New research is emerging about how breathing patterns and diaphragmatic strength affect sports performance.

The breathing pattern affects multiple systems during exercise including:

  • muscle fatigue
  • perceived shortness of breath
  • peripheral circulation to key muscle groups in the lower and upper limb groups
  • lactate threshold clearance
  • heart rate response
  • muscle and mechanical imbalances leading to discomfort and pain - for example chest pain and tension, shoulder impingement, neck tension and pain, lower back pain

During exercise, the body demands more of the lungs than during resting states. A common issue with breathing during exercise and sport is underutilizing the diaphragm, and placing too much reliance on the upper chest and shoulder muscles. This makes the work of breathing harder, and means there is less oxygen available to supply your working muscles. 

Common symptoms include:

  • Feeling short of breath
  • Tightness in the throat or chest
  • Vocal chord dysfunction (VCD)
  • Feelings of heaviness or weakness in the legs
  • Chest tension or pain
  • The 'stitch'
  • Poor recovery 

How does Breathing Works help with sport and exercise?

The first thing we will do is measure the movement and thickness of your diaphragm using Real Time Ultrasound, and also measure the strength of your inspiratory muscles using POWERbreathe testing equipment. This tells us how strong or weak your breathing muscles are and allows us to be very specific in putting together a strengthening program involving Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) (

POWERbreathe IMT is the equivalent of lifting a weight to strengthen your diaphragm. There is scientific evidence to prove strengthening your breathing muscles will help them cope with the demands of breathing at a high intensity during sport and exercise. It is also proven to reduce whole body effort, making exercise feel easier. As a result, you can increase your training intensity to ultimately improve your performance.

At Breathing Works, we will ensure you are using your POWERbreathe device with correct technique to maximise the benefits from your IMT programme. Improving diaphragmatic strength plays a key part of improving performance in sports and exercise.

It is also extremely important to have a good breathing pattern at rest to maximise recovery and allow your body to move back into the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system.

Practicing relaxed breathing is also very useful for controlling performance anxiety both before and during racing and games.

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