Proper breathing is key for gymnasts

The Hybrid Perspective, Linking Gymnastics and Movement Science, recently began a series of articles about the importance of proper breathing in gymnastics.

In Part 1, 5 Reasons Why Training Proper Breathing Is Key Dr. Dave Tilley emphasises what a big deal breathing really is and how it will be a huge talking point at his two Gymnastics Live Seminars: one on spine injury prevention and one on mobility.

Dr. Tilley says, “Periods of fatigue shouldn’t be the only time they pay attention to it (breathing pattern). Athletes and coaches should be aware of proper breathing through all of practice, and I feel working it should also be a regular part of training. There is much support in the idea that mastering breathing plays a huge role in core control, power output, the state of their nervous system, mobility, recovery, and battling fatigue. In the next two weeks I’m going to share some background to breathing, along with 5 reasons behind why I work it at every practice with our gymnasts.

Part 2, 5 Reasons Why Training Proper Breathing Is Key (Pt 2): Tapping Into The Nervous System & Enhancing Mobility is also now available and looks into more important ideas related to the benefits of training and using proper breathing patterns and why breathing is so important for gymnasts to work on.

In this his second article, Dr. Tilley talks about how proper breathing patterns can make quite a substantial effect on the nervous system and how he has seen good success in using breathing drills and light self soft tissue work before he does mobility with gymnastics athletes/patients he works with.

Further into the article Dr. Tilley emphasises the importance of proper breathing patterns, using the core to act as a stable base to enhance movement in the arms and legs, especially during stretching. “Keeping the core stable can help fixate one end of the tissue trying to be mobilized, and breathing goes right along with this. As noted with the earlier parts of the post, it may also help to assist in relaxation for the nervous system rather than pushing hard and possibly inducing a perception of threat.”

Part 3, Increase Routine Endurance and Breathing Drill Videos is now also available and talks about how proper breathing can improve cardiovascular abilities during gymnastics routines.

Top breathing exercises for swimmers

The sport of swimming involves your head being submerged in water most of the time so it is important to gain the correct swimming balance.  The majority of swimmers put a lot of concentration, practice, focus and effort into improving their swimming style. However, if the basic breathing techniques are not being followed all this effort goes to waste and what happens is the swimming stroke will lose its smoothness. It is essential that anyone who swims professionally or swims to get fit follows the correct breathing techniques and exercises.  Initially at the beginning it may be challenging to focus on breathing and executing the swimming stroke, but with practice the difference will soon be noticeable.

How to improve swimming breathing techniques

Focusing on two things at once can be difficult – ensuring the stroke is being performed correctly and ensuring the right swimming breathing technique of inhaling and exhaling is being followed. Initially, always start off with a basic practice swimming routine. This way the chances of inhaling water are minimal.  A very simple breathing exercise that can be performed by dipping your head in a large or medium mixing bowl filled with water.  Placing a mirror at the bottom of the water-filled bowl will ensure better results.

The steps below will ensure you perfect your breathing technique:

  • First dip your chin in the bowl and practice swimming breathing nose inhaling, mouth exhaling and see how your breath ruffles the surface of water.
  • After about 30 seconds, touch your lips & nose to the surface and try to inhale through the small amount of space at both the corners of the mouth. A blotting effect should be seen (in the mirror) where the lips and nose touch the water.
  • After another one minute, you need to lower the rest of your face into the bowl. Keep your mouth open underwater, but do not exhale. The natural air pressure in your mouth will prevent the water from entering your nose and mouth.
  • When you next lift your face out of the water, you should be able to inhale from the nose easily.
  • Repeat these exercises and gradually make an attempt to inhale from your nose, while the tip of your nose still touches the water.

It won’t be long before you master this technique. As soon as you are used to breathing with the mixing bowl, you can then progress to a shallow pool where you can submerge your head in deeper water.

Breathing exercises for swimmers are considered a primary part of their training because breathing in a rhythm means more stamina. If you are able to inhale more air then you can get more oxygen in every breath and breathing in a rhythm will let you swim for a long time before you are winded out.


Top breathing exercises for runners

Respiratory SymptomRunning is a form of aerobic exercise. Quite literally, ‘aerobic’ means ‘with oxygen’. We need to breathe to get oxygen into the lungs.  Although this sounds obvious, some runners have a shallow or laboured breathing style.  However, there are some cases where this style of breathing results in severe muscle cramps, side stitches, poor performance or premature fatigue. Not only that, shallow breathing can also result in anxiety, which can be counter-productive if you run for relaxation. Anxiety also causes physical tension which can result in a loss of energy – resulting in less energy for your workout.

