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DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING: HOW TO IMPROVE CYCLING PERFORMANCE

Ride Your Life training tips


We can go for a few weeks without eating, a few days without drinking, but not even the best apnea champions can survive without breathing for more than a few minutes. It’s an automatic gesture through which we can improve sports performance. This tips may be useful along a bike tour also.


IMPROVE PERFORMANCE THROUGH BREATHING

Our body exchanges gas with the outside by absorbing oxygen in the lungs and expelling carbon dioxide through breathing. The oxygen then passes into the blood, which transports it to the organs and muscle tissues, where it is used as a comburent for energy production.

Learning to breathe correctly and more effectively during everyday life and in training, helps to improve the quality of life and increase sports performance in general and cycling in particular.

Indeed, from the analysis of the scientific studies carried out in this regard, it repeatedly emerges that training the respiratory muscles has beneficial effects on performance, especially in endurance sports (Illi et al. 2012).

This is not due to any increases in lung volume or capacity (it has been shown that even at maximum intensities, a healthy athlete has a more than sufficient respiratory reserve). However, training breathing helps improve the efficiency of oxygen exchange in the lungs and its subsequent transport to the muscles, making breathing an easier gesture.

CHEST BREATHING

If you observe a small baby breathing, you will notice that it does so by inflating and deflating the belly. Nobody taught him; it is simply the most natural method our body uses.

But as we get older, most of us mistakenly start using primarily chest breathing (when we inhale, we inflate the chest).

There are no absolute certainties about it, but the most accredited hypothesis is that this happens due to the modern lifestyle that our society imposes on us. Most of us live immersed in high levels of stress and anxiety related to work, family, etc. These are often somatized in our body, limiting the action of the abdomen in breathing.

The body then compensates by using mainly the upper part of the torso and very little of the diaphragm muscle, loading the accessory respiratory muscles with work. This quickly leads to retracting the diaphragm, which correlates with several other muscles and organs.

A retracted diaphragm that is used incorrectly can lead to various respiratory, digestive, and circulatory problems, postural issues, and lower back pain.

DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING

Under normal conditions, correct breathing should be mainly diaphragmatic (when we inhale, we inflate the belly), making the most of this muscle located transversely under the lungs and inserted into the sternum, ribs, and lumbar vertebrae.


When we inhale, the diaphragm lowers, allowing the lungs to expand and fill with air; when we exhale, it raises allowing the air to escape.

Advantages of diaphragmatic breathing


Diaphragmatic breathing is considerably more beneficial than thoracic breathing:

• Allows you to breathe more deeply by increasing the flow of oxygen to the lungs and the tissues

• It has significant postural benefits

• Decreases muscular and visceral tensions

• Promotes relaxation by reducing anxiety and stress

• It has a lower energy cost and reduces the accumulation of fatigue

HOW TO TRAIN DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING?

The respiratory muscles behave just like all other muscles in the body. So if well trained, they improve their strength, endurance, and efficiency.

For those not used to doing it, learning to breathe using the diaphragm is not easy at first, but with a bit of practice and, above all, good consistency, we can achieve excellent results.

The first step is to improve one's awareness of the correct muscle activation that underlies it.

Start by simply lying on your back and placing your left hand on your chest and your right hand on your abdomen at navel height; breathe as it comes naturally, and pay attention to which hand moves. If your left hand moves, you are using chest breathing.

Then continue to breathe, imagining that you are pushing the air downwards, inflating the abdomen to move the right hand while the left remains still. By inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth, gradually make the breaths deeper by pushing the navel as high as possible during inhalation and as low as possible during exhalation.

Breathing deeply, it is advisable not to carry out more than ten consecutive breaths to avoid excessive oxygen storage that can make you feel dizzy.

A good exercise is to repeat ten deep breaths 4/5 times.

The next step will be to increase the intensity of breathing:

  • Exhaling with the mouth ajar so that you have to push to let the air out.

  • Placing a weight (1 or 2 kg) on ​​the abdomen.

  • Hold the breath for a few seconds before exhaling.

CONCLUSIONS

Breathing is a fundamental function of our survival and our health. Paying a minimum of attention to breathing can, in addition to improving the quality of our life, also give us essential benefits at a sporting level, especially in an endurance discipline such as cycling, where the efficiency of the respiratory system is necessary to determine our performance.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Daniele Bazzana-BCTraining Athleticand Biomechanical Trainer

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