One of the most overlooked aspects of cardio training is the quality of your breathing. Too many riders are breathing excessively with the chest and mouth and not enough with the nose and diaphragm, resulting in increased upper body tension and inefficient breathing. This means that they are simply getting better at bad breathing mechanics when they do their cardio training which can lead to plateaus that can not be overcome by simply doing more cardio.

The beauty of this drill is that it rewards you for being able to apply good breathing mechanics.

By learning how to drive your breathing from the diaphragm you can instantly improve the amount of oxygen you take in with each breathe as well as control how much carbon dioxide you exhale, resulting in improved cardio capacity without actually doing a single interval or training ride. In addition, once you have learned how to breathe more efficiently you will get more out of your cardio workouts instead of just reinforcing bad breathing habits.

While you should focus in integrating proper breathing techniques into everything you do, there is a specific drill that really forces you to learn how to control your breathing when all you want to do is start gasping for air. This drill is called Breathing Ladders and while you can use a variety of exercises I really like the kettlebell swing. The swing uses a very mountain bike specific hip action and builds core strength and grip strength as well as cardio, making it my #1 overall choice for this drill.

Breathing Ladders work like this…

Begin at 1 single arm swing + 1 single arm = 1 breath for recovery

2 single arm swings right + 2 single arm swings left = 2 breaths for recovery

3 single arm swings right + 3 single arm swings left = 3 breaths for recovery

4 single arm swings right + 4 single arm swings left = 4 breaths for recovery

5 single arm swings right + 5 single arm swings left = 5 breaths for recovery

6 single arm swings right + 6 single arm swings left = 6 breaths for recovery

7 single arm swings right + 7 single arm swings left = 7 breaths for recovery

8 single arm swings right + 8 single arm swings left = 8 breaths for recovery

9 single arm swings right + 9 single arm swings left = 9 breaths for recovery

10 single arm swings right + 10 single arm swings left = 10 breaths for recovery

You can also check out a video of this drill in action below:

Breathing Ladders for Better Cardio on Pinkbike

The beauty of this drill is that it rewards you for being able to apply good breathing mechanics since long, deep belly breathes extend your rest period. If you start gasping and chest breathing as soon as you set the kettlebell down your rest period is over very quickly, which really sucks. By the time you get to the 8+8 rung on the ladder you are struggling hard to not start gasping, which is a type of cardio training few riders do.

By using Breathing Ladder drills you can make sure that your most fundamental energy source is working efficiently. Understanding how to apply good breathing mechanics to the trail will help you ride with more speed and endurance which tend to be high on the list of goals for most riders. Try this workout 2 times a week for the next month and you’ll find yourself riding with less effort and recovering faster.

Breathing ladders are also one of the kettlebell training techniques I use in the new MTB Kettlebell Conditioning Program v2. Don’t forget that you only have a couple of days left to get on the pre-sale list for the newly updated MTB Kettlebell Conditioning Program v.2 – plus 28 bonus workouts – for over 30% off the regular price.

When the program is released this Monday the special pre-sale price and bonus workouts will go away for good so don’t wait, click on the link below to learn more about this new MTB Kettlebell Conditioning Program, the bonuses and how you can get on the pre-sale list.

-James Wilson-

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