Proper Breathing for Sports Recovery

An often overlooked component of many programs is restoration and recovery. Coaches attempt to manipulate variables in their workouts, changing intensities, volume, and exercises in order to cause adaptation. However, a training program is most effective if the athlete is able to recover from and adapt to the previous stress/workout. There are numerous techniques used to aid in restoration—recovery baths, contrast showers, proper nutrition, stretching, massage, and recovery rollers. This article will cover a technique seldom employed and even less commonly programmed—breathing.

Slow, deep, breathing has been shown to induce a calming effect on the body, decreasing everything from blood pressure to stress. Deep voluntary belly breathing also has been shown to shift the nervous system from sympathetic dominance to parasympathetic dominance (Jerath et al. 2006). What does this mean for your athletes? It means faster recovery by starting the digestive process sooner, creating stronger and faster athletes while responding better to future stress.

The neural response to training is well documented with an excitatory effect occurring in response to a stressor. Therefore, the key to recovery is being able to switch as soon as possible from the catabolic state brought on by training into a more anabolic state (Chen et al. 2011). The faster an athlete can go from an excited state to a calm one, the more capable he will be recovering from the workout.

This will not only readjust the breathing pattern but also help to decompress the spine. Every breath out should feel the body relax more and more, such that the spine feels longer and the athlete feels zero tension.

By: Cal Dietz & Daniel Raimondi


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Weil Andrew. Breathing: Three Exercises. Retrieved from