As athletes, we think about a lot of things. Regardless of whether the right protein supply, the optimization of the growth hormone concentration in the blood or the optimal coordination of exercise intervals for the maximum adjustment stimulus in training. The sportsman life is complex. In this context, seemingly self-evident things are all too easily dropped under the table.
One of these is the right one breathingthat runs so automatically in our lives that we consciously do not even notice them. And that has consequences, because those who breathe badly during sports need not be surprised that their own performance does not go uphill - this is especially true for endurance athletes but also strength athletes.
Open this in UX Builder to add and edit content
How does breathing work?
Did you ever really consciously have to worry about active breathing? In most cases not, because our body usually takes over by itself. This automatism is controlled by a reflex, which is roughly activated when the concentration of carbon dioxide-containing air becomes too high. When this point is reached, we exhale automatically.
Shortly afterwards inhaled fresh oxygen-rich air through the nose and mouth into the lungs, where it is released via the finely branched bronchi and alveoli in the context of gas exchange on hairy capillaries and so passes through the bloodstream in each body cell. At the same time, the CO2 is eliminated from the blood and gets out of the body via the same path.
In principle, we have the option of mouth breathing and nasal breathing, which has some advantages. Nasal breathing is enough most of the time to provide us with enough oxygen. On the other hand, if our body requires more power, we also need larger amounts of oxygen. Here the mouth breathing comes in, which is sufficient in itself to provide us with the necessary oxygen during sports.
Strictly speaking, we would not even need our nose to breathe. Nevertheless, it is indispensable, because it takes on an essential filter function and thus protects us from germs and pathogens. And in sports, the built-in filter is extremely practical. Every runner or cyclist who has ever enjoyed an involuntary winged protein snack at higher speeds during mouth breathing knows that.
Why in sports without the right breathing nothing at all
If everything happens automatically, why do I have to take care of my breathing at all? The answer is obvious. Who optimizes his breathing technique while exercising, also optimizes his physical performance. The better the muscles and the internal organs are supplied with oxygen, the more efficiently carbohydrates and fats in the mitochondria can be converted into energy.
While the respiratory rate at rest can be easily absorbed by the automatism of your body, this looks a little different under athletic stress. Here, the respiratory rate of about 14 to 16 breaths per minute increases significantly. In order to inhale as much oxygen as possible, it is not enough just to breathe quickly. Because that often degenerates into a shallow panting, with only imperceptibly more oxygen entering the lungs.
Much more important is the training of the right breathing technique for the training of the respiratory muscles. The stronger the respiratory muscles are, the more oxygen can also be absorbed by increased lung capacity even under maximum load in the body. If you want to perform, it's very important because your body needs energy to deliver good energy as part of its aerobic-alactic energy-harvesting mechanism, especially for endurance.
If, on the other hand, oxygen is lacking, lactate accumulates in the musculature due to the incomplete metabolism of energy carriers. The result: The colloquially "acidic legs" and a significant performance slump. On the other hand, those who also train their breathing prevent the over-acidification of the muscles too early.
Abdominal breathing vs. Breast Breathing - Which is Better?
Even if we do not necessarily notice it, we breathe in two different ways. On the one hand with the help of the so-called chest breathing and on the other hand with the belly breathing. Interestingly, at rest, the body does everything right by favoring abdominal breathing in the relaxed state. Through the involvement of the diaphragm in its role as the most important respiratory muscle so most oxygen enters the body.
Interestingly, most athletes who do not pay attention to their breathing technique during exercise change to chest breathing under stress. This is a big mistake especially in sporty stress situations, because the chest breathing is much flatter than the abdominal breathing and makes us tire faster. This is due to the lower tidal volume and the fact that the diaphragm barely works. It is replaced by the respiratory muscles, which now have to do almost all the work.
One of the only well-known consequences is the unpleasant side stabbing or the disgusting sore muscles between the ribs the following day after a long endurance session. What does that tell us? Right, as an athlete we should consciously focus on the training of the abdominal breathing. First and foremost, the respiratory muscles must be strengthened. The following exercises can help you:
1. Breathe underwater
If you want to train your diaphragm like a normal muscle, you have to create a resistance that you have to fight against. Water is an ideal element for breathing training, because even when swimming near the surface of the water, additional pressure is placed on your upper body. Those who go swimming regularly do not only do something for their general fitness, but also for their respiratory muscles.
