Many of you that I work with have this deep down desire to HOLD YOUR BREATH while doing your exercises. Well, here is a breakdown of why it’s so important to just breathe.

Breathing in, and breathing out – we all do it, right? Not so fast. When it comes to exercise, the art of inhaling and exhaling may be a little more complicated than we think. Should we breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth? And wait – what’s a diaphragm exactly? Whether the goal is running, lifting or warrior posing with ease, read on to discover the best breathing techniques to put optimal performance well within reach.

Breathing is a very valuable and often overlooked function of the human body. When you inhale, you take in oxygen, which gets transported via blood cells. When you exhale, you get rid of toxins and gases such as carbon dioxide. Proper breathing during exercise is of the utmost importance because it helps oxygenate hard-working muscles and supplies them with nutrient-rich blood.

A disordered breathing pattern can be the first sign that things are not functioning properly, whether it be a mechanical, physiological or psychological dysfunction. The dysfunction is real and therefore needs attention.

During most activities breathing is not the first thing that comes to mind. But overall, smooth and efficient breathing techniques will supply your body with the essential oxygen it needs to perform at optimal levels.

How to do it right: “Breathing muscles are an integral part of the core stabilizing and postural control systems,” McConnell says. Intuitively, this means when anticipating a load or an impact, it’s best to take a deep breath and then brace the core. Not only will this make us more difficult to knock over (take that, LT), it will also help protect the spine, McConnell adds.

However, most people will not consider how these roles interact with one another, or more importantly, how they interact with breathing. Virtually all sports involve movements that implicitly perturb posture (football), require trunk stabilization (rugby), incorporate trunk rotation (tennis), and/or compress the trunk (rowing), while simultaneously increasing the demand for breathing. Breathing is brought about by a complex group of trunk muscles that include the diaphragm, rib cage muscles and abdominal muscles. These are the same muscles that are responsible for trunk stabilization, postural control and/or movement.

The diaphragm is one of the best known, but most underestimated trunk muscle. While its role in breathing is obvious, its roles in postural stabilization and control are not. The problem is you can read many articles on HOW TO BREATHE BEST but ultimately everyone is still made up differently, so what is RIGHT?

While there isn’t one correct way to breathe on the playing field or while running, the breath should come from the diaphragm (the most efficient breathing muscle) – not the chest. “In general, the rib cage should expand in a 3D pattern, top to bottom, back to front and to the sides,” says Anna Hartman, director of Performance Physical Therapy at Athletes’ Performance.

Functional breathing not only enhances performance, it also reduces the risk of injury, because it enables the breathing muscles to accommodate their role in helping to stabilize the body’s core more effectively.

Breathing Techniques:

3-breathing exercises: