Learning to Breathe Correctly for the Best Bodybuilding Results

Lee Labrada Shares Breathing Techniques to Use for Each Bodybuilding Exercise

Bodybuilding Legend Lee Labrada
Bodybuilding Legend Lee Labrada. www.Labrada.com

Proper breathing technique during the bodybuilding exercises is crucial if you wish to get the best bodybuilding results from your program.

You breathe in, you breathe out. Everybody breathes a dozen or more times per minute, sixty minutes per hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year... until their last day, until their last breath.

You would think that with all of this breathing, there would be no confusion as to how to properly breathe during exercise or moments of exertion.

However, I can tell you from experience, that this is not the case. Many trainees don't breathe properly during exercise. Nor are they conscious of the fact that you can use your breathing to gauge the pace at which they should train.

I tell my trainees to use a very simple rule of thumb concerning the proper way to breathe during exercise: exhale at the moment of greatest exertion.

Now this must be done in a controlled fashion. Let's take an example. For instance, a squat. At the beginning of the squat, standing erect, you inhale, taking in a deep breath, and then you slowly drop into the squat position. Once you reach bottom and begin to thrust back upwards to the erect position, you slowly exhale.

People have a natural tendency to hold their breath at the moment of greatest exertion while performing a rep. This can result in the creation of intra-thoracic pressure within the chest cavity that can make your blood pressure skyrocket momentarily, creating light-headedness or, even worse, setting you up for a cardiovascular accident.

The controlled release of the contained breath is instrumental in making an exercise like the squat work for you. Having the lungs and the ribcage expanded as you descend in the squat will help you perform this exercise more easily, but you should release your breath slowly as you exert and bring yourself upright, by pursing your lips and pushing your breath out.

Let's take a look at another basic exercise, the bench press. The manner in which I recommend that you perform this exercise is to take the bar off the rack, and with your arms extended, inhale, taking a deep breath and expanding your ribcage. Then, slowly lower the weight until it touches your chest.

With the ribcage fully expanded as you begin to push the weight back to the original upright position, you exhale slowly.

On any particularly heavy set, there's nothing wrong with taking a few quick, short breaths before beginning another repetition. This is particularly helpful towards the end of a heavy set when the muscle begins to fatigue and you are fading quickly.

Keep in mind that resistance training, is anaerobic. By its very nature, this means that the body is utilizing oxygen at a faster rate than it can be replenished during the exercise. What this means to you is that after any particular set, you have an oxygen "deficit" built up that your body must neutralize before you begin another set, for optimum results.

This leads us to the question of how long to rest in-between sets or, in other words, how long we allow our bodies to "breathe" before we begin another set. I think that the answer to this is very simple.

Let nature dictate when you begin the next set.

Let's take the squat example again. At the end of a heavy set of squats, you're going to be breathing like a locomotive. Between sets, you should rest long enough to allow your breathing to normalize.

Beginning the next set before your breathing is normalized sets you up for your cardiovascular capacity to give out before your target muscles are fully taxed. Waiting much longer than it takes for you to normalize your breath, on the other hand, lets the fatigue in the target muscle to decrease too much, negating the cumulative beneficial effect of the preceding sets. In a nutshell, rest long enough in-between sets to catch your breath, and then begin your next set.

In-between sets, I find it helpful to sit on a bench, or lean on a bar or piece of exercise equipment where I can raise my arms.

This relaxes the muscles around my ribcage. In-between sets, breathe like the animals do: by allowing the abdomen to distend.

Most people make the mistake of breathing from the chest. Watch any animal breathe and you'll see that it allows its abdomen to distend, so that the job of the diaphragm is made easier. Maximum oxygenation is the goal in-between sets.

To help you increase your endurance during workouts, you should add a good multivitamin/multimineral to your diet. Creatine monohydrate is also beneficial. If you are using a good meal replacement powder you will be getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need, especially important antioxidants such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Selenium. Remember that nutritional support is key if you want to make maximum progress.

Follow these proper breathing tips and enhance your bodybuilding results!

Lee Labrada, is a former IFBB Mr. Universe and IFFB Pro World Cup winner. He is one of few men in history to place in the top four in the Mr. Olympia seven consecutive times, and was recently inducted into the IFBB Pro Bodybuilding Hall of Fame. Lee is President/CEO of Houston-based Labrada Nutrition.