How to Breathe Properly While Working Out

When things get tough during a workout, you may be tempted to hold your breath. But breathing properly during your full body workout is important, whether you are doing cardio or strength training moves. And a big part of proper breathing during exercise is just continuing to breathe! When you breathe during exercise, your lungs take in oxygen and remove carbon dioxide. Your muscles need oxygen for energy to get you through your routine. 1

To help you breathe the right way during your full body workout, here are some tips on breathing techniques you can practice while you are working out and at rest.

Why it’s important to breathe properly during exercise

Your body needs oxygen to function. When you work out, you need even more oxygen. To adjust to the extra oxygen demand, your breathing rate increases from 15 breaths per minute to 40-60 times per minute when you exercise. Your heart beats faster to carry the oxygen to your muscles to keep up with the extra energy demand. Practice effective breathing techniques while you exercise, and you’ll get more out of your workout. You will lift heavier weights, go longer during cardio, and recover faster after high-intensity exercise bursts. Breathing during exercise also helps stabilize your torso and improve your balance. 2

When you don’t breathe properly during exercise, you can kick into shallow breathing, which can spark your stress response. Shallow breathing can cause your upper rib cage to move up and down more than it should, leading to back and shoulder pain.3 Holding your breath can cause your heart rate and blood pressure to rise and extend your recovery time. 4

It’s also important to breathe correctly outside of the gym when you are at rest. Proper breathing helps lower blood pressure, heart rate, and stress.

Breathing techniques for exercise

If you’re wondering how to strengthen your lungs, breathing properly during exercise will help. To enhance your workout and speed up recovery:

  • Practice diaphragmatic breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing is breathing that fully engages your diaphragm. Your diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle under the lungs that moves up and down and pushes on your abdominal organs so your lungs can expand. It’s the muscle that spasms when you have the hiccups. To practice diaphragmatic breathing, breathe deeply into your diaphragm and put your hands on your lower ribs and make sure they are fully rising and falling. 5
  • Don’t hold your breath. As you are working out, make it a point to periodically remind yourself to breathe. This is important when you are in positions like a plank, when you flex your core and are most likely to stop breathing. 6
  • Breathe through your nose. For cardio or strength training, breathe in and out through your nose. Breathing in through your nose purifies the air and removes toxins. During intense bursts, you can breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth to maximize airflow. 7
  • Inhale and exhale at the right time. In general, you should inhale during relaxation and exhale during exertion. For example, if you are doing bicep curls, you should exhale as you curl and inhale as you return to the starting position. 8
  • Establish a steady rhythm. If you inhale and exhale as you go through repetitions in a strength training workout, it will help you breathe in a steady rhythm, in and out. Plus, when you sync up breathing with your movement, you’ll be less likely to forget to breathe. 9
  • Focus on breath for balance. When you use diaphragmatic breathing, the muscles in the front of your abs work better, which helps you maintain balance for a longer time. When you perform exercises that test your balance, focus on your breath to keep your body stable. 10
  • Practice during cooldown and stretching. For maximum success during your full body workout, focus on rhythmic, diaphragmatic breathing during warmup, cardio, strength training, and cooldown. 11 

Consult Your Curves Coach

Yet another perk to your membership at Curves: You can chat with your Curves Coach about advice on how to use correct breathing as you go through your Curves Circuit workout. 

Your Curves Coach is there to lead you through every gym workout. With your Curves Coach success is within reach. Visit ‘Why Curves’ to find out more about Curves women’s only gyms and our full body workout on the Curves Circuit, or find your local Curves and sign up today! 


  1. Your lungs and exercise – PMC (
  2. The Right Way to Breathe During Exercise – NASM
  3. The Right Way to Breathe During Exercise – NASM
  4. How to Inhale and Exhale Your Way to Better, Stronger Fitness (
  5. The Right Way to Breathe During Exercise – NASM
  6. The Right Way to Breathe During Exercise – NASM
  7. How To Breathe While Working Out, Exercising (
  8. The Right Way to Breathe During Exercise – NASM
  9. The Right Way to Breathe During Exercise – NASM
  10. How To Breathe While Working Out, Exercising (
  11. The Right Way to Breathe During Exercise – NASM
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