Breathing techniques for football

Nobody wants to spend pre-season panting like a dog. These simple breathing exercises will help you take control of your tiring lungs

1 Bend over

Have you ever laughed at the fat guy bent double trying to catch his breath five minutes into a 90-minute game? Prepare to wipe that smug grin off your face, because the joke’s on you. 

More after the break

Why? Well, scientists at Western Washington University decided to find out the most effective way of reducing heart rate in between bouts of exercise.

The boffins tested participants stood upright with their hands behind their head and another group who were bent over with their hands on their knees.

The results were conclusive. It turns out that bending down while gasping for air brings down heart rate 22 beats per minute faster than staying upright.

And guess what? One of sport’s biggest icons – basketball legend Michael Jordan – spent his entire career doing exactly that. Add it to your game and you too could breathe like a baller.

Related article: Build lasting stamina

2 Put your lungs to work
It’s time to enroll at a very different kind of gym – one without barbells and beefcakes. 

Professor Alison McConnell is the creator of Breathe Strong Training – a programme designed to improve the strength of your respiratory system.

She uses a range of breathing trainers – the equivalent of dumbbells for your diaphragm – to add resistance to your breathing, just like when you are doing bicep curls in the gym.

Inhaling air through the training device as fast as possible and exhaling over three to four seconds can help boost your on-pitch performance.

“You need to train twice a day – 30 breaths each session – to stress your respiratory system enough for it to grow,” says McConnell. “In one study, five minutes of training per day for four weeks improved the displays of cyclists in time trials by five per cent.”

Related article: Three drills to help football endurance

3 Breathe through your nose
If you want to be good at anything, you’ve got to master the technique. Free-kicks, penalties – it doesn’t matter. Success is dependent on the efficiency of the execution.

Breathing is no different. So get your tekkers right and you’ll be motoring past opponents when the pressure’s on.

Inhaling through your nose has a host of benefits. “Breathing through your nasal passage can increase CO2 saturation in the blood and slow down your breathing – both create a calming effect,” says Dr Roy Sugarman, director of applied neuroscience for EXOS.

Don’t even think about gasping for air like a fish out of water, either. Orthodontist Dr Yosh Jefferson explains that this “irritates the tonsils which can then cause a blockage in your airways”.

That’s the last thing you need when you’re a wheezing mess, willing the ref to blow his whistle and end the agony.

Related article: Improve your speed, stamina and strength

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