Why You Should Never Hold Your Breath While Lifting Weights

Discussion in 'Physical Therapy' started by Egyptian Doctor, Jul 8, 2013.

  1. Egyptian Doctor

    Egyptian Doctor Moderator Verified Doctor

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    Whether you just started lifting weights or you've been lifting for years, I'm willing to bet you've heard a lot of conflicting information when it comes to how to breathe properly while lifting. If you've spent any time around power lifters, you've probably heard someone say you should hold your breathe while you're lifting so you can get that extra push. This is just about the worst, most dangerous advice someone can give you.


    Holding Your Breath


    The technique of holding your breath to squeeze out one last rep comes from the Valsalva maneuver -- forcefully exhaling while your airways are cutoff. The fact of the matter is the Valsalva maneuver might actually help you lift just a little bit more or squeeze out one more rep than you normally would be able to, but at a very high risk that is not worth it at all. If you can't breath normally while performing an exercise, you aren't strong enough to be doing that exercise.


    In 1995 a study was conducted to determine the effects different breathing techniques during weight lifting have on the body. When the researchers measured the effects of holding your breath while lifting weights, the results were terrible. Holding your breath while you lift weights raises your blood pressure ”¦ a lot. According to the study, the negative effects of doing this can range from getting a nosebleed or passing out to detaching your retina, causing hemorrhaging in your brain, and even having a stroke.


    Breathing in Sync


    The alternative to holding your breath is breathing in sync with your lifts. For example, exhaling as you push the bar up while doing a bench press, and then inhaling as you lower it back down. This is a perfectly safe technique and far better than holding your breath, but it's still not perfect. I know from personal experience that towards the end of your workout when you're feeling tired and you're huffing and puffing, it's next to impossible to breath in sync with your reps unless you cheat a little.


    Breathe Normally


    The best solution is to breathe normally while you're lifting. There's nothing magical about breathing in sync with your lifts; it just keeps you from holding your breath, which is the worst thing you can do. Think about the last time you helped someone move a heavy piece of furniture: Did you hold your breath or breath in sync with lifting the furniture and setting it down? Probably not. You probably were breathing in and out the whole time you were carrying the furniture, just as you normally would if you were doing anything else. Your breathing was probably more labored, but it was still happening at a steady and naturally occurring rhythm. There's no reason it should be any different when you're lifting weights.

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