Using a proper breathing technique during stomach exercises will help you tone your abdomen muscles and reduce belly fat. Following simple guidelines, you can determine the appropriate time to inhale and exhale to optimize your fitness outcomes. You can use these guidelines for virtually all stomach exercise programs, such as weight training, yoga and Pilates. Without proper breathing, your exercises may have little impact and can even cause negative effects.
Exhale as you exert your stomach or lower pelvis muscles during your exercise. This exhalation is vital at this point in the exercise because the muscles you are targeting are strongly contracting and the removal of air in your abdominal cavity allows your muscles to tighten to the shortest length. Furthermore, because of muscle memory, your muscles with automatically tighten to this length any time you exert your abdominal muscles during regular activity.
Inhale as you slowly relax the targeted muscle to return to the starting position. As you relax, your muscles are contracting eccentrically to control the movement. Strengthening your muscles during the eccentric phase will help to tone your abdomen faster, as your muscles are working constantly throughout the exercise. Breathing in slowly is vital to allow your muscles to contract evenly throughout this phase and will aid you in waiting to exhale until the concentric phase.
While performing a situp, exhale as you raise your torso and slowly inhale as you lower your torso. If you are lying on your back and lifting one or both legs for a leg crunch, exhale as you raise or crunch your leg and inhale as you lower your leg. During static exercises, such as the bridge pose, inhale prior to the start of the exercise and then breath normally throughout the exercise to avoid dizziness or loss of consciousness.
Avoid Negative Results
Inhaling during the exhale can have negative effects, as your muscles will actually bulk in the center of the muscle belly, which can cause the appearance of increased girth and reduced tone. Refrain from holding your breath at any time during the exercise, as this will force your abdomen outward and result in lengthened and weakened muscles. Furthermore, holding your breath during exertion raises the blood pressure in your brain, which can be dangerous if you have any history of or risk factors for stroke.
Melissa Sabo is an occupational therapist who started writing professional guidebooks for all Flagship Rehabilitation employees in 2009. Specializing in applied therapy and exercise for non-medical readers, she also coauthored a manual on wheelchair positioning. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Science in occupational therapy.