a pink "breathe" sign on a green-leafy background

There has been a lot of talk about the importance of breathing over the last several years, as it affects the health and performance of all athletes. Most athletes have done some types of breathing drills during their careers. These may have been incorporated into a warm-up, a workout, or a cool-down. There is an abundance of advantages breathwork can have for an athlete. Most athletes do not think about the full benefits of breathwork and are largely unfamiliar with them. It is essential to know how proper breathing can boost athletic performance.

Do We All Really Know How to Breathe?

We all breathe whether or not we pay attention to it, and it seems as though there wouldn’t be a need for practicing different ways of breathing. Breathing is both voluntary and involuntary as we can easily control it if needed, like when taking a deep dive. However, it happens independently if we do not pay attention to it. Because breath control is autonomous, most of us don’t pay attention to this function. However, breathing exercises and techniques have a lot of benefits to overall wellness. For instance, it can improve one’s mental state, and it has the ability to significantly improve an athlete’s performance. Proper breathing requires thoracic mobility, good abdominal and core strength, and a full range of motion in the diaphragm from contraction to relaxation.

Recognizing the Need for Help

No matter how prepared you are for a game or a workout, you may feel stressed or depressed. These states can lead to loss of focus and even injury. Practicing breathing is a great way to tackle these issues, but you can also find the perfect therapist with ease without even leaving your home. Online therapy is becoming more mainstream and perfect for busy athletes. Having a professional to talk to if you are going through any type of difficulty is vital. Doing so will help you release the stress you are experiencing and take your performance to the next level.

a women outdoors in workout clothes
If you are struggling, talk to an online therapist

How Does Breathing Work During Exercise?

When we exercise, our lungs work harder than usual. Oxygen is basically fuel to our muscles. When we inhale, the heart circulates oxygen through the body and to our muscles. Consequently, when we are exercising, we use more muscular effort and need a supply of oxygen to keep the body at optimal performance.

In addition, the diaphragm is a muscle that helps pull and push air in and out of the lungs. This is why it’s crucial for athletes to use their diaphragm effectively. Many athletes walk around with a diaphragm that is in a constant state of contraction. The diaphragm also needs to return to a relaxed state to function properly continually. For the diaphragm to relax, the abs must contract in opposition. This will help distribute more oxygen to their muscles. Hence, breathing can enhance athletic performance.

More Ways Breathing Can Boost Athletic Performance

When muscles do not get enough oxygen, they become tense. This, in turn, leads to cramps and muscle soreness. Proper breathing helps elevate many athletic skills.

a man running by the water
Proper breathing can boost athletic performance for runners.

Pay attention to the following:

  • With running, the proper pace is crucial. Synchronizing breathing with strides is vital to maintaining control. It is very common for runners to burn out quickly because they don’t know how to conserve strength.
  • It should be noted that the proper breathing technique for a particular sport may not be suited for another. When it comes to long-distance running, one should breathe in through the nose and exhale through the mouth in long deep counts.
  • In strength-based exercises, the breath-hold technique where you only exhale as you complete repetition is the way to go.
  • There isn’t just one breathing technique that brings on results. It’s essential to understand what works best for an athlete in their specific sport.

Breathing Exercises That Can Boost Athletic Performance

Anyone looking to improve their performance can practice some simple breathing exercises. Doing so will train the abs and diaphragm to provide inhalation and exhalation to the fullest. It will help with the performance as well as the post-workout recovery.

a woman in red and white doing crunches on the floor
Breathing techniques can help your performance and recovery


Blowing up balloons can help an athlete get a sense of what it feels like to have a complete exhalation using abdominal muscles. Follow the steps:

  1. Take a deep inhale and exhale with a long, steady, forceful breath
  2. Contract the abdominal muscles
  3. Try to force the last of the air out of the lungs
  4. Repeat several times for practice

Wall Sit Technique

When you are in the wall sit position, reach your arms forward. Take a deep breath in and exhale completely to expel as much air as possible. Since you are keeping your spine in a neutral position against the wall, the breathing exercise will force you to use the diaphragm and abs to perform inhalation and exhalation. You will not rely on the spine, neck, or shoulders to expand the rib cage.

Breath of Fire

If you practice yoga, you will be familiar with his technique. The technique involves short, passive inhales and short, forceful exhales. You can do this by quickly contracting and relaxing the abdominal muscles.

  1. To begin, relax the belly and inhale quickly through the nose
  2. Before exhaling, pull the belly button in toward the spine
  3. Follow with a forceful yet passive exhale
  4. Repeat

When doing the breath of fire, it should feel like you are creating a rapid pumping system for the breath to be pulled in and out through the nostrils.

Long Exhale Technique

Lay on your back with bent knees and your feet flat on the floor. Breathe in and out naturally. Then practice lengthening out the inhalation and exhalation until they’re of equal length. After that, focus on progressively increasing the length of your exhale until you have 1:2 ratios. This technique is very beneficial if you’ve had a run in the cold weather. The icy cold wind can make it hard to breathe, so use the same long exhale technique to regain control of your breathing. This way of breathing can boost athletic performance and give you a better chance to recharge your stamina.