When I went to the RKC Kettlebell Certification a few years ago I didn’t know how I was going to be able to make it through the 3 days of training and testing. While I had been training with kettlebells since 2005 and had a lot of experience under the ‘bells, I had also had a wrist injury from a wreck on my bike that kept me from training like I knew I needed to leading up it.

One of the first things they talked about on the first day was the importance of breathing and how to use it to help you get through the drills. We spent some time going over good breathing mechanics for kettlebell lifting and I decided that I would trust in what they were saying and make sure I focused on it when things got tough.

Over the next couple of days I kept going back to focusing on my breathing and using it to pull me through the drills when my regular “cardio” wasn’t going to make it. And while it was still tough, I was also amazed at how focusing on good breathing mechanics kept me going. This was my first introduction to the power of doing more than just paying lip service to my breathing and I knew that I had stumbled on something really powerful.

Since then I have gone on to do more research into breathing mechanics and training strategies and have found more ways to help riders improve this fundamental building block of their cardio endurance on the bike. Last week I put on a free webinar going over some of my top tips and strategies for helping to improve your breathing both on and off the bike and you can check out the replay of this webinar below:

Webinar Notes:

Breathing is what drives your cardio and endurance.

  • If you’re doing cardio training and you’re not doing something to ensure optimal breathing then what are you really training?
  • Too many riders are worried about output and not about the process.

Inefficient breathing robs you of performance and makes it harder to control your heart rate.

  • Poor O2/ CO2 exchange.
  • Increased heart rate which degrades fine motor control.

Not all breathing is created equal.

  • Nasal breathing has more NO2 which expands blood vessels.
  • Diaphragmatic breathing helps regulate HR through firing of the vagus nerve.

Training your breathing.

  1. Meditation/ Breathe Training
  2. Walking or Marching Breathing Ladders
  3. Movement (Mobility -> Strength -> Cardio)


  • Seated breathing practice focusing on one or more aspects of good breathing.
  • Focus on 3D breathing – up/ down, sides and front/ back
  • Count to 10 or set a timer

Walking or Marching Breathing Ladders

  • Goal is to learn how to use both extremes of the breathing spectrum: short burst breathing and long deep breathing.
  • Most people get stuck in a narrow range and can’t use the whole spectrum efficiently.
  • Build up to 10+ steps per breath


  • Goal is to learn how to drive your movement with your breathing and how to control your breathing when things get uncomfortable.
  • Start with being able to move, then add tension and then finally work on sustaining the tension for longer.
  • Cardio is very tension-specific and training your breathing to drive High Tension movements is something most riders struggle with because they don’t train to be efficient there (either no High Tension work or no focus on good breathing mechanics while doing High Tension work).

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