathing with your chest causes your diaphragm to become weak and stiff therefore forcing you to breathe solely through the chest. This will lead to bladder control issues because of a weak pelvic floor, low back pain, weak core, tight hip flexors, tight and weak hamstrings along with a list of other potential aches and pains.
When you take deep breaths through your belly, it’s called diaphragmatic breathing. You’ll exercise harder, so you’ll see better results plus there are other benefits like less tightness in your shoulders.
Focus on breathing right while sitting first, and then gradually work up to breathing the right way when you workout. It may also take a few diaphragmatic breathing exercises like the crocodile breath to work up to the point where you’re breathing the right way when working out.
Why you don’t breathe right
Before you can fix your breathing, focus on why your breathing sucks.
STRESS is one of the main reasons you probably use only your chest to breathe as opposed to your belly and chest like you did as a kid!
When you’re stressed, your body has higher levels of adrenaline. This causes a “flight or fight” response. That’s why you feel your heart pumping faster, a respiratory rate increase, and higher blood pressure. It’s your body’s response and defense mechanism to be ready to RUN from danger (stress) or STAY and face it (stress).
How do you fix it? DESTRESS. That’s the first step!
Letting go of the things you can’t control and controlling the things you can, help you feel relief from the overwhelming day to day stresses. Be CONSCIOUS of how you’re breathing in stressful situations (work, working out, driving in rush hour traffic, etc.).
Being aware if you’re using your belly or chest will help you to know when to take a second and refocus your breathing pattern.
How to do crocodile breathing
Second, try a crocodile breathing exercise! This will help you connect your diaphragm with your breathing and help you destress!
- Begin by laying on your belly with your hands under your forehead and your feet relaxed. Roll outwards so your toes are pointed towards each other.
- Take in a deep breath through your nose. Try pressing your belly button into the ground at the same time.
- Then fully exhale slowly out through your mouth until your abdominals fully contract on their own. Don’t force the contraction.
This diaphragmatic breathing technique might not be easy at first and it may even be uncomfortable. Don’t rush it, keep trying and stay relaxed.
You are breathing correctly through your diaphragm when you feel like you are pressing your belly button into the ground. You’ll also feel your sides and back expand!
If you want to challenge yourself to strengthen your diaphragm, core and pelvic floor, take a deep breath in for 5 seconds and then exhale out for 10. As you exhale, try contracting your pelvic floor like you’re trying to stop yourself from going to the bathroom (#1 and #2). Then fully relax the pelvic floor as you take a breath in. Repeat for 5 minutes daily!
If you’re having trouble pushing your belly button into the ground, try this breathing technique. Flip over onto your back, bend your knees, and put your feet flat on the ground. Place one hand on your belly and one on your chest. Try to not let the chest rise as you take in a deep breathe.
Taking 5 minutes a day to focus JUST on your breathing will help slow down your heart rate. It will also help decrease your respiratory rate, decrease cortisol, adrenaline, low back pain, shoulder pain and neck pain and improve core strength, diaphragm strength, and pelvic floor strength.
Diaphragmatic breathing exercises
Once you master breathing, focus on it during your workouts.
With diaphragmatic breathing, you take deep breathes while you’re moving. You’ll take fewer breaths more often so your heart rate will stay lower. The benefits of diaphragmatic breathing are better workout results because you’re exercising harder.
In this diaphragmatic breathing video, Mark Campbell of CORE Strong Fitness in Kansas City shows you how to breathe properly while working out. When you practice deep breathing while exercising, you can get more out of your workout.
The CORE Strong KC video also shows you diaphragmatic breathing exercises. You can do them standing or lying down so you’re breathing properly.
Do you breathe the right way while working out or does it need work?