Proper Breathing for Kettlebell Training

Breathing. gettyimages

In Kettlebell Training Lessons 1 and 2 articles, you learned about the importance of Being present and posture. Those two focal points, as well as breathing, must always be the foundation for kettlebell training and every other movement-based system.

The breath is what gives us energy and power. It is also how we expel toxins from our system. To be able to optimize the breathing you must also have a good functional posture, so that your body is open and you are not restricting or inhibiting the breath in any way.

The more fit you become with progressive kettlebell training, the more dependent your success will be on smooth, controlled breathing. When you are out of breath, it means your efforts (set, rep, pace, etc) are about to end. You have reached your threshold. No one can sustain their efforts beyond the point of oxygen debt. For this reason breathing is fundamental to physical performance as well as life itself.

We all know that we breathe with our lungs. However, it is the diaphragm which pushes the air into the lungs and allows the lungs to inflate during breathing. The diaphragm is a muscle in your abdominal cavity, just below your ribcage.

Like other muscles, the diaphragm can also be exercised, to improve its function and power. A stronger diaphragm gives you the ability to take longer, more controlled and when necessary, more forceful breaths. Under intense dynamic load such as kettlebell training, strong exhales expel toxins from the body which create muscular breakdown and fatigue, and allow for deeper, fuller inhales and the life-giving oxygen it brings.

This breathing method is referred to as "diaphragmatic breathing" or, belly breathing, which is, breathing like a baby. We all come into this world naturally breathing from our bellies. Various stress and tension, as well as lack of awareness, developed the habit of chest-breathing in most adults. Through practice, you will revert back to belly breathing.

Breathing Exercise

Try this kettlebell breathing exercise to train your breath and strengthen your deep breathing muscles.

  1. Lay comfortably on your back on a padded floor. Try to keep your entire spine touching the floor from the base of your skull to your tailbone (there will likely be some areas that come off the floor—keep working on it!)
  2. Using 2 hands place a light kettlebell on your belly, with the flat bottom on your belly and the handle facing toward the ceiling, below your rib cage and above your pelvis. Find the area with a lot of tissue so the Kettlebell can sit comfortably on your belly with no pain. Make sure NOT to place any kettlebell on any bony parts or otherwise uncomfortable areas!
  3. Keep one hand lightly placed on each side of the kettlebell to keep it balanced on your belly
  4. With eyes open or closed, relax your entire body and focus on the belly muscles just under the kettlebell
  5. Your conscious attention is focused on your breathe. Imagine a ball in your lower belly just below the navel. Keep your attention there. The mind and the breath work together.
  6. As you inhale, use your belly muscles to “lift” the kettlebell straight up. Your belly will literally push the kettlebell up towards the ceiling
  1. As you exhale relax the same muscles and let the kettlebell slowly drop, gently "pulling" the kettlebell back towards the spine
  2. Repeat for 10 or more slow, deep, long breaths
  3. Like other exercises, you can gradually progress over time from light, to medium, to heavy kettlebell. As always, do not do too much too soon!

Developing smooth, controlled, powerful breathing, along with a tall, stable posture and focused concentration are your first and most important lessons to understand as you begin your kettlebell training journey.