If you’re not dead, you’ve got to do it right, right? As it turns out, no. Here’s how to start adding breathing to your strength training to learn how to cycle better with less stress on your body.

Breathing is very important

Over the past 6-8 years, I have delved deeply into the role of breath in performance. Like many others, my first attempt at breathing was reading about Wim Hof ​​and his methods of being able to sit in ice water for long periods of time. From there I went down many (really shoddy) rabbit holes. Who doesn’t these days?

What comes up again and again is that the fundamental principle of “joint position determines muscle performance” is very true when it comes to how you breathe and how you position yourself during exercise. Easy to understand in principle, but not easy to master in practice!

Here are 3 points that can help you ride better through your breath:

Nose breathing is only for endurance riding

It seems silly, but it is one of the most effective tools. That is, unless you have a septal deformity or sinus problems. If that’s you, I’d recommend talking to your doctor first to see what strategies might work for you based on your particular situation.

Try this: The next time you hit the gym or go out for an endurance ride, keep your mouth shut. Yes, indeed. Unless you are actively adding food or water, keep your mouth shut and breathe only through your nose. When riding at an endurance pace, you SHOULD be able to breathe relatively easily through just your nose while maintaining your pace.

What many of us miss when breathing is that we have these big lungs that we can fill, but we tend to be lazy and just let the air flow through our mouths, breathing relaxedly. Try to breathe more carefully and fill the middle of the back and lower ribs with air with each breath.

Pull out the punch

Learn how to create appropriate core stiffness

Have you ever been to a gym where someone is boxing or kickboxing? You will hear a lot of “Tsk! Tck!” when they come into contact with the bag or pads. This is part of building strength as a skill, as a short, quick lunge + mid-section hold, when done properly, can help produce and control power.

This skill takes time to develop as basic bracing strategy is not often taught to the average gym goer, let alone cyclists. Here are two steps to help you learn how to create that core stiffness.

Step 1. Learn how to activate your midsection 360 degrees

This exercise will help you learn how to use all of your core muscles to create a “corset” that holds your ribs and hips together. You learn to create stiffness through your midsection by controlling your breath and use that breath to create pressure and stability in your torso.

Step 2. Learn how to create a 360-degree brace for sports and life

The McGill crunch is one exercise that is often taught incorrectly because many people see the word “crunch” or “curling-up” and assume it’s supposed to be a 6-pack-focused movement. However, when done correctly, the exercise will teach you to use your “corset” 360 degrees to bring your ribs and hips together, while engaging your midsection to create the foundation for athletic torso stiffness. This is preparation to begin your next step to keep your torso nice and “hard enough” while still allowing your shoulders and hips to move.

Although not a “breathing exercise” per se, further development should be to learn how to breathe “behind the harness” while keeping the middle breath “tight enough”.

Rigidity of the trunk when creating an athletic movement

In this last point, all the hard work before turns into some kind of “sports magic”. While simple at heart (pun intended), it’s not easy.

An example of where you would like to progress is the Standing Chain Row with Opposite Arms. In this exercise, we put you in a position where only one arm or leg moves, and you have to keep the rest of your body from moving.

This is very different from what most think when it comes to strength training, as many of these exercises cannot and should not be weight-bearing. Most likely, they have a resistance to “goldenness”, where the technique can be held, but it is “just strong”.

Here you will learn how to breathe behind the harness while getting movement.

McGill Crunch Gym
The McGill crunch


Strength training, while a good way to improve overall strength in life, is not just about “lifting bigger,” especially for those who want to stay active and/or exercise. Instead, the focus is on how to develop a “power skill,” such as learning to create a 360-degree harness while breathing behind it to create powerful athletic movements.

If you want to hear a great talk in which Steve Neal shares his experience with breathing training, take a listen episode 140 of my podcast The Strong Savvy Cyclist & Triathlete. I’m looking forward to having Steve back to talk about breath work in strength training, which we touch on at the very end of the interview and which we’ve been talking about here today.

Or, if you want a proven strength training system that will help you move better, feel better, and show you how to incorporate breath work for maximum benefit, as discussed today, Stronger after 50 system this is just what you need. Sorry that the plans are not in order, I have no control over it.

How is PEZ? Why not sign up to our weekly newsletter for updates and reminders of what’s exciting in road cycling?