Post-Training Protocol: Breathing

Breathing should be integrated post-training to produce the advantages of a parasympathetic response.

Following a training session, the heart rate and variability of the heartbeats can be significantly impacted by time alterations and power disruptions (Barak et al., 2010; Lewis, Kingsley, Short, & Simpson, 2007; Nicolas et al., 2019). As a triggered training response such as increased heart rate, this relates to the allostatic load via sympathetic activation (Wehrwein, Orer, & Barman, 2016). The primary goal of breathing is to regulate the respiratory sinus arrhythmia by terms of regulating the “breathing frequency” during inhalation and exhalation (Rassler, Schwerdtfeger, Aigner, & Pfurtscheller, 2018).

It's now time to breathe!

Ferreira, Tanaka, Santos-Galduróz, and Galduróz (2015) explain that improving the respiratory system can help promote better blood oxygenation and cerebral function. In simple terms, improving the functions of the respiratory system by implementing appropriate breathing frequencies may improve cognitive functions via abstraction and mental flexibility (Ferreira et al., 2015). During training, blood flow is directed towards working muscles to provide the needed ingredients to sustain adequate productivity (Green, Hopman, Padilla, Laughlin, & Thijssen, 2017). Although fatigue is inevitable and eventually will kick in upon intensity considerations of activated tissue, blood flow conversions are essential. At the end of the training, blood flow needs to be distributed appropriately to enhance regeneration from the increased inflammatory responses (Sorensen et al., 2019). Therefore, supervising breathing patterns after a training session will boost parasympathetic stimulation and provide sufficient changes to physiological and psychological domains.

In terms of structural stability of the spine, such as postural control during extremity movements, the diaphragm has been associated with optimizing stabilization during movement and balance among diaphragm thickness (Fogarty, Mantilla, & Sieck, 2018; Hodges, Heijnen, & Gandevia, 2001; Kocjan et al., 2018). Breathing seems like a simple task but yet, it is a complex motor function that depends on the exquisite coordinated neural activation of a variety of skeletal muscles (Fogarty et al., 2018). The provided information provides evidence that breathing not only can help regulate autonomic functions to drive a parasympathetic state but cognitive function, blood flow direction, and postural control to enhance respiratory function and regenerative characteristics.


It is recommended to be in a supine position (laying on your back) to regulate positional change and energy expenditure in those positions (Amaro-Gahete et al., 2019; Bolea, Pueyo, Orini, & Bailón, 2016). Although a supine position is optimal for autonomic regulation, other positions can be utilized in post-training breathing such as sitting or childs pose. Zaccaro et al. (2018) published a systematic review that focused on slow breathing (any breathing technique under 10 breaths per minute) and the review provides substantial evidence on slow-regulated breathing benefits and the contributions on the cardio-respiratory system. After reviewing the work by Zaccaro et al. (2018), a breathing frequency (respiration rate) of 6 to 10 breaths per minute has shown to beneficial in increasing parasympathetic activity (Rassler et al., 2018; Zaccaro et al., 2018).


Recommendation: 6 to 10 breaths per minute

As mentioned above, after reviewing the work by Lehrer and Gevirtz (2014), Rassler et al. (2018), and Zaccaro et al. (2018), the literature expresses that 6 to 10 breaths per minute can provide substantial changes to the cardio-respiratory system to enhance autonomic recovery, but we still draw the question of how long should breathing should take place. In our opinion, Linked Fit encourages a 2.5 to 5-minute duration while listening to classical or meditation music, and clearing any distraction of background noise is critical (Ribeiro et al., 2018). Although we encourage music, some individuals may view it as a distraction, therefore optimize the experience by removing it. The music is meant to be a guide during the breathing process and the goal is to center yourself and return to homeostasis.


As mentioned above, it is recommended to be in a controlled position during your breathing. When starting the breathing technique, breathing frequency, respiration mechanics, tidal volume, and inhalation-exhalation ratios are important factors to consider (Matthew E. B. Russell, Scott, Boggero, & Carlson, 2016). A slow-paced diaphragmatic breathing technique is recommended to control the regulations of the respiratory sinus arrhythmia. The use of a slow-paced breathing technique can be achieved through a variety of methods by inhalation-exhalation-rest ratios (Matthew E. B. Russell et al., 2016). Kniffin et al. (2014), Matthew Edward Brannon Russell, Hoffman, Stromberg, and Carlson (2014), Stromberg, Russell, and Carlson (2015) examined a 4-2-4 breathing ratio and the results suggest it holds a higher effect on HRV high frequency. The high frequency in an HRV recording has been associated with increased parasympathetic activity. Therefore a 4-2-4 may be an efficient and effective breathing ratio to increase relaxation following a training session.


