In our blog, How Breathing Works, we take a look at what makes up your respiratory system. In this blog, we look at what physically happens when you breathe. Therefore, we’ll be looking at inhalation (breathing in) and exhalation (breathing out). Furthermore, we’ll be looking at how POWERbreathe IMT helps you to strengthen the muscles you use to breathe in, and why it’s beneficial to do so.

What happens when you breathe?

Try and focus on your breathing as you read this as it will help you connect to your breathing muscles and ‘feel’ your breathing muscles working.

Inhalation – what happens when you breathe in

As you breathe in your diaphragm tightens, contracting and moving downward. This allows the space in your chest cavity to increase providing the extra space needed for your lungs to expand. You can feel this as you take a deep breath in. The muscles between your ribs, your intercostal muscles, also play a role here as they too help enlarge your chest cavity. They do this by contracting as you inhale, pulling your rib cage upward and outward. Think about how a baby breathes. Or even a pet. They aren’t weighed down with the stress life can throw at us, and so they haven’t forgotten how to breathe. Notice how their abdomen expands and relaxes. They’re not conscientious about their tummy sticking out – they’re just breathing as nature intended.

At the point when your lungs are expanding, they’re sucking air in through your nose or mouth, down into your windpipe and into your lungs. It then passes through your bronchial tubes until it finally reaches and enters the alveoli, or air sacs.

Gas exchange

The walls of these air sacs are very thin, and oxygen from the air passes through them to the surrounding blood vessels, or capillaries. Here haemoglobin, a red blood cell protein, helps to move the oxygen from the air sacs to your blood. As this happens, the carbon dioxide waste gas moves from the capillaries into the air sacs. This waste gas has travelled from the right-side of the heart through the pulmonary artery in the bloodstream.

Through a network of capillaries the now oxygen-rich blood from your lungs is carried to your pulmonary vein which delivers blood to the left-side of your heart which then pumps it to the rest of your body. Now the oxygen in your blood moves from blood vessels into surrounding tissues.

Exhalation – what happens when you breathe out

As you breathe out your diaphragm does the opposite of what it does when you breathe in, and relaxes, moving upward into your chest cavity. The same applies to your intercostal muscles, the muscles between your ribs, which also relax, reducing the space in your chest cavity. You can feel this now if you take a breath in, and then out.

As you breathe out and the space in your chest cavity reduces, the carbon dioxide rich air is forced out of your lungs, windpipe and finally out of your nose or mouth. This requires no effort at all from your body unless you suffer from a lung disease or breathing problems, or you’re in the middle of doing something very physical, such as working-out. When you’re working-out your abdominal muscles contract. This tightens and pushes your diaphragm against your lungs more than usual, quickly pushing air out of your lungs.

How POWERbreathe breathing training benefits you

Now we have a more complete understanding of what physically happens when you breathe, it’s clear that your inspiratory muscles, the muscles you use to breathe in, undertake most of the work of breathing. So it makes sense that improving the strength, power and endurance of your inspiratory muscles could only be beneficial. 

If you are a bodybuilder, then you’ll strengthen all your muscle groups so that you’re able to increase your lifting weight, and improve your performance in competition. So why not train your breathing muscles to increase their strength, power and stamina? Finding a training stimulus of sufficient duration and frequency to elicit an improvement in strength, power and endurance of your breathing muscles is a challenge in itself, but even if you could, it’s doubtful whether this type of unloaded breathing would provide enough of a training overload to elicit maximal training benefits; as Professor McConnell says, “it’s akin to a bicep curl without a dumbbell.”

What Is POWERbreathe IMT?

What happens when you train with POWERbreathe IMT

POWERbreathe IMT specifically targets your breathing muscles and provides more than enough stimulus to elicit improvements in strength, power and endurance. POWERbreathe IMT offers various levels of resistance to train against and is quick and easy to use. And because it is drug-free and has no drug interactions, it can also be used by those with breathing problems; just speak to your GP or asthma nurse about POWERbreathe IMT.

Benefits of better breathing

Training your breathing muscles to improve their strength, power and endurance has benefits for everyone. Here are just a few ways you could benefit from stronger breathing muscles:

In sport and exercise:

• Improves fitness and sports performance
• Reduces whole body effort, so exercise feels easier
• Speeds up lactate clearance

In performing arts:

• Enhances the ability to inflate the lungs (breathe deeper)
• Enhances the ability to control your breath (how you inhale governs how you exhale)
• Warms-up breathing muscles prior to performance

In health and medical:

• Reduces breathlessness and restores breathing power
• Improves quality of life in people with debilitating breathing conditions
• Reduced consumption of medication of up to 79% in asthma patients

In the uniformed services:

• Increased time to exhaustion during a standard laboratory treadmill test
• Reduced the rate of air use from the breathing cylinder used by firefighters (increasing wear time by around 1.5 min from a 15 min cylinder)
• Reduced heart rate