Here is the rule of thumb: The further the upper body is underwater, the more exhausting for your respiratory muscles. To increase the level of difficulty, you place yourself with a long snorkel in a swimming pool and squat so far, until the snorkel just barely out of the water. Now try to inhale and exhale vigorously. After a few weeks, you will notice how much your breathing has improved outside of the water.
2. Diaphragm training with additional weight
Of course not everyone has a swimming pool for breathing exercises around the corner, so you can strengthen your respiratory muscles for proper abdominal breathing without water. To do this, lay your back flat on the floor and put a few books on your upper abdomen. Breathe in and out as deep as you can for 3 to 5 minutes. Even if it takes a little longer for you to notice the "training effect", you will achieve noticeable results after just four to six weeks.
3. Deep inhale and exhale
The optimization of the breathing technique is a good gap filler for everyday life. Of course, since you can not lay yourself on the floor with a pile of books in the office, you simply fall back on deep inhaling and exhaling. No matter whether in the bus, on the office chair or in the car, it is always worthwhile breathing 6 to 8 minutes per day twice a day.
4. Oxygen deficiency training
The so-called lack of oxygen training is a very efficient but also enormously exhausting variant to train the respiratory muscles. This is about limiting your oxygen intake during regular endurance training, forcing your respiratory muscles to do more work to get the same amount of oxygen.
For this you can, for example, use a conventional dust mask from the hardware store, which allows significantly less oxygen to pass through its filter function. Thus, your respiratory muscles need to apply more "suction" to absorb an adequate amount of oxygen. As it seems admittedly weird to sit on the bike with a dust mask or jog around in the park, you can of course also do this Oxygen Training on the ergometer.
Since it is a particularly challenging training method, the use is recommended only as a block training in the context of 4 to 6 weeks with 2 to 3 units per week. Positive Side Effect: With this form of training, you not only strengthen your respiratory muscles, but also help your body achieve the same performance with less oxygen.
This is how you breathe properly in the sport
Finally we would like to look at some sports where you can get more power out of your body with the help of strong breathing muscles and the right breathing technique.
Most runners adjust their breathing rate while walking the pace or the beats of the music. If you are one of those athletes, you should turn that off quickly, because the frequency is far too fast, resulting in a shallow chest breathing with low oxygen influx. Breathe in and out of the abdomen regularly. So you provide your body with as much oxygen as possible and prevent sideways.
Also in cycling a shallow breathing is problematic. Newcomers, for example, who for the first time rely on a road bike, often suffer from performance limitation due to lack of oxygen. The cause is the strongly bent forward posture in combination with an unconscious breathing. Therefore, you should definitely strengthen your respiratory muscles and start with a slightly more upright sitting position, so that your respiratory muscles can get used to the upper body curvature.
If, on the other hand, you are going steeply uphill, you can also change to a more upright position on the mountain bike and on the racing bike, thus making it easier to oxygenate. On the mountain, aerodynamics plays a negligible role anyway.
While the breathing in breaststroke is still relatively uncomplicated, because you can breathe at any time, looks the crawling already different. It is important here that you train yourself in a firm breathing rhythm, which you unwind like an automatism. The best is the two-beat rhythm.
This means that you breathe in on a fixed side every second crawl. Compared to the threefold rhythm common to many amateur swimmers, this technique is not only easier to learn, but also more efficient. Especially when you're looking for performance, it reduces the risk of you blowing your body into an oxygen debt.
4. Strength training
When strength training, breathing does not matter? No, not at all. Many strength athletes tend to stop the air at the moment of the highest load, which massively increases both the pressure on the vessels and the pressure on the lungs and heart. That this can not be healthy, is obvious. The same applies to the widespread compressed respiration, in which only a small amount of oxygen enters the bloodstream due to shallow breathing.
The result: loss of performance. Especially the strength training offers itself for the regular and deep inhaling and exhaling, because the breathing can be perfectly synchronized with the movement. Here's the simple rule: breathe in during exercise and during the relief phase.