Deep Breathing

The majority of runners only use the upper two thirds of their lung capacity. However, diaphragmatic breathing, which fills the lower part of the lungs, can increase a runner’s aerobic capacity, reduce stress and even help to eliminate the dreaded runner’s cramps.

Deep breathing exercises can be performed prior to a run or during a run. However, depending on when they are performed, there is a slight variation in technique. Prior to a run, take a deep breath in through the nose and hold for five counts. Then, slowly release the breath through the mouth. Holding the breath during a run is not recommended. Simply breathe in for five counts, and then breathe out for five counts. Keep in mind that it is not always easy to breathe through the nose while running. If this is the case, go ahead and breathe through the mouth.

Many runners do not realise that while they run, they are holding tension in their shoulders, wrists, hands and jaws. The exhalation phase of the deep breathing exercise is a good time to release this tension. As you exhale, you can shake out your hands, roll your shoulders and open your mouth to relax your jaw.

Rhythmic Breathing
Although rhythmic breathing may be difficult to master, it can be an excellent way to coordinate your breathing patterns with your running movements. In fact, elite runners use this method as a means of ensuring an even rhythm to their running. Most elite athletes use a 2-to-2 breathing rhythm. This means that they take two steps per inhale, and two steps per exhale. At the end of the race, they might switch to a 2-to-1 rhythm, which involves a two-count inhalation followed by one-count exhalation.

The Cleansing Breath
When you wake up feeling congested, it may be difficult to motivate yourself for a run. Provided that you are not seriously ill, the cleansing breath can open your sinuses and clear out congestion, which might make it easier to go for a run.

The cleansing breath is borrowed from yoga. Use the two middle fingers of your left hand to close off your right nostril. Breathe in for four counts through your left nostril. Then, use your thumb to close the nostril. Hold the breath for four counts, and then release your fingers from your right nostril, and let the breath out for eight counts.

Repeat the process on the right nostril, using your right hand to close off the left nostril. After you’ve repeated the exercise a few times, you might want, and in fact be able to blow your nose.

Warming up your breathing muscles

These breathing techniques for running will help with your running performance, but don’t forget that you also need to warm-up your breathing muscles before a run, just as you warm –up your other muscles to help prevent injury. Warming up your breathing muscles can help to eliminate excessive breathlessness during the start of your run, and help you get into a natural breathing rhythm. Inspiratory muscle training targets your breathing muscles and is ideal for a pre-run warm-up and to help improve running performance.

Ian Locke – week 2 of my POWERbreathe K5 training

Ian Locke, founder of Thrive Personal Training in Swindon, provides personal training in a private gym as well as nutritional analysis to help clients reach their health and fitness goals.

Here he tells us how he’s been getting on with his second week of POWERbreathe K5 training…

Ian Locke, Thrive Personal TrainingSo the second week of my POWERbreathe training is complete, but there isn’t a lot of progress to report. In fact, my test results regressed slightly this week, but then that can sometimes be expected with muscle development. Now that I’ve got a bit of history in the Breathe-link PC software, I’ve been trying to make sense of the charts, but my results are all up and down so far, so not really possible to find a trend.

I’m expecting this to change this week as I have moved from the automatic training method (where the K5 assesses your strength on the first few breaths and sets the resistance accordingly) to the manual training method. I found that if my technique wasn’t perfect on the initial breaths, the automatic route wouldn’t be consistently challenging enough for me. Setting a manual load (currently 90cmH2O) makes it easier for me to check my progress.

But has the training made a difference? I went for a hilly 6.4 mile run this week. It was 27 degrees and perhaps my slowest run ever (I don’t do well in the heat), but the hills did seem easier than I had expected. I made a real effort to breathe as if I was using the K5 and just focussing on the technique distracted me from the difficulties of the heat! The big downside was the increased number of flies I swallowed on the way round.

For next week, I will stick with the manual training method and increase the load slowly, but I am also going to introduce the K5 to one of my personal training clients that is a keen runner to see what she thinks.


Ian Locke
Personal Trainer and Nutritional Advisor


Inspiratory muscle training for strength

Our bodies respond to exercise in a variety of ways to increase efficiency. One key factor that contributes to you exercising less is the efficiency of your respiratory health. Regular exercise can improve your fitness by strengthening these respiratory muscles as these are the muscles that aid you in breathing. Not only will regular exercise strengthen your muscles, your lungs will also change to increase your endurance and energy production.