In-Out Ratio:


  • 5 seconds inhalation + 5 seconds exhalation

  • 1 minute = 12 cycles (inhale + exhale)


  • 3 seconds inhalation + 3 seconds exhalation

  • 1 minute = 20 cycles (inhale + exhale)

In-Out-Pause Ratio:


  • 4 seconds inhalation + 2 seconds exhalation + 4 seconds rest

  • 1 minute = 18 cycles (inhale + exhale + rest)


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  2. Barak, O. F., Jakovljevic, D. G., Popadic Gacesa, J. Z., Ovcin, Z. B., Brodie, D. A., & Grujic, N. G. (2010). Heart rate variability before and after cycle exercise in relation to different body positions. Journal of sports science & medicine, 9(2), 176-182. Retrieved from,shib&db=s3h&AN=52291882&site=ehost-live&custid=ns015031

  3. Bolea, J., Pueyo, E., Orini, M., & Bailón, R. (2016). Influence of Heart Rate in Non-linear HRV Indices as a Sampling Rate Effect Evaluated on Supine and Standing. 7. doi:10.3389/fphys.2016.00501

  4. Ferreira, L., Tanaka, K., Santos-Galduróz, R. F., & Galduróz, J. C. F. (2015). Respiratory training as strategy to prevent cognitive decline in aging: a randomized controlled trial. Clinical interventions in aging, 10, 593-603. doi:10.2147/CIA.S79560

  5. Fogarty, M. J., Mantilla, C. B., & Sieck, G. C. (2018). Breathing: Motor Control of Diaphragm Muscle. Physiology, 33(2), 113-126. doi:10.1152/physiol.00002.2018

  6. Green, D. J., Hopman, M. T. E., Padilla, J., Laughlin, M. H., & Thijssen, D. H. J. (2017). Vascular Adaptation to Exercise in Humans: Role of Hemodynamic Stimuli. Physiological Reviews, 97(2), 495-528. doi:10.1152/physrev.00014.2016

  7. Hodges, P. W., Heijnen, I., & Gandevia, S. C. (2001). Postural activity of the diaphragm is reduced in humans when respiratory demand increases. 537(3), 999-1008. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7793.2001.00999.x

  8. Kniffin, T. C., Carlson, C. R., Ellzey, A., Eisenlohr-Moul, T., Beck, K. B., McDonald, R., & Jouriles, E. N. (2014). Using Virtual Reality to Explore Self-Regulation in High-Risk Settings. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 15(4), 310-321. doi:10.1177/1524838014521501

  9. Kocjan, J., Gzik-Zroska, B., Nowakowska, K., Burkacki, M., Suchoń, S., Michnik, R., . . . Adamek, M. (2018). Impact of diaphragm function parameters on balance maintenance. PloS one, 13(12), e0208697-e0208697. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0208697

  10. Lehrer, P. M., & Gevirtz, R. (2014). Heart rate variability biofeedback: how and why does it work? Frontiers in psychology, 5, 756-756. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00756

  11. Lewis, M. J., Kingsley, M., Short, A. L., & Simpson, K. (2007). Rate of reduction of heart rate variability during exercise as an index of physical work capacity. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 17(6), 696-702. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0838.2006.00616.x

  12. Nicolas, M., Vacher, P., Martinent, G., & Mourot, L. (2019). Monitoring stress and recovery states: Structural and external stages of the short version of the RESTQ sport in elite swimmers before championships. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 8(1), 77-88. doi:10.1016/j.jshs.2016.03.007

  13. Plans, D., Morelli, D., Sütterlin, S., Ollis, L., Derbyshire, G., & Cropley, M. (2019). Use of a Biofeedback Breathing App to Augment Poststress Physiological Recovery: Randomized Pilot Study. JMIR Formativ Res, 3(1), e12227. doi:10.2196/12227

  14. Rassler, B., Schwerdtfeger, A., Aigner, C. S., & Pfurtscheller, G. (2018). "Switch-Off" of Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia Can Occur in a Minority of Subjects During Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). Frontiers in physiology, 9, 1688-1688. doi:10.3389/fphys.2018.01688

  15. Ribeiro, M. K. A., Alcântara-Silva, T. R. M., Oliveira, J. C. M., Paula, T. C., Dutra, J. B. R., Pedrino, G. R., . . . Rebelo, A. C. S. (2018). Music therapy intervention in cardiac autonomic modulation, anxiety, and depression in mothers of preterms: randomized controlled trial. BMC psychology, 6(1), 57-57. doi:10.1186/s40359-018-0271-y

  16. Russell, M. E. B., Hoffman, B., Stromberg, S., & Carlson, C. R. (2014). Use of Controlled Diaphragmatic Breathing for the Management of Motion Sickness in a Virtual Reality Environment. Applied Psychophysiology And Biofeedback, 39(3), 269-277. doi:10.1007/s10484-014-9265-6

  17. Russell, M. E. B., Scott, A. B., Boggero, I. A., & Carlson, C. R. (2016). Inclusion of a rest period in diaphragmatic breathing increases high frequency heart rate variability: Implications for behavioral therapy. doi:10.1111/psyp.12791

  18. Sorensen, J. R., Kaluhiokalani, J. P., Hafen, P. S., Deyhle, M. R., Parcell, A. C., & Hyldahl, R. D. (2019). An altered response in macrophage phenotype following damage in aged human skeletal muscle: implications for skeletal muscle repair. The FASEB Journal, fj.201900519R. doi:10.1096/fj.201900519R

  19. Stromberg, S. E., Russell, M. E., & Carlson, C. R. (2015). Diaphragmatic breathing and its effectiveness for the management of motion sickness. Aerosp Med Hum Perform, 86(5), 452-457. doi:10.3357/amhp.4152.2015

  20. Wehrwein, E., Orer, H. S., & Barman, S. (2016). Overview of the Anatomy, Physiology, and Pharmacology of the Autonomic Nervous System. In (Vol. 6, pp. 1239-1278).

  21. Zaccaro, A., Piarulli, A., Laurino, M., Garbella, E., Menicucci, D., Neri, B., & Gemignani, A. (2018). How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 12, 353-353. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2018.00353


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