How many times have you heard a coach at Urban Athlete say, “Inhale down, exhale up”?
Probably too many times to count…
But, why do they say it?
We all know that breathing is important! Our lungs play a critical role in our circulatory system. They release carbon dioxide, or waste from our muscles, into the atmosphere and in turn bring oxygen into our system, specifically into our bloodstream.
Our blood transports this oxygen to our working muscles and then picks up its waste products to be released from the body.
It is a super important system that allows our muscles to continue working.
So, why inhale down, exhale up? Why not exhale down, inhale up?
Coaches say, “Inhale down, exhale up” during exercises where at one point the movement is working with gravity, and at another point the movement is working against gravity.
Here are two key terms:
Eccentric – muscles are lengthing, working with gravity
Concentric – muscles are shortening, working against gravity
Think about the Romanian Deadlift (RDL), for example. At the start of the movement, you hinge at the hips with a flat back, letting gravity take the weight towards the floor. This is when “inhale down” applies, because this is the eccentric part of the movement. Next, you come out of the hip hinge – full hip extension. You are working against gravity, as your hamstrings and glutes tighten to bring you back to upright. This is “exhale up.”
We breathe in during the eccentric phase, in order to prepare our muscles for the subsequent contraction. During the contraction, or concentric phase, we exhale all of the waste products that our body accumulated during the lift.
Are you super aware of your breathing right now? I know I am!