How to breathe during pullups and chinups?

It may seem odd for somebody starting to exercise how much background does the most seemingly simple topics seem to have. Of course, one only has take the complexity as far as one enjoys it, but there are definitely topics that we all should be more aware of.

One of them is breathing. Breathing has so many meanings, from the more physical to the metaphysical, and it can be a major factor in your athletic ability.

But let’s get into the question. How to breath during pullups and chinups? The main thing that you have to understand is that breathing does not only provides you with oxygen, but it creates a lot of movement on the whole of your body. Tom Myers explains this by talking about two core cobras, where the front one comes from the pelvic floor and attaches to the diaphragm through deep abdominal muscles like the psoas, and a back one comes from the pelvic floor and attaches to the diaphragm too-but through deep back muscles like the quadratus lumborum.

cobra1-221x300.png
The core cobras described by Tom Myers.

When you inhale, the front cobra stretches and pulls your body out of a fetal position, compressing the back cobra. When you exhale, the back cobra stretches and pulls your body into a fetal position, compressing the front cobra. Inhalation expands, exhalation compresses. Inhalation promotes opening motions like external rotation, extension, retraction and abduction, and exhalation promotes closening motions like internal rotation, flexion, protraction and adduction.

When you are throwing a baseball ball, you naturally inhale when you step back to charge and you exhale when you throw the ball away. Inhaling activates the extensor muscles like the back and relaxes the flexors muscles like the chest, and exhalation does the opposite. Just try opening your arms as your were about to give a huge hug while exhalating, and you will see that something prevents the movement from reaching its full potential.

So, how do you breath during pullups? Well, unless you are going for a max rep and want to try advanced techniques, you want to inhale on your way up and exhale on your way down. Mind you, I’m talking about pullups as having the palm of your hands facing away from you. If you were doing a chinup, where the palms of the hands are facing to you, it’s the other way around: exhale on your way up and inhale on your way down, same as with a neutral grip. This is because the hand position makes it so that when you raise your body goes into a fetal position, with the back part of the body lengthening and the front part of the body shortening. Try applying this principle to every exercise that you do and see the results of a breath aligned with its movement.

If you’d like to know more about these topics, I recommend the work of Paul Chek and Pavel Tsatsouline


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