Exhalation is king!
Being an ex military diver, both Army and Navy, for nearly 13 years I thought I knew a thing or two about breathing. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I was from the school of thought that Oxygen (O2) was good and Carbon Dioxide (CO2) was bad, meaning that the focus for training should be on improving inhalation and not exhalation.
So in regards to increasing your fitness levels traditional thinking was that we needed to increase the amount of O2 (inhalation) within the body and decrease CO2 (exhalation).
As my education deepens, what I now understand is almost the complete opposite of this. CO2 as a powerful tool that can be used to improve your levels of fitness beyond anything you thought possible. Further to this it may help with asthma, snoring and related breathing dysfunctions. Exhalation is the new king!
There are countless benefits to improving your body’s tolerance to increased levels of CO2 and reducing the amount of Oxygen circulating through your body at any one time.
Try some basic range of motion tests, toe touch or shoulder flexion, then breathe normally into a bag for ten breaths and then retest to see if your brain responded well to the drill. I bet your range improved… right?
As a result of conducting CO2 training, your nervous system will experience less stress during training as cardiovascular work increases CO2 levels naturally. Consequently your training efficiency/recovery will soar.
Step One: Nose breathing, exhalation focus.
Breathing through your nose is actually how you are supposed to breathe and nose breathing will also increase your CO2 levels. Your nose warms the air and also has its own filtration system (those little things you pluck from your nostrils) that protects you from external hazardous particles. Nose breathing also serves as an early indicator of and protection system from harmful gases and fumes via smell.
Practicing nose breathing is literally as simple as closing your mouth. The focus will be to breathe through your nose as much as possible and doing a few deliberate exhalation practices each day as follows:
Fully exhale through your nose for 4-6 seconds and then take a short sharp inhalation for 1-2 seconds only and repeat the 4-6 second exhale.
At first aim for ten breaths as you may feel slightly panicked. This is a natural response and will fade with practice. Eventually work up to 2 x ten minute blocks per day, but start out slow and work to your individual limitations.
This simple technique both increases your CO2 levels and also works your exhalation muscles harder building breathing efficiency.
Step Two: Induced hypoxic therapy.
Once you have spent a few weeks practicing nose breathing you can start to incorporate it in your training sessions. Trial nose breathing during your session until you hit the point you feel you must have more air, mouth breathe until you have recovered and again attempt the nose breathing. It’s harder than you think but with time and practice you will improve. The body always adapts to exactly what you do.
The exception to this rule is strength work and kettlebell training, as you will require mouth breathing to generate intra-abdominal pressure and full muscular tension. So save the nose breathing for cardiovascular training only.
Enjoy and breathe strong!