Breathe Better, Score Better: How to Breathe for Each APFT Event

Using a breathing pattern while exercising can reduce your risk of injury, improve performance, and burn fat faster. Although each person is different (and you should experiment to figure out which style of breathing is best for you), here are some general rules of thumb for each APFT event:


Practice the “exhale on effort” technique for the push-up event.

  1. Start in a standard push-up position. Take one long, deep breath through your mouth and nose while you lower yourself to the ground.
  2. Exhale while pushing up, since this is when you are using the most energy. Make sure you are breathing deeply to bring fresh oxygen into your lungs.
  3. Repeat breathing in while you lower to the ground and exhaling when you push up until you are halfway to the usual number of push-up you can do in two minutes.
  4. Once you are halfway, to prevent losing steam too soon, try modifying the “exhale on effort” technique with quick reps. Take two quick, deep breaths and then do five quick reps. Repeat this process until the rest of your two minutes is up.


  1. To make sure you are getting enough oxygen to power your sit-ups, inhale when you lay back to the ground and exhale when you sit up, since this is the point of the exercise where you use the most energy.
  2. To make sure you are taking deep enough breaths, imagine you are filling your chest with air like a balloon when you inhale. You should be able to see your chest moving up and down several inches with each breath.
  3. Repeat breathing pattern until you are halfway to the number of sit-ups you are usually able to do in two minutes.
  4. Like the push-up event, you can practice the modified “exhale on effort” technique once you are halfway. Take two quick breaths and then crank out five quick back-to-back reps. Repeat quick reps until the rest of your two minutes is up.


For the timed run, rhythmic breathing is key. Although there is no golden rule (it varies by individual, the 3:2 pattern is a popular breathing pattern among runners. The idea is pretty simple: inhale for three steps and exhale for two steps. By following this pattern, you alternate which foot you land on for each inhale and exhale, which prevents injury. Although it sounds simple, it can be tough to perfect. Check out this post to learn more about and practice rhythmic breathing.

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