Breathing effectively for dancing

The topic of this blog article from Oxford University Press is breath training for expressiveness in movement. It discusses how breath training is a useful strategy for enhancing movement in dancing.

Breath support for movement

Breathing training for dancing is not something that is a major part of a dancer’s routine. It will not be considered as important as stretching, strengthening and balance work. However the authors of this article feel it should be integral.

Dance prompts impair breathing

A dancer will be asked to pull their tummy in. This is to help with balance and control of a movement. The effect of this, if overdone, can impair not only movement but also breathing.


Educating a dancer about the relationship between central support and muscular support for breathing will help. The authors tell us that the diaphragm can be tight, just like any other muscle. They also tell us that it can have a limited range of motion too. Dancers will spend time stretching out muscles, such as their hamstrings. But they do not think abut the breathing muscles, and the connection between the pelvic floor and the mouth.

A case study

A synchronised swimmer who is now a professional dancer had the circumference of her ribcage measured after stopping swimming. Her measurements showed a 2” reduction in circumference. The authors explain the reason for this. It is because the inspiratory muscles, the diaphragm and intercostals, were not able to stretch as far. This shows that the inspiratory muscles require strength and endurance training, just as a dancer’s legs do for instance.

Training the inspiratory muscles

“Training the breathing mechanism should be as important as training the legs and core.” This is what the authors say in the article. POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) will help. POWERbreathe IMT exercises the breathing muscles like a ‘dumbbell for the diaphragm’. It uses a breathing load, or resistance, to train the breathing muscles to become stronger. It also increases breathing stamina and reduces fatigue. This improves performance.

Be conscious of your breathing

The authors finish by saying how we can all benefit from breathing better. “Beyond the dance studio, conscious awareness of breathing function can enhance our choices for creating ease in daily life, to release unnecessary tension, and restore the body towards balance.”

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Effect Of Specific Inspiratory Muscle Warm-Up On Intense Intermittent Run To Exhaustion

“The effects of inspiratory muscle (IM) warm-up on the maximum dynamic IM function and the maximum repetitions of 20-m shuttle run (Ex) in the Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test were examined.”


“Findings suggested that the specific IM warm-up in IMW may entail reduction in breathlessness sensation, partly attributable to the enhancement of dynamic IM functions, in subsequent exhaustive intermittent run and, in turn, improve the exercise tolerance.”

Therefore POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training can effectively be used to:

  • Warm-up the breathing muscles prior to rehearsal or performance

Read Effect of specific inspiratory muscle warm-up on intense intermittent run to exhaustion >

Specific Respiratory Warm-up Improves Rowing Performance And Exertional Dyspnea

“The purpose of this study was a) to compare the effect of three different warm-up protocols upon rowing performance and perception of dyspnea, and b) to identify the functional significance of a respiratory warm-up.”


“These data suggest that a combination of a respiratory warm-up protocol together with a specific rowing warm-up is more effective than a specific rowing warm-up or a submaximal warm-up alone as a preparation for rowing performance.”

Therefore POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training can effectively be used to:

  • Warm-up the breathing muscles prior to rehearsal or performance

Read Specific respiratory warm-up improves rowing performance and exertional dyspnea >

Effect of High-Intensity Inspiratory Muscle Training on Lung Volumes, Diaphragm Thickness, and Exercise Capacity in Subjects Who Are Healthy

“Previous investigations have demonstrated that a regimen of high-intensity inspiratory muscle training (IMT) resulted in changes in ventilatory function and exercise capacity in patients with chronic lung disease, although the effect of high-intensity IMT in subjects who are healthy is yet to be determined. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to examine whether high-intensity IMT resulted in changes in ventilatory function and exercise capacity in subjects who were healthy.”


“The findings of this study suggest that high-intensity IMT results in increased contracted diaphragm thickness and increased lung volumes and exercise capacity in people who are healthy.”

Therefore POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training can effectively be used to:

  • Enhance the ability to inflate the lungs (take deeper breaths)

Read Effect of High-Intensity Inspiratory Muscle Training on Lung Volumes, Diaphragm Thickness, and Exercise Capacity in Subjects Who Are Healthy >

POWERbreathe can help provide relief for dancers

As a dancer you’ll no doubt be familiar with the aches and pains you feel in your jaw, ribs, chest, neck and back after a class or a performance. This is often caused as a result of you being taught to actively engage your midsection, holding in your core, sucking in your tummy, keeping your shoulders back and down, and of course keeping your bottom tucked in.

Not only can these aches and pain cause you to not perform at your best, but also running out of breath can also have a detrimental effect on your performance as well as your timing and phrasing.

All this engagement with your midsection compresses the contents of your abdomen against your diaphragm, which restricts your ability to take deep, full breaths. This restriction to your inhalation and poor breathing technique results in your neck and chest muscles being used to expand the upper part of your chest to help you breathe. As a dancer you’ll have strong, abdominal muscles, which can be overused, and in the case of breathing, will be in competition with your chest muscles. You’ll find that your muscles in your back will shorten as they too try to help create room in your chest for that essential breath.

But for dancers the competition between muscle groups doesn’t end there. Because you have to control movement in your arms too, the tension load in your neck chest and back is increased – adding to your already compromised breathing.

All is not lost though, because you can do something about it. Have a think about how you were breathing during your performance. Were you holding your breath? Did you get out of breath? Apparently if you find you cannot hold your breath for 40 seconds or more, then you probably need to release your diaphragm and start learning how to use it for proper breathing. This is where POWERbreathe can help you.

Because POWERbreathe is an inspiratory muscle training device, it helps you to breathe efficiently and improves your breathing strength and stamina. This is hugely beneficial to a dancer because if your breathing becomes fatigued, your posture and technique will suffer, creating that tension in your neck, shoulders and back. Breathing training with POWERbreathe is an important part of dance conditioning.

Read more about POWERbreathe breathing training for musicians, singers and dancers, or if you’re already using POWERbreathe to help with your dance conditioning then please leave a comment here or on the POWERbreathe Forum, Facebook or Twitter as we’d love to hear from you. You can also read about how POWERbreathe has been used by other singers and musicians in our Performing Arts blog.