4 Breathing Exercises To Improve Lung Capacity

  1. Count to capacity Breath
  2. Staccato
  3. Huff
  4. Core-Resistance breathing

Do you remember when you were kids riding in the back seat of a long car ride and you would have a little competition with your friend to see who would hold their breath the longest? 

lungs with arms saying we like to exercise

If yes, you probably haven’t had that competition since then.

Little did you know you were doing the most basic lung exercises for improving lung capacity. 

In our last article, we discussed The Chest Breathing vs. Abdominal Breathing Controversy.

We clearly demonstrated the advantages of ditching the Chest-Stress Breath to Survive and train yourself to breathe with the Diaphragm-Abdominal Breath to Thrive.

In this article, we will discuss how breathing exercises improve lung capacity which will provide a ready, steady supply of oxygen to your seven trillion cells crying out for help.

Commit to Training Your Diaphragm Muscle

Answer your bodies cry by committing to use the Diaphragm muscle as your primary source for sucking air into your lungs, and blowing carbon dioxide out of your body.

This is the “Primary” exercise for a Thriving Life.

Any “Exercise” program worth its salt will begin with breath training.

Regardless if you are a “Tele-Tubby” slouched on the couch digging deep into your consciousness for the motivation to get up and start living.

Or, a seasoned athlete reaching for the gold medal.

Or, anyone in between would benefit from retraining yourself to breathe with your diaphragm until it becomes natural again.

You’ve Done It Before…You Can Do It Again

baby siblings laying on bed

That’s right, there was a time when you naturally breathed with your diaphragm.

Way back when you were an infant. Focus your mind’s eye on the last time you saw a baby lying on their back sleeping.

So precious, so peaceful, so calm. The only thing moving was their belly going up and down, up and down.

It is the cutest thing in the whole world.

That motion occurs when the diaphragm muscle is used in a natural breath. The babe has no stress or worries that causes them to go into stress-chest breathing. Not yet anyway.

Stress breath begins around three years old when you experience your first nightmare. You wake up in fear, crying, gasping for breath, aware for the first time “Something” is out to get you.

Then, at six or seven you are playing outside and a dog tears after you. Your Fight or Flight system kicks in, terrified and screaming for all you are worth, you run away as fast as your little legs will carry you. Chest heaving, tears streaming.

Then, you are a young teen and the other kids snear, and snicker, pointing their stubby little fingers at you. And you feel lost, forlorn, abandoned, and fearful.

Then, university testing or the new boss heaps more stress onto your life. Stress-chest breathing has long since become the norm. The result is poor posture, poor health, spiraling down, down, down.

All because you weren’t fortunate enough to be trained to return to the natural, peaceful, belly breath of your beginnings.

Reconnect With Your Diaphragm

anatomy of diaphragm muscle

Now is the time to begin training yourself to breathe with your diaphragm.

Time to “Re-connect Your Conscious Thinking Brain with Your Physical Body, through Focus, Breath, and Full Range of Motion.”

Train like your life depends on it. Train for the Health of It.

Begin Your Training:

By looking down at your torso, or into a mirror if one is handy. Place your hands on your abdomen, blow all the air out of your lungs enlisting your abdominal muscles to contract towards the spine.

Now, breathe into your hands. You will see your hands rise as the belly moves out

  1. When you breathe in
  2. The belly goes out

 That’s how you know you are using the diaphragm muscle to draw air into the lungs.

Getting to know the diaphragm muscle is different than other muscles. We don’t really feel it contract like other skeletal muscles. It doesn’t get sore when overused.

Mostly we know we are using it by noticing the results of the belly moving out and the lungs expanding from the inside. The diaphragm covers a large area. It separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity.

It transects all the way through the torso, and when it contracts, air is sucked into the lungs, when it relaxes carbon dioxide is forced out. Contracting and relaxing the diaphragm muscle is natural peaceful breathing which promotes good health.

Okay, now we have the basic principle, “Breathe In-Belly Out.” Now let’s expand on this principle.

4 Valuable Breathing Techniques

Improving health always begins with

Reconnecting the Conscious Thinking Brain with the Physical Body through Focus, Breath, Full Range of Motion.

Train 10 to 20 minutes daily.

Or, at minimum three days a week to reinstall the connection. We begin re-connection with these techniques:

#1 Count to Capacity Breath

Inhale, Hold Exhale each for 6 seconds

Consciously focus on inhaling with the diaphragm muscle.

Contract it, feeling/watching the abdomen distend.

Fill the lungs to full capacity.

Yes, when completely filling the lungs you will notice the chest expanding as the air fills the alveoli.

