How to Control Breathing During Push-Ups

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A lack of proper breathing control when performing push-ups very likely indicates a lack of proper form as well. When your breathing is out of sync with the movements of this exercise, you're more likely to rush through your execution and lapse into a sloppy form, which can result in a less effective push-up and may even cause injury. The rules for breathing during resistance-training exercises, such as the push-up, are quite simple. Whenever you're exerting positive force (in this case pushing up), breathe out. Whenever you're applying negative force (descending down), breathe in.

  • Lie face down on the floor. Place your hands to your side, palms down, parallel to your shoulders. Hold your body tight and straight as you perch yourself on your toes.

  • Take a deep breath in, then slowly and with steady control fully extend your arms (without locking your elbows), pushing up, as you exhale. Let the length of your ascent coincide with the duration of your exhale.

  • Rest for a fraction of a second, along with the natural pause of your breath, holding yourself in this ascent position.

  • Inhale as you slowly and with controlled motion lower yourself back down until your chest is approximately 2 inches from the floor. Let the length of your descent coincide with the duration of your exhale.

  • Rest for a fraction of a second, along with the natural pause of your breath, holding yourself in this descent position.

  • Repeat the sequence. Inhale up. Rest with your breath pause. Exhale down. Rest with your breath pause. Perform one set of five or one set of 10, whichever your fitness level will allow. Stay mindful of keeping your movements and breathing slow and deliberate. Allow your mind and body time to fall in sync with the proper rhythm of this exercise.

  • Increase the pace of your push-ups by small increments with each succeeding set. The maximum rate of your push-ups should not exceed the rate at which you can comfortably complete a full deep breath.

Tips & Warnings

  • Shoot for quality over quantity. If all you can currently manage is one or two push-ups in correct form before you need to rest, that's okay. It's a start. It's better to build on those two quality push-ups rather than force yourself to perform a larger set of push ups in bad form. Bad form is the gateway to improper breathing. So if you need to allow your muscles a minute or two of rest before you resume your workout, do so. Be patient with yourself. Your capacity to perform more push-ups, the correct way, will grow if you simply practice consistently.

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