Benefits of inspiratory muscle training

Exercising to increase the strength of your respiratory muscles is beneficiary to you as you are then able to increase your respiratory volumes. it is these volumes that measure the amount of air you can inhale and exhale, as well as the residual amount which remains in your lungs.

Target Heart Zone

Any type of respiratory muscle strength training depends on how you exercising within your target heart zone. For those of you not familiar with heart zones, this blog on the importance of heart rate monitors will help. Typically the heart rate zone is when your heart beats at 50 to 75 percent of its maximum rate.


Like everything if you have been inactive with your training your muscles will not be as flexible. You need to slowly ease back into training and get your body used to the demands that you are placing on it. When coming back to training after a long period of absence you should always start at the lower end of your heart target zone. The heart and the lungs will work together to build the strength in these organs, something which will take some time and effort. Overtime you will become stronger which will mean you can increase the intensity of your workout and get back towards the higher end of your heart rate zone.


Reaching this intensity will not be easy. However, to help you will need to incorporate aerobic activity into your workout. You can maintain your level of fitness by exercising at least three to five times per week. This regular pattern of exercise will also help you strengthen and condition the main large muscles of your body. These muscles will require more oxygen therefore increasing the strength that is required by the respiratory system. The correct intensity for your workout includes activity such as cycling or running.

As with any strength and conditioning exercise, inspiratory muscle training is a key ingredient. Using an inspiratory muscle trainer can help increase your performance in sports and fitness as well as help you to breathe with ease.



Ian Locke, Personal Trainer – how and why I came to use the POWERbreathe K5

Ian Locke, founder of Thrive Personal Training in Swindon, provides personal training in a private gym as well as nutritional analysis to help clients reach their health and fitness goals.

Here he talks about how and why he came to use the POWERbreathe inspiratory muscle training device, and shares his first experience of using it. In future reports we’ll learn of his progress, so please keep coming back to check on how Ian’s breathing training is going on his POWERbreathe K5

Ian Locke, Thrive Personal Training“As someone who has tried their hand at running, high intensity interval training, boxing and playing a wind instrument, I’ve become more conscious in recent months that the limiting factor in each of these activities is my breathing. Running is a classic example – unless running up steep hills, it is not tiredness in my legs which slow me down, but rather that my breathing doesn’t seem to keep pace. I also find that my airways close partially when exercising at high intensities, making pushing myself harder very uncomfortable.

Having set up a personal training business in January, I wanted to find a way to improve the weakest link and increase my performance, as well as that of my clients. I read Alison McConnell’s book “Breath Strong Perform Better” over Christmas and invested in the POWERbreath K5 a few weeks back. I am in the early stages of training (30 breaths, twice a day) and have been warned not to expect miraculous results just yet, but I have noticed improvements in my breathing technique (maximum lung volume being used has increased from 4.5 litres to over 6 litres) and my S-Index (strength test) has increased from 160 to 185 cmH2O. As with all new exercises, some of the improvement will be technique and some will be strength gains.

I went for a 4.5 mile run and hill interval session yesterday to see if I could detect any difference. I was much more focussed on my breathing (deep belly breaths) and felt that my breath rate did not rise as quickly as normal, meaning I could pump my arms harder. My air ways still became restricted (perhaps I should see a doctor about that) and I’m not convinced I ran much faster, but the focus on breathing made the session easier than I had expected.

During the coming week, I shall stick with the current training plan and report back on further progress.”

Ian Locke
Personal Trainer and Nutritional Advisor

If you’re using a POWERbreathe K5 and have any hints, tips, feedback or results you’d like to share with Ian and the POWERbreathe community, then please leave a comment here. We’d love to hear from you.


Deep breathing facts

diaphragmIn general, the human organism was not designed to breathe deeply at all times and in all situations. The depth of our breath, whether it is shallow, medium, or deep depends in large part on what it is we are doing. If we are sitting quietly reading, for example, we do not need to be breathing deeply. If we are working hard and expending a great deal of energy, however, we might well need to breathe deeply. Another situation in which deep breathing can be beneficial is when we are trying to revitalise our energy.