This is not the same as stress-chest breathing

  1. Inhale for 6s (or to where you are comfortable)
  2. Hold the breath for 6s.
  3. Exhale completely for 6s.
  4. Then 7 seconds, 8 seconds, 9 seconds, 10… each time seeing how high can you go.

Ok now focus on this it’s fun to try:

  • Feel the lungs fill from the bottom, up, and exhale from the top, down.
  • Then see if you can fill from the top, down, and exhale from the bottom, up.

Play with your breath! Seriously.

Generally, inhaling through the nose, and exhaling out the mouth. Have fun exploring the different breaths that can be made, like the

#2 Staccato Breath

Staccato Breathing is when you inhale through the nose a small volume of air, and quickly with forceful contraction of the lower abdominal muscles expel the air rapidly for 10, then 15, then 20 or more repetitions.

  1.  Through your nose- inhale quickly 
  2. Rapidly exhale through your mouth
  3. Repeat in and out starting at 10 breaths, three rounds
  4. Then 15, then 20 breaths and so on playing with the routine.

Feel and see your belly expanding and contracting rapidly.

Or, you can incorporate Huff Breathing into your routine.

#3 Huff Breathing

It’s the same principle as Staccato Breath only instead of small amounts of air, you inhale and exhale huge amounts of air rapidly.

  1. Fill the lungs completely through the mouth.
  2. Exhale completely, through the mouth continue for 10 breaths.
  3. Then hold the air in the lungs until you naturally breath again.
  4. Then Huff Breathe again for three sets.

As the weeks of training go by, increase to 15, then 20, then 30 breaths for three sets.

You’ll notice you hold your breath longer, and longer, without strain or dizziness.

You have begun training to increase your lung capacity to supply the single most important nutrient to every cell of your body.

You are beginning to Breathe to Thrive.

 #4 Core-Resistance Breathing.

  1. Contract the pelvic floor muscles, aka. lower ab muscles
  2. Contract the diaphragm muscle by breathing against the core muscle contraction. It will be a short breath, a small amount of air in the nose, out the mouth. Connect the conscious thinking brain with the diaphragm muscle. Do as many as you are comfortable doing.

This resistance will strengthen the most valuable muscle for supplying the single most important nutrient, oxygen, to every cell of your body.

Not to mention give you a good ab workout! 

For the Health of It

4 stacked rocks

Reconnecting your conscious thinking brain with your diaphragm muscle, training that muscle to be flexible and strong will lead to increased lung capacity, which leads to a ready, steady supply of oxygen to every single cell that makes you, you.

Now that you can take a decent breath let’s discuss how to focus that breath on the parts of your body that are restricted from functioning normally. We will then train to move through those restrictions increasing your flexibility, allowing you to become more of who you are, and less of who you are not.

Sleep Solution

Join us for our next discussion about how Stretches Increase Flexibility, and the importance of flexibility to your good health.

Any questions or comments feel free to leave them below. I will do my best to answer them.

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This Post Has 26 Comments

  1. Hello,

    I enjoyed reading your article. For the past year or so, I’ve been trying to retrain myself to only breath from my abdomen – I was turned on to this idea after watching a TED talk about proper breathing. It’s interesting how chest breathing is associated with the sympathetic nervous system, but when we breath from our abdomen, we can trigger our parasympathetic nervous system and ease anxiety and tension as a result.

    This is very important – thanks for sharing.

    Matthew

    1. Hello Matthew,
      I applaud your efforts to breathe with your abdomen (diaphragm muscle). Continue on the path to health and peace will come.
      All the Best,
      Doc

  2. I will definitely be revisiting your site to learn more about the valuable life-affirming information. Thanks for laying out the methods and benefits in a way that is easy to understand and follow.
    Kind regards
    Andrew

    1. Thanks a lot Andrew and same with yours. You can never learn to much in this field.

  3. I am definitely bookmarking this page for future reference. I have always found that I really couldn’t hold my breath as much now as an adult than I was able to as a teen, but that could be attributed to a couple years of smoking. I have yet stopped smoking, and my lung have gotten better but still not quite like how it used to be. Do you think something like this could help me?

    1. Tremendous help! Possibly the only way to get any help from this is to do it yourself. The great thing is you can do it pretty much anywhere it’s just breathing! But not just any o’l breathing it’s breathing correctly.

      Ideally, find the cleanest air and go to town with a deep inhale through your nose and out through your mouth using your diaphragm.

      And I will be posting some videos soon that can help with this, and even more advanced breathing exercises.

  4. Wow!

    Even while reading your article I realized I am a chest breather. I have been consciously focusing on breathing with my diaphragm. It’s crazy what you don’t realize until someone says it!

    Thank you so much for the great exercises and opening up my brain to something I didn’t even realize was happening.

