Exhale. Inhale. Move.

One of my favorite things to hear and see in the gym is the synchronization of BESTies exhaling, pausing for a second or two, inhaling and forcefully exhaling again as I watch weight moving all around the gym.

When I see and hear this happening I am relieved knowing all my clients are lifting weight safely or at least safer than if I did not hear that cadence of breaths.

Many people recognize the importance of breathing while resistance training, and many have gotten some instruction on breathing from other disciplines of exercise. But, in my experience, I have not had anyone walk into BEST with a full understanding of breathing mechanics or why inhaling and exhaling at certain moments of a lift are important prerequisites for lifting weights properly.

If you learn how to breath effectively, you can alleviate pains caused by common exercises, and maybe even relieve some nagging injuries that have been around for far too long.


First, at BEST, we instruct clients to fully exhale before they begin any exercise.


When we exhale there are things going on underneath the surface that make a big impact on our ability to move efficiently, optimally, and with less or no pain.

Exhaling before moving aligns the rib cage into a position it normally is not for the majority of people on Earth.

Pausing for a moment allows the diaphragm under the rib cage some time to move into more optimal zone of apposition (ZOA). 

What the what?! What is a zone of apposition? 

The optimal ZOA (not to be confused with my new born daughter on 1/13/2018, ZOE) is created by internal rotation of the rib cage and the ascension of the diaphragm further up into our chest cavity.

In other words, to get an optimal ZOA we need to forcefully exhale, and let the ribs drop down as far as possible. In short, this will make good things possible, if this reestablished position of the rib cage and diaphragm is maintained.

So we exhale first because we need to establish a good ZOA, but that isn’t all there is to it. (Photo Credit: Postural Restoration Institute,  


Secondly, after we exhale and pause, we inhale into our nose first and then into our mouth (remember we are talking about lifting weights here).

When we begin inhalation muscle activity, the diaphragm will descend and increase the space inside the rib cage. The rib cage will begin to expand and increase the space inside the rib cage. As a result air pressure decreases inside the rib cage and air from outside is allowed in.

The incoming air from outside creates another fancy term, intra-abdominal air pressure (IAP), and when we pause after inhaling, it is this IAP that pushes against the muscles and rib cage we used earlier to forcefully exhale before beginning an exercise.

The IAP distributes air pressure to places in our body we normally do not get air pressure to – like our hips, low back and shoulder areas – and stabilizes our body against the force of the ensuing squat / dead lift / bench press / etc…



So up to this point, you have exhaled and paused to create an optimal zone of apposition (ZOA). And you have inhaled and paused to create intra-abdominal pressure (IAP).

Now, you are allowed to move!


With this movement you will not want to hold your inhale in the entire time you move  because you will likely pass out if you do that.


Upon inhalation, by nature the muscles of your trunk/core are stretched and they must recoil make to normal.

The recoil will create an exhalation, but while lifting, we need to maintain IAP, and a full exhalation – like we did before we started moving – would cause us to lose pressure in the trunk/core.

No Bueno!

So as we move we  must control our exhale to be careful to maintain internal pressure.

We exhale just enough so that at the top of a lift we can inhale again and re-pressurize the trunk, and move again.


As the title suggests, all you need to do is:

  1. Exhale completely before you begin a lift, and pause to create a ZOA
  2. While maintaining the fully exhaled position, inhale into your nose and then your into your mouth to create IAP.
  3. When you begin to move let air force it’s way out and between pursed lips so that you can control how much air pressure leaves your body
    1. This would be step 1 again, by the way..
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the set is complete.

If you do those 4 steps, you are on your way to not busting up your back, and other shit.



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