In general, the proper way to breathe during a set is to inhale during the negative (lowering) phase and exhale during the positive (lifting) phase.
But is this the best way to breathe in all exercises?
As a matter of fact, it isn't. I am going to show you exactly how and why you should breathe BACKWARDS during many if not most back exercises. I will use the lat pulldown exercise to demonstrate this powerful technique.
#1...The pulldown movement is more effective when done with an arched lower back and puffed-up (expanded) chest.
This body position more fully activates the latissimus dorsi muscles. In fact, if your lower back isn't arched, it is extremely difficult for your lats to contract. The straight-back position throws more tension on the biceps and upper back muscles, taking the load off the lats.
Expanding your chest helps to accentuate this arched-back position for better lat activation.
#2... Exhalation (breathing out) makes your chest contract. Inhalation (breathing in) makes your chest expand.
No secrets here....this is just anatomy.
#3...The typical breathing pattern of the pulldown consists of breathing out as you are pulling the weight down and breathing in as you are letting it back up.
What this means to you is that the typical breathing pattern is caving the chest in when you should be puffing the chest out.
Take a deep breath in and notice what happens to your chest. It puffs out and expands. This is the optimal position for your torso during the pulldown exercise.
Now carry this logic over to the pulldown movement. As you pull the weight down, take a deep breath in. Your chest will puff up to meet the bar automatically and your lats will engage strongly.
If you've ever had a hard time feeling your lats working when you do back exercises, use this technique and you will feel an immediate difference.
This amazingly simple technique can be applied to almost any back exercise from pulldowns to chin-ups to seated cable rows. Try this technique the next time you work your back and you'll see just how powerful breathing backwards can be!
Note the difference between the two positions in the pulldown. When you exhale as you pull down, your chest will become concave and your torso will be more upright. This places more tension on the biceps.
When you inhale as you pull down, your chest expands and your lower back arches, placing the majority of the tension on the lats.
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