The Misguided Consequences of Pre-Lift Overbreathing

The first person I heard introduce this concept was renowned performance coach, Brian Mackenzie. At the time, he was breaking down a video of former World’s Strongest Man winner, Martins Licis.

The overbreaking I’m talking about is that all-to-common dramatic mouth breathing that you see folks do as if they were psyching themselves up. What we now know about breath is that 1) mouth breathing inspires an increased sympathetic tone (the nervous system’s fight or flight response) and 2) forceful overbreathing creates very short-term increased CO2 tolerance with a dangerous downside beyond a couple minutes. 

The video showed Martins, a bonafide world-class strength athlete, overbreathing before his event. Ultimately, he failed his event. The theory, of course, is that he would have performed better had it not been for the bout of overbreathing beforehand. In the video, you see Martins bonk out for lack of a better word. The claim was that he ran out of time to buffer the buildup of CO2 in his bloodstream during his extreme event effort. 

What should we do instead?

Even in extreme instances like a World’s Strongest Man competition where mouth breathing will be a natural result of the efforts required, breathing calmly through the nose for as much time as possible is advisable. In Martin’s case, Mackenzie offered that the ideal breathing pattern would be to nose breath before the event and let the stress of the event inspire mouth breathing. 

There’s a strong case that reserving mouth breathing only for the moments in life and sport where nasal breathing isn’t possible is the lowest hanging fruit of your performance improvement journey. Happy breathing!

8/4/23 WOD

DEUCE Athletics GPP

Complete 4 rounds of the following:
5 Hip Thursters

Complete 3 rounds for quality of:
8 DB Goblet Roller Lateral Lunges (ea)
8 Tempo Snatch Grip RDLs (42×1)
10-12 Evil Wheels

5 Sandbag Squats (150/125)
8 Burpee Over The Sandbag

— Rest 2 Mins —

3 Sandbag Ground-To-Shoulder
7th Street Corner Run



Complete 4 rounds for quality:
2-3 Skin The Cat (:10 in German Hang)

3-Position Pull Up

Complete the following for time:
Row 500m
-Rest ~2:00-
Row 500m
-Rest ~2:00-
Row 250m
-Rest ~1:00-
Row 250m
-Rest ~1:00-