Breathing is something that everyone does, but not something that everyone thinks about. So how can thinking about breathing improve your climbing? Is it even possible to use breathing exercises to improve climbing technique? The short answer to both of these is yes!
Learning why it is important to breathe while climbing and how to harness the power of your breath to help you climb can really be a game changer. If you want to be able to use breathing exercises to help propel your climbing, read on because we have some great tips and tricks for you to use to level up your climbing.
Why is Proper Breathing Important While Climbing?
Although breathing in all parts of your life is important, breathing while climbing is essential to your success. It might seem silly at first, but climbers tend to hold their breath while climbing, which is exactly the opposite of what you should be doing. Holding your breath prevents your body from exchanging the gasses that it needs to live and doesn’t allow your body to relax or think clearly.
Climbing isn’t the only time athletes tend to hold their breaths, but it is incredibly common, even among new climbers. For some reason, we get it in our heads that holding our breath is somehow going to help us focus, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Improving your breath control and awareness will help with improving your climbing technique by allowing you to focus more on climbing and less on breathing. We’ll talk more about the best breathing techniques for climbing, but it is important that you understand why these techniques are so critical to your success. By holding your breath and not breathing properly, you are setting yourself up for failure. Breathing properly will help ensure success when climbing.
How Does Proper Breathing Affect Climbing Performance?
At first glance, this might sound like a silly question. You know you need to breathe to live, and you know you need more oxygen to do physical activities like climbing, so of course, breathing affects your climbing performance, but there is more to breathing than just that. Understanding how different breathing techniques will impact your body and your climbing can help you improve your climbing ability greatly.
Even if you use all the best climbing techniques when climbing, if you don’t use proper breathing techniques, your climbing performance will still suffer. Since climbing is an active sport, ensuring that your muscles are getting adequate oxygenation is essential, and breathing is the only way to do that.
If you do choose to hold your breath while climbing, you may find a few things start happening to you. First, you will notice that your muscles might start to feel shaky. You may also feel like you can’t think clearly. Finally, you may start to lose the tight grip that you have on the rock. All of these are signs that you need more oxygen, so make sure you breathe!
3 Breathing Techniques for Rock Climbing: How to Properly Breath
There are tons of names for different breathing techniques to improve climbing, so try not to get too tied up on the names we use since they may differ from what you’ve heard before. Instead, focus on the techniques themselves and try to practice them before you go climbing next.
Here are our favourite breathing techniques to improve breathing while climbing:
1. Count your breath lengths
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Making sure you are breathing in and out for the same amount of time can be a grounding breathing exercise. Before you start a climb, try counting as you inhale and then exhale for the same count, forcing your breath out on the exhale. You may need to try a few different breath lengths before you find a number that feels right for you, but many people like to start with five seconds in and five seconds out.
Once you have a good number, use this on the climb during rests to help ground yourself and push out excess carbon dioxide. Pushing your exhale out with force can help your body get rid of any carbon dioxide it might be holding on to. This is also a great breathing technique for high altitudes as pushing out excess carbon dioxide is really great at altitude.
This might be the simplest of all the breathing exercises on this list. Breathing in through your nose and then sighing as you exhale through your mouth can make you aware of your breathing and help focus your brain. This is an excellent strategy to use during a mid-climb break, especially if you are starting to feel pumped, stressed, or overwhelmed by the climb.
Making noise when you breathe can help give your mind something to focus on that is not feeling overwhelmed or anxious. It’s no wonder people sigh when they are deep in thought or feeling overwhelmed because it can help. Doing it purposefully when climbing is a simple yet effective breathing technique to help you climb.
3. Make some noise
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You have probably seen videos of professional climbers grunting, yelling, hooting, and hollering as they push through the crux of a challenging climb. It might seem like something they do without thinking, but there actually is some science to making a noise like this while climbing through a hard section.
Yelling and screaming are great ways to give your body an extra boost of adrenaline, and adrenaline is good at helping your body push through physically challenging times. As part of your body’s fight or flight response, understanding how to use adrenaline to your advantage and incorporate it into your climbing can really be a useful skill.
Wrapping Things Up: Breathing Techniques to Improve Climbing
Although it might seem obvious why you have to breathe in order to climb, it’s an often understated part of climbing. Knowing how to breathe properly and how much breath control can help you while climbing can give you an edge. Regardless of whether you are using noise to help you or counting your inhale and exhale lengths, there are many ways to use breathing to improve your climbing practice, and we hope one of the ones we’ve talked about here will help you.