4 Strategies to Improve Breathing for Athletes

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Breathing Strategies

Breathe in. Breathe out. Then make sure you’re breathing the right way.

A 2013 meta-analysis of 21 studies found that training the respiratory muscles increases the endurance of athletes. Whether you are a swimmer, jogger, or wrestler, learning how to improve breathing helps you perform for longer periods of time.

But athletes struggle to strengthen their lungs. Taking deep breaths is an important first step, but you need to know more breathing strategies.

4 Breathing Strategies for Athletes

Thankfully, you can learn them quickly. Here are four ways to improve your breathing strategies.

  1. Breath Awareness
  2. Diaphragmatic Breathing
  3. Inhale, Then Hold
  4. Breath of Fire

1. Breath Awareness

Being aware of how you breathe allows you to fix the way you breathe. Take one minute at the end of your day to breathe. Sit in a chair and close your eyes.

Inhale in through the nose. Inflate your abdomen as far as it can go. Hold for a moment, and then let it out through your nose.

Try not to move your head or adjust your body. Keep the same tempo of breaths, breathing out for as long as you breathe in.

Take note of how air passes through your nose. If you find it difficult to breathe, you may have a congestion issue. If you find it hard to hold your breath in your lungs, you may need to strengthen your abdominal muscles.

2. Diaphragmatic Breathing 

Diaphragmatic breathing is similar to breath awareness. This style of breathing gives you a better sense of how your breath remains in your lungs.

Sit upright in a chair or against a wall. Close your eyes and relax your shoulders.

Place the hand you write with beneath your belly button. Place your other hand across your abdomen.

Breathe in deeply. Try to expand the area below your belly button. Do not push against that area, but allow your hand to move with your expanding body.

Feel your rib cage expand as your lungs fill. Then fill the upper part of your lungs, close to your throat. Once you’ve filled all three areas, exhale out.

Repeat this process for five to ten minutes. Take note of how your breath passes through your body.

You may notice an incredible sense of calm after performing diaphragmatic breathing. You may be able to perform for longer periods of time. If you struggle with asthma, diaphragmatic breathing can calm you down and prevent an attack.

3. Inhale, Then Hold

If you want to calm down quickly, practice 4-7-8 breathing. Breathe in over four seconds. Expand your abdomen as far as you can.

Once you’ve reached four seconds, hold your breath for seven. Then exhale over eight seconds, emptying your lungs. You can repeat this process, but some people find themselves calmer after one cycle.

If 4-7-8 breathing doesn’t work, try 6-2-8. Inhale for six seconds, hold for two, and exhale across eight. The short hold helps you refocus by replenishing your nervous system with oxygen.

4. Breath of Fire

The breath of fire is a common yoga technique. It involves short but forceful exhales with short and passive inhales. The breath of fire strengthens your core muscles while calming you down.

Sit down and relax your abdomen. If you notice any tension there, ease it. Then inhale quickly through your nose.

Pull your belly button in, then exhale. Repeat several times over.

How to Improve Breathing 

Improving your breathing calms you down and provides your body with an essential supply of oxygen. You can adopt four different techniques to improve breathing and improve life quality.

Take one minute out of your day to focus on how you breathe. With that information, practice diaphragmatic breathing. Fill each part of your lungs for maximum relaxation.

For a quick technique, perform 4-7-8 or 6-2-8 breathing. The breath of fire is a forceful technique that strengthens your core muscles.

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