You've probably heard the advice to "just breathe" a time or two, and that sage advice can come in really handy when you're exercising. When you're doing isometric exercises, in which your muscles are not lengthened or contracted but instead simply held in one position, it may be tempting to hold your breath -- but holding your breath during exercise is never a good idea. For some people, it may be downright dangerous. If you're doing isometric abdominal exercises, be mindful of your breath and try to maintain a proper inhalation and exhalation pattern.
Begin breathing naturally in through the nose and out through the mouth, making sure that your diaphragm is moving in and out as you breathe. Breathing in through the nose allows the air to warm up a bit before it hits the lungs, which requires your body to do less work warming it up. During exercise or in your day-to-day routine, fitness experts and yogis often recommend this type of breathing for that reason.
Take a long, deep inhalation that lasts several seconds.
Put your body into the isometric exercise position. For abdominal exercises that involve isometrics, that may include lying on the floor in the "up" portion of a situp-type motion, or getting onto the floor in a face-down plank position. As you move into the isometric position, exhale long and slow through your teeth, or with pursed lips -- whatever feels comfortable to you. When you're doing weight-bearing exercises that involve movement, fitness experts typically recommend you exhale during the actual lifting motion. It's a little different for isometric exercise, since you're holding a position as opposed to lifting. Breathing through the mouth is not advised for regular breathing, but during lifting or exercise, it helps you get more air.
Hold the isometric position as long as you can. When you've exhaled all of your air, inhale in a slow, controlled manner. "How you breathe is less important than that you breathe," advises weight trainer Lyle McDonald. Stay calm and make every effort not to hold your breath.
Exhale one last time and then stop the isometric movement.
- Avoid holding your breath while you're doing isometric exercises. Doing so can raise your blood pressure, which can be dangerous, especially for people who already have high blood pressure. According to the American Council on Exercise, people with high blood pressure should stay away from isometric exercise, though you should always talk to your doctor about your individual needs and concerns before you start any exercise program.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.