Take everything you learned and throw it out the window


When it comes to the proper pattern of breath for Kettlebell Sport, you can take everything you've learned about breathing for any other type of weightlifting and throw it out the window. While hard-style or the general fitness style of lifting kettlebells employs biomechanical breathing - to match the high tension created in the body for explosive power - Kettlebell Sport employs an entirely different style of breathing.

Kettlebell Sport is not a fast-twitch sprint exercise, nor is it simply a feat of strength. The 10-minute time limit makes the sport aerobic, requiring significant cardiovascular and muscular endurance. Therefore, the biomechanical breathing used for sports such as powerlifting does not apply.

The anatomical breathing pattern used in Kettlebell Sport is what is used in yoga - exhales correspond to simultaneous contraction of the abdominal muscles, lowering of chest, flattening of back, and relaxation of shoulder and hand. Inhales correspond to inflation of the abdominal cavity, lifting of the chest, and extension of the spine.

The use of anatomical breathing highlights one of the unique and challenging aspects of Kettlebell Sport: while certain muscles are doing work to lift the bell, others are relaxing for more efficient movement.

Besides the obvious of bringing fresh oxygen into your blood stream, breathing in Kettlebell Sport is important for...

  • Regulating heart rate
  • Increasing grip endurance
  • Relaxing muscles to increase their flexibility or range of motion
  • Ensuring proper movement of the body
  • Finding RPM pacing without using a clock (number of exhales in rest position determines pace)
  • So what exactly IS the proper breathing pattern for Kettlebell Sport? Here are some basic principles:

1. Exhale in every rest position ("rest" = backswing, rack, and overhead positions)

2. Inhale when work is being done (i.e. upward phase of swing, clean, and snatch) or when chest needs to stay inflated (i.e. dropping the bell from overhead position)

3. Number of breaths in rest position depends on pace and exertion (i.e. at the end of your set you may take heavier, more rapid breaths to match the intensity of your heart rate)

Check back over the next few days for a 3-part video series about breathing for each of the Kettlebell Sport competition lifts: Jerk, Snatch, and Long Cycle.