Push-ups utilize many muscles in the chest, arms, shoulders, abdominals and legs. Control breathing during push-ups to ensure that oxygenated blood is delivered to the muscles so you can do as many reps as possible.
Correct breathing when working out requires you to exhale during the highest exertion. When doing push-ups, you inhale as you lower your body and exhale as you push back up.
Breathing During Push-Ups
Proper push-up technique requires you to maintain good posture and a straight body. Tighten your core muscles, quads and glutes to stabilize your body and maintain the correct position. Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Lower your body by bending your elbows. At the bottom of the push-up, your elbows should be bent at a 90-degree angle. Then, return to the starting position.
Do not hold your breath when doing push-ups, especially when you are at the end of a set and your muscles are tiring. Correct breathing during push-ups helps prevent fatigue by making sure your muscles have plenty of oxygen. When doing a push-up, breathe in as you lower your body and exhale during the most difficult part of the exercise, when you push your body back to the starting position, advises the American Lung Association.
Failure to maintain proper form and alignment when performing push-ups may lead to injury of the joints and muscles. If you get fatigued and can no longer hold correct form, stop and take a break. If you experience pain when doing push-ups, consult your doctor.
Breathing and Exercise
Breathing is a critical, but often overlooked, aspect of any exercise routine. Your muscles need oxygen to contract and exert force. Holding your breath when you are concentrating on a new or challenging exercise is a common mistake, advises Michigan State University Extension. Doing so prevents sufficient amounts of oxygen from reaching your muscles and as a result your muscles fatigue. This can be very detrimental to your workout and fitness progression.
Holding your breath can have even more serious consequences as it also prevents the body from delivering oxygenated blood to your brain. This can cause dizziness and blackouts and you may injure yourself if you fall as a result. In extreme cases, it may even lead to a stroke, states PennState Extension.
To avoid these complications, focus on your breathing as you do each exercise. Exhale during the hardest part of the exercise, such as when you are lifting a heavy weight, and inhale on the opposite movement, such as when you are lowering the weight.
Use Diaphragmatic Breathing
Inhaling and exhaling at the right time during a movement is only one part of correct breathing during push-ups. Shallow breathing won't give you the most benefits. Focus on using diaphragmatic, or deep belly, breathing. This type of breathing allows greater oxygen exchange, lowers your heart rate and helps to stabilize your blood pressure, advises Harvard Health Publishing.
Your diaphragm is actually a muscle located underneath your lungs and above your stomach. When you inhale, the diaphragm contracts and moves downward allowing more air to fill in your lungs. Your belly also pushes out during the inhale. During the exhale, the diaphragm expands and moves back up and helps to expel air from your lungs.
Many of us have forgotten how to correctly do diaphragmatic breathing and default to shallow, chest breathing. If you have trouble doing diaphragmatic breathing during exercise, practice in a reclined position until it feels more natural.
To practice the technique, lie flat on your back with your knees bent. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly so that you can feel the expansion as you breathe. Take a deep breath in through your nose completely filling your lungs. You know you are doing this correctly if the hand on your belly lifts up and the hand on your chest remains still. Exhale and tighten your abs to help push the air out of your lungs.
Breathing Difficulty During Exercises
When you are doing cardio or a challenging set of strength training exercises, it is common to feel out of breath. One of the reasons for this is that your muscles are demanding more oxygen so your heart and breathing rate increases to accommodate that, explains the European Lung Foundation.
Symptoms such as shortness of breath and coughing may indicate a more serious medical condition. If you experience shortness of breath or chest pain, stop exercising and contact your doctor. Your doctor may administer a spirometry test to help diagnose any lung or breathing problems.
According to Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center, one condition that causes breathing problems is exercise-induced asthma. The symptoms are the same as asthma and include shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and tightness in the chest. The difference is that while asthma may be triggered by a variety of factors such as pollution or allergens, exercise-induced asthma is triggered by exercise.
Other lung conditions that may affect your breathing during exercise may include COPD or lung fibrosis. Obtaining a correct diagnosis allows your doctor to prescribe the best treatments and modify your exercise regimen. For example, treatments for asthma may include an albuterol inhaler or a medication like Singulair.
Exercises to Improve Breathing
Breathing exercises help the diaphragm function correctly and remove stale air from your lungs making room for fresh, oxygenated air. Doing these exercises, especially if you have a lung condition that affects your breathing, will help make your lungs stronger and more efficient. The practice will also make it easier to coordinate your breathing when doing push-ups.
In addition to practicing diaphragmatic breathing, the American Lung Association recommends a technique called pursed-lip breathing. This is a simple exercise that helps to open your airways and reduce your breathing rate. Begin in a seated position. Relax your neck and shoulders and breath in slowly through your nose. Purse your lips and slowly exhale all of the air in your lungs. Make the exhale twice as long as the inhale.
Practice pursed-lip breathing for five to 10 minutes each day or when you experience shortness of breath.
- PennState Extension: "Balance, Breathing and Flexibility"
- ExRx.net: "Push-Ups"
- Michigan State University Extension: "Regular Breathing and Proper Posture When Exercising Is Important"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Learning Diaphragmatic Breathing"
- European Lung Foundation: "Your Lungs and Exercise"
- Ohio State University: Wexner Medical Center: "Out of Shape, or Exercise-Induced Asthma?"
- American Lung Association: "Breathing Exercises"
- American Lung Association: "Fight for Air, Climb"