Would you train an Olympic lifting athlete underwater? Probably not. To put it mildly, the lack of oxygen would cause an extreme decrease in performance. When individuals strength train, they want their internal systems to work at full capacity and perform at optimal levels. This requires sufficient oxygen intake to supply the muscles with energy and enable them to reach their full potential. Unfortunately, most lifters fail to breathe properly during workouts, including when they perform one of the most effective exercises for developing total body power—the Kettlebell Swing.
The efficiency of the Kettlebell Swing relies heavily on a proper breathing pattern. Breathing correctly increases speed and force production throughout the movement. Proper breathing also engages the midsection and protects lifters from injury. Because of the explosive nature and rhythmic movement of the Kettlebell Swing, correct breathing may be more important for this exercise than for any other. Although you need to breathe during any exercise, diaphragm extension and contraction are of the utmost importance with the Swing. The exercise is so fast and explosive that without deep inhaling and violent exhaling, you will lose a tremendous amount of power.
When you perform the Kettlebell Swing, the correct breathing pattern may seem unnatural at first, but with practice and reinforcement, it will become routine. During the swing, when hinging down, inhale and fill your midsection with air. A full diaphragm will help you engage your core, keep your back neutral and prepare your body for the explosive hip extension to follow.
When extending your hips and coming swiftly to an upright position, powerfully exhale, as if you were blowing out candles. This will substantially increase your power output, allowing you to dramatically increase strength and progress up in weight.
To understand the correct way to breathe and master the breathing pattern for the Kettlellbell Swing, follow these steps. If you are new to the Swing, perform 10 reps of this breathing routine without weight before you pick up a kettlebell.
Downward phase: Standing completely upright, inhale deeply through your nose and fill your stomach with air. If done properly, your navel will be forced forward and slightly down.
Upward phase: Exhale as fast as possible out of your mouth while exploding your hips forward and propelling the kettlebell up.
Although it is overlooked by many athletes, proper breathing during the Kettlebell Swing is crucial both for performance and injury prevention. Through proper reinforcement, the breathing pattern will become second nature, leading you to increase both strength and power.
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