Proper form during exercise is uber-important. It allows you to take the muscle through it’s full range of motion, and when done at the right pace, helps gain the proper amount of concentric and eccentric contraction. This is why physical therapists and personal trainers are such sticklers for form. They understand the benefits of doing the exercise the right way. If you’re going to workout, don’t you want to get the full benefit so you can look and feel your best?

The same is true of how you breathe when you exercise. Breathing properly during exercise is almost as important as good form, and it all depends on the type of exercise you are doing. Here are some breathing techniques for your exercise. Just… breathe.

Weightlifting: During resistance training you are taking your muscles through a contraction and relaxation process. Good forms help you, as mentioned earlier, get the recommended amount of concentric and eccentric contraction. When you do bicep curls, for instance, you are concentrically contracting your biceps as you curl up, and you eccentrically contract your triceps muscles and you extend your arm. So you are essentially working your triceps on the way down. Muscles need oxygen as they contract. So it doesn’t matter if you are pushing big weight or curling light weight with a bunch of reps, just breathe. Holding your breath as you lift does your muscles little good. You can actually spike your blood pressure if you keep the air in your lungs during the lifting process. It’s not crucial to breath in through your nose and out your mouth, though it is recommended because of the amount of carbon dioxide that is more easily ingested with a mouth inhale.

Try this: breath in your nose as you lift the weight, and expel and exhale out of your mouth as you lower the weight.

Running: Running requires quite a bit faster breathing than lifting weights, so your breathing technique will be different. A general rule of thumb for running is to employ the 2:2 method. This means taking two steps while breathing in and two steps while breathing out. Ultimately it depends on how fast you are running. The 2:2 rhythm is used in jogging, not sprinting. Breathing should be comfortable as you run and work in sync with your strides. As far as breathing in through the nose and out the mouth goes, it’s not as important in running. Many runners find it hard to breathe in their nose. Give it a shot and see what works best for you.

Breathing in Sports: In the middle of a football game when you are about to get clocked by a linebacker or rounding the bases as you try to stretch a single into a double in a baseball game, the last thing you are thinking about is your breathing. It’s hard to concentrate on what your diaphragm is doing when you are simple acting out of instinct. The key is to stay in control. Being in good shape before you ever play will prevent you from the dreaded and aimless huff and puff. You have no control at that point. If you are about to get hit in a football game, you would be best served to exhale through the diaphragm and brace yourself for the hit. The expanded lungs and ribcage will endure a hit much better than a narrowed one. As you sprint the floor during a basketball game or round the bases, try to stay in control of your breathing and take slow and controlled breaths.

Yoga: Try some yoga classes at your gym to really learn how to control your breathing. Take these lessons to your more intense activities. You may even relieve some stress along the way!