Deep breathing can be important to both health and spiritual development. Such breathing can increase our vitality and promote relaxation. Unfortunately, when we try to take a so-called deep breath, many of us do the exact opposite: we suck in our bellies, raise our shoulders, and try to expand our chest. This is shallow breathing. To learn deep breathing we need to do far more than learn new breathing exercises. Before deep breathing exercises can be of any lasting value, we need to experience and understand through the direct inner sensation of our own bodies the function of the chest muscles and diaphragm in breathing, as well as the function of the belly and back. We also need to observe how unnecessary tension in our muscles impedes our breathing.

The diaphragm is a dome-shaped structure that not only assists in breathing, but also acts as a natural partition between our heart and lungs on the one hand, and all of the other internal organs on the other. The top of the diaphragm, located about one and one-half inches up from the bottom of the sternum, actually supports the heart, while the bottom of the diaphragm is attached all the way around our lower ribs and connects also to our lower lumbar vertebrae. When we breathe, the surface of our diaphragm generally moves downward as we inhale and upward as we exhale. When we breathe fully and deeply, which is only possible when the belly releases and expands on inhalation and retracts on exhalation, the diaphragm moves farther down into the abdomen, and our lungs are able to expand more completely into the chest cavity. This means that more oxygen is taken in and more carbon dioxide is released with each breath. Of course, if we breathe both deeply and relatively quickly, we could lose too much carbon dioxide too quickly, which can cause us to over breathe or hyperventilate.

Deep breathing, when it is easy, natural, and necessary, can have a beneficial influence on our health and well being. To understand how this happens, we need to remember that the diaphragm is attached all around the lower ribcage and has strands going down to the lumbar vertebrae. When our breathing is full and deep, the diaphragm moves through its entire range downward to massage the liver, stomach, and other organs and tissues below it, and upward to massage the heart. When our breathing is full and deep, the belly, lower ribcage, and lower back all expand on inhalation, thus drawing the diaphragm down deeper into the abdomen, and retract on exhalation, allowing the diaphragm to move fully upward toward the heart. In deep, abdominal breathing, the downward and upward movements of the diaphragm, combined with the outward and inward movements of the belly, ribcage, and lower back, help to massage and detoxify our inner organs, promote blood flow and peristalsis, and pump the lymph more efficiently through our lymphatic system. The lymphatic system, which is an important part of our immune system, has no pump other than muscular movements, including the movements of breathing.

As you begin to observe your breathing in the course of your everyday life, you may notice that you often breathe too fast for the conditions in which you find yourself, that is, you actually hyperventilate. This fast, shallow breathing expels carbon dioxide too quickly and has many bad effects on our physical and emotional health. When our breathing is deeper, when it involves in an appropriate way not only the respiratory muscles of the chest but also the belly, lower ribcage, and lower, middle and upper back, our breathing normally slows down. This slower, deeper breathing, combined with the rhythmical pumping of our diaphragm, abdomen, and belly, helps turn on our parasympathetic nervous system–our “relaxation response.” Such breathing helps to harmonise our nervous system and reduce the amount of stress in our lives. And this, of course, has a positive impact on our overall health.

By incorporating these breathing techniques into your inspiratory muscle training programme you will help strengthen your respiratory muscles.


Ben Barwick – It’s been a long time

Ben BarwickI realise that I haven’t updated my PB Blog in a while, having had a really disappointing run in London, I took a few weeks off training. However, after a few days I was chomping at the bit to make myself even better and I have taken this new enthusiasm into my training over the last month and a bit and really enjoying running again.

After any big race, especially the marathon, you always feel a bit flat and it takes time to get back into your running, The first 2 – 3 weeks when I come back from marathon training are some of the most horrible running weeks I ever have. Whereas before the marathon you feel like you are floating on air, the legs just feel heavy and really do not want to work!

Anyway, you get through it and I have had some good results these last few weeks, lowering my 10k pb to 34:32, and hopefully there is a bit more to come.

Onto POWERbreathe, I am still using the product, especially on race mornings as part of my warm up routine.

However, I have started to incorporate the POWERbreathe into my core workouts that I do. I can tell you now that you have never felt pain like trying to do a plank, whilst breathing through the K5! It is insane! Sometimes, I don’t even get close to taking in a full breath!! I think if you saw me doing it you would think I was insane!

It has made my core workouts a hell of a lot more enjoyable, and I think I am getting a lot more out of them now than I ever did before, as I am working so much harder. When I can easily manage 10 press ups with the K5 in, I will tell everyone who cares to listen about it!!

