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What inhaling should feel like


“The best way to learn belly breathing is to lie down on the floor,” says Chan. Breathe in through your nose. You should feel the muscles in your belly and lower ribs “inflate like a balloon.” (By the way, here are 12 foods that may actually help you breathe better.)

Do it again, and put your hands on your belly. When you inhale, you should see your hands rise a bit.

When most people breathe, you can see it their upper chest, he tells me. But you want to really focus so you can see the movement in your belly.

“Breathe in over a four-second count,” he says.

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What exhaling should feel like


Now that you’re on the floor and did your four-second inhale, it’s time to learn how to exhale.

“Breathe in through your nose, hold your breath, and exhale through your mouth,” says Chan. “Your belly, the sides of your abdominals and your lower ribs, should deflate back to normal.” And do it slowly, about eight seconds.

It is hard to do. “You may not get this on the first couple attempts because, a) you are rewiring a habit, and b) most people’s breathing is very shallow throughout the day.” For me, it felt like engaging (inhale) and contracting (exhale).

“This is a great way to bring awareness towards letting in air slowly, and exhaling even slower.” (Here are secrets of women who manage to work out every day.)

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This is when to breathe in and when to hold your breath


“Inhale at the beginning of the movement, and hold it throughout the downward transition (about seven seconds) and the ‘bottom’ of the movement,” says Chan.

“The ‘bottom’ of an exercise is generally where the body is least stable and requires more effort from the core, which means we need it ‘braced’ in this position, which also means the belly should be filled with air.” (These squat upgrades can burn even more calories.)

Take the squat for example. You breathe in when you’re standing straight. Then you hold it as you move your butt down to the floor, so that your thighs become parallel to the floor.

Are you doing squats right? This will show you the proper form.

This is when you breathe out


You exhale when you return to the start position of the exercise. “This part generally requires the most amount of effort,” says Chan.

We’ll use squats again for the example. You exhale as you push your body up to standing. (Be careful not to do these seven common exercise moves that actually work against you.)

Squats might not be thought of as an abs exercise, but when you do this it is definitely a core move. You’ll feel it the next day.

Test yourself to see if you’re breathing properly


As I went through the exercises in our workouts, Chan would walk around me, checking out my core to make sure it was “inflated” and “deflated” when it should be. He would also push in my sides and belly to make sure these core muscles were engaged.

Ask yourself, as you go through an exercise, does your core make you feel more secure and stronger as you go through the movement? One thing I noticed is how I would often relax my core without even noticing and put more focus on my legs.

To test your technique, Chan says to lie on the floor, face down with your forehead on your hands and do the breathing as previously described.

“If you’re breathing properly you should feel the pressure of your belly going into the ground.” (Ladies: did you know your menstrual cycle could be affecting your workouts? Here’s how.)

If you do any exercise today, do this move.

Don’t forget to count – 4, 7, 8


This breathing count (four-second inhale, seven-second hold and eight-second exhale) is actually derived from meditation breathing.

“The 4-7-8 breathing exercise has been around for a very long time,” says Chan, adding it is an integral part of how to get abs. “You might not get this on the first couple of reps because most people’s breaths are very shallow. The reason is because our nervous system is often on ‘fight or flight’ mode, we are not very good at managing stress.”


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