During a workout, your focus is most likely on completing the exercise at hand with good form. And while that’s the meat of it, there’s another part of the equation that often gets critically overlooked — proper breathing.

Paying attention to your breathing during strength training can really work for you.

It allows your body more control, keeping you calm and alert throughout your workout so you can actively engage all your muscles. It might even give you the ability to lift more.

And in the long term, practicing proper breathing will:

  • reduce the amount of air you need to breathe in and out during given exercise
  • help your muscles produce less carbon dioxide
  • improve blood circulation and heart health
  • maximize your workout and fitness level

Breathless no longer!

How to breathe for maximum efficiency

The general rule of thumb is to inhale through your nose, so the air enters your belly, right before the eccentric (muscle-lengthening) part of the motion.

Exhale during the concentric (muscle-shortening) part of the motion completely through your mouth.

via Gfycat

Take the squat for example: You should inhale just before you begin to lower down, and exhale as you extend your legs back to the starting position.

Or the pushup: Inhale, bend your elbows to lower your body down to the ground, and exhale as you rise back up.

It may be tempting to hold your breath during weight lifting — don’t!

Making a habit of holding your breath can cause your blood pressure to rise, possibly resulting in dizziness, nausea or even a heart attack.

Instead, use your exercise as a time to practice deep breaths. Deep breaths can lower your blood pressure, enhance relaxation, and may even play a role in how our bodies break down sodium.

Get connected to your breath with breathing techniques — like the ones detailed here — and become more cognizant of how and when to breath during strength training.

After some practice, it’ll be second nature.


Nicole Davis is a Boston-based writer, ACE-certified personal trainer, and health enthusiast who works to help women live stronger, healthier, happier lives. Her philosophy is to embrace your curves and create your fit — whatever that may be! She was featured in Oxygen magazine’s “Future of Fitness” in the June 2016 issue. Follow her on Instagram.