Chest breathing can slow down your exercise progress

FIT Staff
Aug 29, 2013

Breathing is one of the main components to sustaining life, yet it can be taken for granted if you are not afflicted with a malady.

Illness aside, many people can display poor breathing patterns that have developed over time.

The two breathing patterns that are typically displayed are diaphragmatic and chest breathing patterns.

Diaphragmatic breathing utilizes the diaphragm more and there is noted belly expansion with inhalation.

This is the proper, natural pattern that should be used.

Chest breathing uses the muscles of the rib cage, shoulder and neck to raise the rib cage. This is not desired, but common. This usually develops following injury, sickness or during stress.

The pattern can be short term such as in stress. This stress could be psychological or physical such as a difficult exercise.

The pattern can also become chronic, when this happens other overuse problems follow. An example would be stress from work that causes poor breathing, then neck tightness that turns into shoulder pain.

Chest breathing can slow down your exercise progress or cause injury. Your diaphragm is closely tied to your inner core (muscles around the spine) and surrounding deep muscles.

When this is not functioning properly, your neck, shoulders and outer core (muscles like abs and obliques) are overused to breath and fatigue quickly. This can leave you vulnerable to a low back or shoulder injury.

You can demonstrate this connection by coughing and see that your hips instinctively flex or come up toward your stomach because your deep hip flexors are intertwined with the lower part of your diaphragm.

Those who practice martial arts and yoga have appreciated the impact of breathing on strength for a long time, but the importance of proper breathing techniques is starting to gain attention in fitness and rehabilitation.

One method to fix this in a relatively fit person is to force a separation of the two types or cores and breathing. This can be done by performing an exercise, bike or jump, until you are breathing heavy and then perform side planks. This can be done like this:

30 seconds to work up breathing

15 seconds plank right, 15 seconds plank left

Perform five times

The heavy breathing will force you to use your diaphragm while the plank will make you use your outer core to stabilize during the exercise. If you are still having trouble, seek out a clinician with a background in this.