Frequently asked questions

How do I breathe when lifting?

It is important to understand what your breathing does and how it affects you weight training.

When we breathe we inhale oxygen into the lungs, from here the oxygen is transported into our cells. Once in our cells, the oxygen is used to do a variety of complex functions but on a basic level, it is used to create energy. Without oxygen we will pass out and if no oxygen enters the body while we are passed out we will eventually suffer brain damage and then death.

It is important when lifting weights to NEVER hold your breath. When you hold your breath you are depriving your body of oxygen, resulting in you becoming light headed or passing out. This may lead to you falling over or dropping a weight on top of yourself - something you don’t want to happen. A general rule of thumb is to breathe in on the eccentric phase and out on the concentric phase. Put simply, breathe in on the easy part and breathe out on the hard aspect of the lift.

For example: If you are performing a bench press breathe in when lowering the barbell to your chest and breathe out when pressing the bar back towards the starting position.

It may take a few training sessions to become familiar with timing your breathing with lifting. Try inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.

There is another aspect of breathing that I need to mention. It is called the “Valsalva manoeuvre.” The Valsalva manoeuvre is when you try to exhale through your mouth but keep your mouth shut. This increases the amount of pressure inside your chest cavity and this could lead to loss of consciousness. This is exceptionally troublesome for trainers suffering from high or low blood pressure.

The Valsalva manoeuvre mostly occurs when a trainer is struggling with a weight and forgets to breathe. As a spotter you must always encourage breathing and be aware of holding your breathe when training alone.

An example of a correct breathing pattern on a bench press is as follows:

• Un-rack the bar

• Lower the bar (in a controlled fashion) and breath in through your nose

• When the bar lightly touches your chest begin to breathe out through your mouth until the bar reaches the starting position.

Note: There are times at the very beginning of the upwards phase of the bench press where you hold your breath for no more than half a second. A breath held for any longer than half a second is unacceptable.


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