Breathing, You’re Doing it wrong!


It’s been a hot topic these last few weeks in Wg-Fit. Not only that there seems to be plenty of other people talking about it, most notably the ever excellent Dr Dooley and the smartest coaching crew on the web, the guys at Cressey Performance.

But before I get to the what the smart people are saying, I’ll give you my humble opinions.

That said, my opinions are based on what I’ve learned from several vary smart people, mostly in the traditional martial arts settings.

Basically, most of us breathe wrong.

Most of us breathe high into the chest with the rib cage rising and falling. In fact there’s a large percentage of folk who breathe and even their ribs barely move.

So what is doing the work?

The muscles of the neck. Think Scalenes, think sternocleidomastoid (SCM for short). Ok, don’t think in fancy anatomy, just think neck muscles.

neck muscles

Hands up if you suffer from a stiff neck……

Forward head posture?
Clenching the jaw?

So how should we breathe?

We should get deep into the belly. So here’s a drill I use a lot to help.

Lie on your back and place something on your belly. Make it something that has a bit of weight so you can feel it and is big enough you can see it without lifting your head to look. I generally use a Thai pad, but a shoe or something is ideal.

Now as you inhale raise the weight up, as you exhale allow the weight sink.
The weight is there to provide you with something to focus on, it should give you both visual and tactile feedback.
Initally, try not to get any motion in the chest, just have the belly raise and lower with the breath,

Once comfortable here, then we add the chest, but in a strict sequence.
Inhale and expand the belly first, then the chest. Exhale by sinking the chest and then the belly.

Inhale: Belly, Chest
Exhale: Chest, Belly

Got it?


Now roll over to the belly. Rest your forehead on the back of your hands and try the same thing.
You won’t need the weight for this.
Feel as you inhale how the back lifts and your sides expand.
Some folk find this method easier, others prefer the first. Either way it doesn’t matter, what is important is you learn how it feels to breathe deep into the abdomen and not have to rely on the neck muscles.
Which means that you 1 – get more air and 2 – the neck muscles can relax and stop pulling the head out of line, screwing up your posture.

Now, what about the other guys I mentioned earlier?

Here’s a facebook status from Dr Dooley of

“Dooleys and Don’t-leys #40:

1. Do practice breathing through your nose and giving the jaw/mouth a break.

2. Don’t blame the fact that you can’t breathe through your nose.

12 kilo snatch test complete.
100 reps
All nasal breathing
Simple, not easy – but getting much easier these days.

On the 16 kilo snatch test, I get to 80 before I mouth breathe. It’s improving!

If you can’t breathe from your nose, it’s because you haven’t been breathing through your nose.

Nasal protocol: daily nasal washing, xylitol nasal spray, peppermint oil, and an Olbas inhaler. Every morning I perform these as a non-negotiable habit, like teeth-brushing.

I have no allergies while others are suffering. Nasal breathing helps.

I no longer experience anxiety or tightness in stressful times.

Whether or not you try it is, as always, your call.

Dooley Noted.

– Dr. Kathy Dooley “

And this is from the guys at Cressey Performance:
If breathing and breath control is something you’d like to know more about, I’ll be teaching it as part of the Bodyweight and Kettlebell Workshop being held in Dolan Fitness, Tullamore, Co Offally.

For more details on the workshop and to book your place, drop Kieran a line on


Dave Hedges


2 thoughts on “Breathing, You’re Doing it wrong!

  1. Pingback: Ask Dave: Where’s a Good Place to Do Some Meditation? | Wild Geese Fitness Training

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