The power of breath for athletes

The power of breath for athletes

Why you need to breaaaaathe…

Breathing and the way we breathe can have an incredible impact on our bodies. If you are looking to recover better and move better then looking at your breathing mechanics may be worth doing.

Sympathetic breathing

Firstly, so many people are sympathetic breathers, this means they don’t use the diagphram effectively, are constantly in a position of lumbar overextension with a ‘flared’ rib cage. This will lead to poor positions when we are moving and training, restricted breathing patterns and a pre disposal to spinal erectors getting an almighty pump when doing high repetition pulling from the floor.

Building in some 90/90 breathing drills and slowly teaching your body what a ‘neutral’ position feels like will possibly help you to squat more easily, go overhead and find internal rotation in the shoulder more easily. If our upper neck, back and chest musculature is breathing for us all the time (chest breaths) we become more and more ‘sympathetic’ which means we are in a constant state of slight stress and tension. Leading to more systemic tension and movement faults, as a general rule.


Stop being an inefficient mover

If we can learn to breathe using the diaghpram, also known as belly breathing. We will begin to let the upperbody musculature function more normally, rather than doing the extra job of breathing for us! We will better be able to find and maintain a ‘neutral’ spine and stay out of overextension. This will help us be much more efficient when training and competing and will prevent some of the bleeding of force that occurs with poor movement.

Learn to recover

In terms of recovery, if we learn to breathe through the belly and fully exhale, we will become much better at activating our parasympathetic nervous system (our rest and recovery system). See here for one of the MANY studies done into this.

Which is essential to take us out of our stress response and to start the whole recovery process. This is incredibly important for athletes and can be a great habit to get into post training and pre bed when we should be looking for ways te reduce cortisol levels.

The easiest way to do this is by simply breathing in through the nose for 2-3 seconds and exhaling for 6-8 seconds. Accumulate 30-40 of these breaths. Simple and effective!


For more information on programme design and how to optimise your own recovery and performance, contact us at

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