Breathing Techniques for Soccer Players

As a soccer player, no matter what level you are at, youth , amateur, or professional, training your breath is one of the most important parts of improving performance on and off the field, increasing stamina, decreasing the risk of injury, and improving overall health. The breath is directly linked to your athleticism and biomechanics, as well as your central nervous system, and vice versa which means improving one will help improve the other.

Whether they consciously practice breathing techniques or not, all professional soccer players know how to control their breath and either use it to energize them or calm them down, which is a reason why they are able to perform at a high level.

In this blog I will explain how to practice proper breathing technique, the big difference between mouth breathing and nasal breathing, as well as provide breathing exercises to begin improving your breath today.

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The Breath

Breathing properly is something that sounds so simple to do, but it is not as easy as it sounds. Just like with any physical, mental, or technical skill, improving your breathing takes consistent conscious training.

To begin, it is important to understand what the primary breathing muscles are; the intercostal muscles between the ribs, the abdominal muscles, neck muscles including the scalene and sternocleidomastoid muscle, as well as the most important breathing muscle, the main diaphragm.

The diagphram is what connects your lower body and upper body together and you can think of the two as mirrors with the diaphragm being what connects it all. For example, your fingers are the same, or have similar functions and structures, as your toes.

The wrist as the ankle, the elbow as the knee, the shoulder as the hip, and technically the chest is “the butt” of the upper body, just like the glutes to the lower body. The core, specifically the diaphragm, is what connects this all together, which is why the breath is so important and directly linked to biomechanics and endurance.

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How to Breathe Correctly

To breathe correctly you have to breathe with your nose into your diaphragm, which is referred to as diaphragmatic breathing. You know you are doing this correctly when you feel a full 360 degree expansion throughout your entire body including expansion in the main cavities of the body, the pelvic cavity, abdominal cavity, thoracic cavity, and cranial cavity.

The opposite of belly breathing is chest breathing, which means you are not really engaging the right breathing muscles and you may be breathing in too shallow, as opposed to breathing in deeply. When performing diaphragmatic breathing you also want to make sure that you are nose breathing.

This leads to the next point of how to breathe properly. You want to make sure you are nasal breathing throughout the day instead of mouth breathing. This means you are breathing through your nose, or doing your best to breath through your nose, during exercise, work, relaxation, and sleep.

Getting better at nose breathing will help you use more oxygen, will increase blood flow, increase Nitric Oxide production, help you overcome common breathing problems, can help improve sleep quality and even help with sleep disorders.

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Ideally you want to train your body to be always breathing through the nose because the nose’s main function is breathing while the mouth’s main function is eating, not breathing. There is a huge difference between the facial structure development, and overall body development, of people who are nasal breathers and those who are mouth breathers.

It is important to note that your tongue posture and the development of your jaw size and bite strength are also directly related to how you breathe, which means these factors also affect your biomechanics. Mouth breathing may occur from time to time, such as during a soccer game where you are constantly communicating with teammates while running around, and that is okay.

However, we want to be nose breathing as much as possible, on and off the field, and avoid or limit mouth breathing, because this will help put your body in a more parasympathetic, or relaxed state.

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The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the rest and digest response that puts your body in a more calm state, while the sympathetic nervous system, is responsible for the fight or flight response that makes you more alert and stressed. This means that by becoming better at nose breathing you will be able to remain calm during stressful situations.

Also don’t think this means you are either completely parasympathetic or completely sympathetic, as with most things in life there is a spectrum and you can lean more to one side than the other, but both are usually always working.

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Breathing Exercises

If you are new to breath work or mindfulness, or even if you have some experience in this field, here are some of the best breathing exercises worth trying.

Deep Breathing

One good way to practice diaphragmatic breathing is by taking deep breaths. Begin by placing one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Then make a conscious effort to feel your belly expanding first as you breathe in through your nose. Take deep breaths in through the nose and out through your nose. Make sure to have controlled breathing as well.

Set a timer for 3-5 minutes and repeat 2-3 times.

Breath Holding Exercises

Holding your breath is an effective way to improve how you breathe as well as improve the effectiveness of oxygen transfer in the body. By holding your breath you increase your tolerance to Carbon Dioxide, which is what determines how often and how fast someone breathes.

Practice holding your breath after an exhale so take a normal inhalation, a normal exhalation, and cover your nose for 5 to 10 seconds. This is an exercise by Oxygen Advantage called many small breath holds.

The better your body gets at tolerating carbon dioxide levels, as well as air hunger, the more your body will be capable of using in the transfer of oxygen from red blood cells to vital body parts. Regular breath holding will increase your ability to actually use oxygen making you more efficient at breathing.

Box Breathing

Box breathing, also known as square breathing, is a simple yet effective technique that involves four equal phases—inhaling, holding the breath, exhaling, and holding the breath again. This method helps regulate breathing patterns, promote relaxation, and enhance focus.

  • Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit or lie down.
  • Inhale deeply through your nose for a count of four seconds, allowing your abdomen to expand.
  • Hold your breath for another four seconds, maintaining a sense of calmness.
  • Exhale slowly and completely through your mouth or nose for four seconds.
  • Hold your breath again for four seconds before beginning the next cycle.

Wim Hof Breathing

Named after “The Iceman,” Wim Hof, this breathing technique combines specific breathing patterns with breath-holding. It aims to optimize oxygen intake and trigger a variety of health benefits, including increased energy and reduced stress.

  • Find a comfortable seated or lying position.
  • Take 30-40 deep, rhythmic breaths, inhaling fully and exhaling without force.
  • After the final exhale, hold your breath on an empty lung for as long as comfortable.
  • Inhale deeply and hold your breath for 10-15 seconds, then exhale.
  • Repeat the cycle for 3 rounds.
  • You can use this video to follow along with Wim Hof himself

Physical Activity

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best soccer training program?

The best online soccer training program and soccer app is Football Entangled. There is no other program like Football Entangled on the market and this community, much more than just an app, will help you get closer to making your dreams a reality.

How can I improve my breathing for soccer?

To improve your breathing for soccer, make sure you use the tips on this guide, have high cardiovascular fitness, improve your nose breathing, improve the strength of your jaw, improve your tongue posture, and practice many of the breathing exercises on this list.

What things do you need to train to become a better soccer player?

These are the main things to improve if you want to become a better soccer player, along with tips for each one.

Conclusion

Improving proper breathing technique is key to becoming more athletic, having more stamina, improving sleep quality, decreasing the risk of injury, and it will improve your overall health. Incorporate breathing exercises and tips, such as the ones on this blog, to begin improving your breath today and I guarantee you will see all the difference in the world once you tap into the power of your breath.

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