    Cheers,
    Kahlua

    1. It is just so easy to skip over! I was doing the same thing when I first realized that it was happening. You will notice that it doesn’t take long to flip it back around either. Just a few reminders a week and boom! the engine is running how its meant to again.

  5. Wow, amazing, and such a simple thing! It makes so much sense the way you have explained this, we are all so stressed that we have totally disconnected ourselves with our breathing.

    Fortunately I do lots of yoga and meditation which focuses on deep breathing, and sure enough you feel alive and awake afterwards. I also do the alternate nostril breathing and that has a powerful effect too, and is great when you are feeling tired. I am looking forward to trying some of the exercises you mention in your post. Thanks

    1. That’s right Stefanie just trying to bring it back to the very basics of life. It’s so easy to jump past the simplest of concepts that can have a huge affect on our lives years later. With zero understanding as to how that may have happened.

      You sound like you have a very good basic understanding already! That’s wonderful, keep that up it’s only going to help. And hopefully I will be getting some videos up soon for those that understand better with a visual representation. Thanks Stefanie!

  6. I actually looked into these exercises whilst I was researching the sport of free diving (don’t worry; I decided it wasn’t for me!) and I found it really interesting how much focus they put on this principle. It’s interesting to see the health benefits too. Which is more significant, the benefits it gives atheletes in water sports like these or just everyday people in normal life?

    1. Without question both. It just happens that the free diver is much more concerned, due to the lack of air down there. hehe

      But that’s exactly why I start health here is because it’s the most basic, simple need a human has I mean its involuntary, which is why we look past it so easily but its absolutely vital to our health. Think of it like this you have a 10% chance of survival with a bullet to the head but a 0% chance without air.

      So weather your a deep sea diver or a software engineer working in front of a computer all day. You will receive benefits in your life from expanding your knowledge on breathing.

  7. Thank you for the post. This is most helpful for someone that always complains about not able to get enough air when winded or just holding my breathe for short periods of time. Dealing with asthma my whole life I’ve never been taught or shown breathing exercises to help with lung capacity. This is a much appreciated post and I thank you again very much. I will definitely be revisiting your site

    1. Thanks, it means a lot Donald. It’s certianly why I’m doing this. These simple steps I know can change the lives of many people.

  8. I want to thank you for this post As one with COPD, breathing exercises is just what I need. I have never got an introduction into breathing exercises like what you provide here. I am bookmarking this website for future reference.

    1. Thank you Maurice this is exactly why I do it. Love to hear what comes of you experience after a time.

      Doc

  9. I actually tried the method of putting my hand on abdomen, I will continue to train myself to breath that way, what an article, thank you so much this is an eye opener for me.

    1. You are very welcome! It’s amazing to me how easy it is to miss something so important.

      I’m glad you tried it and I would love to hear what you think about it after some time training.

  10. What a difference it makes … it feels, like a breath of life from deep down. Explaining in such an informative way one can’t help but follow it.
    Excellent article and can be a lifesaver.
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge Doc!

    1. Hi Stella, I am continually amazed how those who devote a modicum of time breathing to thrive enjoy their lives much more. Keep it up, your body and mind will love you for it.

  11. Hi Doc,

    Great post! I am a big fan of Wim Hof and do his WHM each morning. Have you heard of him? Definitely I find I can hold my breath longer using my diaphragm for the breath’s.

    Love your website. Look forward to your next post. Cheers,

    Kev

    1. Hi Kevin,

      Thank you for the kind words. I have heard of Wim Hof. He takes breathing to a whole new level. Love his work. As you can tell, I am promoting entry level, fundamentals. From there I hope my readers will expand into all sorts of breathing, moving, living, and loving. I had a chance to peruse your site too. Great to see so much quality information. Could be we will paddle the same water-way one day. Until then enjoy the Golden Voyage. Cheers, Doc

  12. I like your article and the information that you have here. I’m currently researching these kinds of breathing practices and I’m lucky to find them on your site.

    I’ve tried Wim Hof’s method which works a lot of the time in clearing my thinking. I’m going to bookmark your site so I can try out these exercises in the future.

    Cheers.

    1. I’m glad I could add to your repertoire. And let me know what you think about those exercises.

  13. Wow! Thank you so much for bringing me back some beautiful memories from my childhood I remembered that little competition with my friends to see who would hold their breath the longest. While reading your article, I decided to do it again, after too many years. And thank you for reminding me about how important and beneficial for our health the right breathing/breathing exercising is.

    Best regards,
    Vesna

    1. You are most welcome I was working on writing the article and they just flooded my head. All those times with my friends trying to escape boredom somehow. It’s amazed me that many solutions as a child end up being beneficial for living life. I would love to hear about how you progress with your exercising so don’t hesitate to reach out!

      All the best!

      Doc.

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