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Athletes spend hours in the weight room and on the field developing their strength, speed, conditioning and skills. (Read more about strength training.) What if I told you that one simple thing can improve each of these aspects of your athleticism? And that we do it naturally to survive.
The Power of the Breath
Breathing is an automatic process that is naturally programmed into our brains. Each inhale delivers oxygen to cells, causing a reaction that produces usable energy. The byproduct, carbon dioxide (CO2), is then exhaled.
Although breathing is automatic, most athletes don't realize that refining their breathing technique can actually improve their performance. Maximizing the amount of oxygen delivered to your muscles ensures their ability to perform at peak levels and recover faster. Also, supplying sufficient oxygen to the brain improves mental focus and thought processing.
Improved breathing technique goes beyond the cellular level. It helps relieve an overactive low back, allowing the hamstrings and glutes to fully engage and power movements.
Controlled breathing also helps reduce anxiety. Sport psychologists recommend deep and relaxed breathing as one of the best ways to overcome nerves in high pressure game situations. (Discover more sport psych tips.)
Athlete Breathing Technique
Most of us—including many professional athletes—don't breathe correctly or efficiently, especially when we are anxious or stressed. When someone is angry or upset, notice how their shoulders go up and down with each breath. This is what usually happens when we are under stress.
Make sure to follow these guidelines to refine your breathing technique:
- In through the nose and out through the mouth
- Expand both lungs and belly to maximize the amount of oxygen taken into the lungs
- Depress ribs to exhale
- Make each inhale 1.5 times longer than each exhale
- Find a controlled rhythm and avoid gasping
Like any skill, efficient breathing must be practiced in order to master the technique. Perform these two drills during your warm-up to improve your breathing technique and become a better athlete.