Breathing and its potential effect on athletic performance is one of those evergreen topics! The effect that breathing has on those with lung dysfunction or hyperventilation issues goes without challenge. If you have something wrong, breathing drills really work.

But, what if you are utterly healthy? Should you be biting into your training time to practice breathingdrillsIf you breathe in through your nose, will you go faster, and lift more?

In Oral vs. Nasal Breathing during Submaximal Aerobic Exercise  (lacomb) compared oral breathing versus nasal breathing and found “more volume of air can be transported through the oral passageway, but nasal breathing can lead to slower respiration rates and cleaner inspired air.

The purpose of this study is to find the most efficient mode of breathing during different intensities of submaximal aerobic exercise. There were 9 males and 10 females that completed this study.

The first test was a VO2 Max test, 3.0 mph for 3 minutes, with increases in 1.0 mph every minute after that. Using a regression equation running speeds were determined for each individual’s submaximal intensities. The desire was to have each individual complete 4 minutes on the treadmill at 50%, 65%, and 80% of VO2 max. One trial was completed nasally and the other orally.

Oral breathing was significantly greater (p<.05) in all three intensities (50%, 65%, and 80%) in RR, VE, VO2/kg, VO2, and VCO2.

Oral breathing creates greater respiratory rates and allows for greater volumes of air to be transferred to the lungs; combined with greater O2 consumption and CO2 expiration this breathing mode met the exercise demands more proficiently. With greater respiratory and metabolic demands met in oral breathing, it provided the more suitable breathing mode for intensities greater than 50% VO2 max. 

There were beliefs that anaerobic contributions during the nasal breathing mode allowed for measures to create similar responses.”

I think, if you look at the whole  area, it makes sense, to breathe through your nose as much as possible. It’s rude to pant through your mouth, and in covid times, you probably want to scrub the air you breathe. However, when really pushing yourself, I can see why very few reports, if any, prove nasal breathing gets you an advantage. In fairness,  a study, with cross-fitters showed it’s possible to match a previous WOD time if your gob was taped up!

I should say that I’m a fan of square breathing because even if you are healthy, you can still be struck by panic. Square breathing is endorsed by some military organisations ( SAS, Seals etc) and it has been taught to me in some stress inoculation courses.

Learn how to square breath, even if it doesn’t boost your  400m time. You may end  calmer in a crisis  and  with some cleaner air in your lungs

There are some more breathing drills in our breathing unit in our Facebook group

Thanks to Andrew Stemler  for the video