I have started strength training and mostly use the machines in the gym. They have helped me with my form and I love the way I am getting stronger. The only question I have is about breathing. When I observe people in the gym, they are not all breathing the same. Is there a way I should be breathing when I am using these machines? - Carla
It's common to look around and observe others in a gym setting. Look very long and you'll see vast differences between the fitness seekers. Some are setting fine examples, while others are doing quite the contrary. I've watched people take a deep breath in and then lift weights fast and furious before they let it out. I've also been amazed at others who seem to barely breathe at all.
Breathing is very important in order that you get the most out of your physical workouts whether you are using resistance machines or free weights. During strength training, having optimum oxygen exchange will allow your body to stay relaxed and enable your muscles to work safely. Proper breathing techniques keep the oxygen flowing, which supports your muscles and prevents injury. And holding your breath can initiate a rise in blood pressure and cause you to feel lightheaded. If you continue to hold your breath, it can lead to headaches or even a possible stroke.
However, it's really fairly simple once you understand when to inhale and when to exhale when you execute a strength move.
Exhale fully and forcefully on the exertion phase of the lift, which will be the hardest part of the exercise.
Example: If you are doing a biceps curl, the up-phase (contraction) is the exertion phase. This is where you should exhale. The down-phase (extension) is the easier phase. This is where you should inhale deeply. When you breathe in this manner, it will deliver oxygen to the working muscles, supply you with energy and dispose of the waste products more efficiently.
Because you can dictate the speed of the movement during strength training, breathing can become rhythmic and more easily controlled. It takes a little concentration at first, but if you tune into the part of the exercise that is most difficult, it will be easy to know when to exhale. Soon it will be second nature.
In addition to knowing when to breathe, it is helpful to know how to breathe. You're probably saying, "I know how to breathe!" Yes, I know normal breathing is involuntary. But it will be advantageous to your strength workout if you inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Releasing your breath through your mouth will allow all of the air to move out of your system quickly. If you breathe out through your nose, it may retain the pressure of the air inside.
Don't hold your breath at any point! If you do feel yourself holding your breath, concentrate on the exhale phase during each extension until your breathing is correct. Breathing too much is preferred over not breathing enough even though it may cause some dizziness. Some dizziness, however, is better than some of the complications that result from holding your breath.
Also, breathing during cardiovascular exercise is different from strength training. For instance, if you are taking an aerobic fitness class, your breathing probably won't be in sync with the cadence of the cardio activity. Likewise, if you're cycling up a hill, your pedaling rate may be slow but your breathing rate may be high.
Finally, whether you are strength training or doing cardiovascular exercise, avoid shallow breathing. Shallow breathing indicates you may be working too hard. Try to establish a more rhythmic pattern of breaths taking stronger, deeper breaths whenever possible. If you can get into the habit of doing this, you can breathe a sigh of relief that you are well on your way to building a stronger body.
Cindy Boggs, fitness presenter, author and Activate America director, has been an ACE-certified coordinator/instructor since 1989. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to YMCA of Kanawha Valley, 100 YMCA Drive, Charleston, WV 25311, or e-mail cindys...@aol.com. Look for Cindy's fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World" on her Web site www.cindysays.com or contact the YMCA at 340-3527.