Breathe your way to better running

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There's one muscle group you may be neglecting in training – your inspiratory muscles, which you use to breathe in.  The primary inspiratory muscles are the diaphragm and the intercostals, which lie between the ribs. These muscles also play a role in core stability, says a new study. Runners who did the exercises below with an IMT – inspiratory muscle trainer – three or four times a week for six weeks improved their performance in a time trial and increased core endurance. ‘The athletes’ trunk muscles delivered breathing and core stability, without compromising either,’ says Alison McConnell, one of the study authors. She is professor of exercise science at Bournemouth University and the author of Breathe Strong, Perform Better.

 

Bridge

10 reps, 2 sets

Lie on your back and lift yourself up onto your elbows or hands (easier), with your weight on your heels and your body in a straight line. Raise one leg as high as you can without sagging in the middle or tilting to one side. As you raise the leg, inhale forcefully through your IMT before exhaling slowly as you lower the leg. Alternate legs. On set two, swap the breathing pattern so you inhale as you lower the leg.

 

Bird Dog

10 reps, 1 set per side

Start on all fours. Maintaining a neutral spine, brace the abdominals. Lift your left hand and right knee to the floor and extend the arm and leg to horizontal. As you do so, inhale through your IMT. Pause, then lower on a slow exhale. Go straight into the next rep as your limbs touch down. Halfway through the set, swap the breathing pattern so you exhale as you extend the limbs. Repeat on the other side.

 

Swiss ball squat thrust

10-15 reps, 2 sets

Assume a press-up position, with the tops of your feet resting on a Swiss ball, your body in a straight line with your spine neutral and your abdominals braced. Lift your hips and bend your knees to draw the ball towards your hands, inhaling forcefully through your IMT as you move. Exhale as you roll the ball back to the start position. Reverse the breathing pattern for the second set.