To do these workouts, I have created a custom 60 breath workout on the K5 Breathe-Link software, and then just keep using the K5 whilst i am doing my core. When I finish the workout, I just start it again and keep breathing. I have set the load to 80cmH20 for all the breaths. This is now where near the maximum I can do for a normal 30 breath session, but it doesn’t need to be! What I find really interesting is that there are some core exercises which aren’t that much harder with the K5 in, and some that make breathing almost impossible!

When I get a bit of time, I will put together some of my favourite core+PB workouts to share with you all!!

Until next time…..keep working that core!

Ten secrets for better breathing

Breathing is one of the most important things we do on a daily basis to help us live well each and every day. If we don’t breathe our organs will not receive the vital supply of oxygen required to help us live. Breathing also has a second function, it also helps to rid the body of toxins and waste products.

Oxygen is the most vital nutrient for our bodies and is essential for the brain, nerves, glands and all the internal organs.  We can go many days without food and water but with no oxygen supply we will die in a matter of minutes. The brain is the organ which requires more oxygen than any other organ. A lack of oxygen can cause mental sluggishness, negative thoughts and even depression. A poor supply of oxygen affects all parts of the body.




Here are ten top better breathing secrets:

  1. If possible in your daily life, inhale and exhale only through your nose, even when you are doing aerobic exercise.
  2.  Sense the movement of your breath frequently in the midst of your everyday activities. Remember not to hold your breath.
  3. Be sure your belly stays relaxed. Let it expand as you inhale and retract as you exhale. Touch it and massage it frequently. Your belly is the foundation of your breath.
  4. Breath is life and movement. Let your breath engage and fill every part of your body, especially your belly, back, spine, and chest.
  5. To transform your breathing, start with your exhalation, with “letting go.”
  6. A long, slow exhalation helps harmonize your diaphragm and turns on your “relaxation response.”
  7. Sense the natural pause after exhalation; let yourself rest there for a moment.
  8. Let your inhalation arise by itself, when it’s ready.
  9. Sense the various breathing spaces of your body several times a day. Smile into these spaces and observe how your awareness helps them open and close effortlessly.
  10. Remember, you are a breathing being, alive right now and here. Let yourself feel the mystery and the miracle of your breath and your life as often as you can.

Following these ten steps can help you breathe better and assist in inspiratory muscle training to make your breathing muscles stronger.


The Keswick festival was very busy and had something for everyone

The Keswick festival was very busy and had something for everyone.

There were talks by celebrities such as Chris Bonnington, Helen Skelton, Monty Hall etc. which took place in a meeting room in the town.

Talks also took place in a giant wigwam on the outdoor site where we had our stand.  I did two POWERbreathe talks, one on Friday and one on Sunday.  Both went well and led to sales.  One couple said that they had cycled 5 miles just to hear me and bought a POWERbreathe.  Most people would cycle 5 miles just to get away from me talking!!

We spread the word quite widely about POWERbreathe, as there were people from all over the country taking part in the numerous, running, swimming, cycling and tri events that took place.  I think every person in Keswick who had a bike turned up to ride down a slope and up a ramp to shoot up in the air and be cushioned in a gigantic airbag on landing.

By amazing coincidence, next to our stand was the UK equivalent of Vittorio Brumotti, Ben Savage 16 times UK stunt bike rider.

As I had all the info on Brumotti he came over to look at my photo’s from Italy (from where I’d not long returned).  He had a go on the POWERbreathe K5 and he was very impressive completing a full 30 breaths on 62 cmh2o, banging out 6 litres per breath.  The next day he came over and said he had felt he had done a workout like he had never felt before and was very interested.  I gave him a POWERbreathe Plus Medium Resistance model and he happily offered to provide feedback on his training.

Ben Barton from Cronton Sixth Form College in Widnes spent a lot of time with us on the K5 and expressed an interest in one for his school which is a Centre of Sporting Excellence.  They are doing a new degree in Sports development.

We also had two people visit the stand who suffered from spondylitis.  One a lady who bought a POWERbreathe and the other a fell runner.

One couple told us with big smiles on their faces that they both had POWERbreathe’s that they got from their Doctor after they had educated him.

Finally we also tested a free diver who could do 6.2 litres without using any initial power, so he must have been even stronger.  He actually chatted enthusiastically to a sceptic about POWERbreathe as he couldn’t believe what he was seeing, as he could only do 2.5 litres on the K5.

In all a good weekend, and a big thanks to Mary Anne for her help.

Check out our Keswich photos onFlickr