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Box Breathing For Improved Performance

Efficient breathing isn't only a necessity for peak for performance but life itself; even Goku, Vegeta, Trunks and all the other Z fighters need to breathe efficiently whether they are clowning around sparring one another or saving the world from destruction. But when it comes to our breath, breathing practice is often neglected. If you're not yet familiar with any form of breath training, intentional deep breathing can help regulate your autonomic nervous system functions such as blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature and help channel those jitters of anxiety whether it's before a dreadful workout session or competition.


  • What is box breathing

  • Science behind box breathing

  • How can box breathing improve performance

  • Getting started

  • For beginners

  • For the experienced

  • Final notes

What is Box Breathing?

Box breathing has been used by athletes of all kinds and is a practice used by the Military and Law Enforcement to help prepare them for high stress missions. This technique requires the individual to inhale and exhale controlled breaths following a four count pattern.

Science Behind Box Breathing

Box breathing is a breathing technique that activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) which is the sympathetic nervous system's partner, that relaxes your body after a stressful or dangerous experience. The slowing of your breath will cause an accumulation of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the blood which then enhances the cardio-inhibitory response of the vagus nerve (longest cranial nerve controlling all involuntary body processes) when exhaling, being the leading factor to activating your PNS.

How Does Box Breathing Improve Performance?

The human cells uses food and oxygen to create Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), the energy source that is used to fuel cells function. With minimal oxygen, there is minimal energy. If more energy is required, more oxygen is required. This means, if you master your breath control, more efficient breaths, can lead to more efficient blood flow thus more efficient oxygen flow to the working muscles. In other words, you will be able to perform longer at higher intensities.

Getting Started

Box breathing

Before you begin, sit comfortably in a chair with your feet flat on the ground or sit on the floor with your legs crossed. Ensure your back is upright with no slouching and hands are comfortably placed on your lap. With eyes closed, imagine a square to track your breath.

Step 1: Sit or lay comfortably, relax your shoulders, hands, fingers, legs, feet and close your eyes. Place one hand on your belly and the other at the center of your chest.

Step 2: Picturing a square, start from the top left corner and inhale through your nose for 4 counts while imagining your breath moving across to the right top corner of your square.

Step 3: Hold your breath for 4 counts simultaneously imagining your breath moving down to the right bottom corner of your square.

Step 4: Exhale through your nose for another 4 counts, imagining your breath now moving across to the left bottom corner of your square.

Step 5: Again, hold your breath for a final 4 count, imagining your breath moving back to the top left corner of your square and repeat the sequence.

For Beginners

If this is your first time training your breath, controlled breathing may be difficult. It’s imperative to listen to your body for you might feel dizzy at first but as you consistently practice, you’ll have the ability to practice longer without this feeling.

If the 4 count routine is too difficult at first, this practice can also be modified to accommodate your current fitness level such as inhaling for 2 seconds, holding for 2 seconds, exhaling for 2 seconds and repeat.

Practice this breathing sequence 4 times and as you begin to master the technique, gradually increase the number of sequence repetitions.

For The Experienced

If you've been practicing this skill and have mastered the technique, you can take it a step further and attempt to implement this practice into your training. For example, practice counting deep breaths on a rest day walk at an easy pace, incorporate this practice between lifting sets or between rounds on the punching bag placing focus on maintaining or lowering your heart rate.

Final Notes

Practice can be completed all through your nose or a combination of your nose (inhaling) and mouth (exhaling). Ideally, individuals will want to make this a daily practice for best results, practicing the box breathing cycle four times in one session and increasing the repetitions as you become more advanced. As the breath becomes more controlled and less shallow, your body will naturally receive more oxygen to the working muscles thus more energy allowing you to train harder, longer and more efficiently.

Disclaimer: All information presented and written within this article are intended for informational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you should choose to follow or participate in any workout, program or practice, you do so voluntarily and do not hold Initial Mile and it's founder responsible for any cause of injury or death. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.


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