Breathe in! Breathe it all in! How to Breathe While Lifting.

Through the mountains and hordes of information out there for weight training, one of the most vital components of the lift is often forgotten: breathing.

That’s right, breathing!

Why do we bring it up here? Because everyone has probably heard that one guy in the gym who is screeching like a howler monkey while squatting (that’s right, I’m calling you out broski).

How do we avoid this? Proper lifting technique, my dear Watson! (Sherlock anyone?).


Have you ever noticed when you’re lifting really heavy loads for a short burst or short set how you hold your breath in? Yeah, that’s supposed to happen!

Briefly exhaling then holding in your breath while taking on a heavy load or left is what is called a Valsalva maneuver (try saying that ten times fast). The Valsalva maneuver is performed nearly unconsciously while performing a lift, and helps the muscle exert a stronger force while lifting.

Why Holding it is Important

There are several benefits to briefly holding your breath in during a lift. To maximize your lifts, your body will natural want you to hold in your breath. To maximize your abdominal pressure, breathing in about 75% of your maximum potential will increase your lifting potential, just remember to exhale after performing the lift.

In fact, a research study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2010 found that when performing the Valsalva maneuver when lifting one-rep max lifts blood pressure only slightly raised.


It is important to note that during lifts for high repetitions or extended periods you should always watch your breathing techniques. For instance, the Valsalva maneuver works great for short repetitions, but performing the same technique for extended periods can actually cause a rise in blood pressure and cause headaches (or worse).

When lifting for extended periods of time or high-rep situations, focus on a more rhythmic breathing pattern. For instance, when performing a bench press, the standard breathing technique is to breathe in while lowering the bar and to exhale while pushing it out.

Why Rhythmic Breathing is Important

Exhaling at proper times during a lift can be very beneficial to any training program. It can help extend your stamina during your workout, increase potential for high-rep lifts, and prevent headaches and dizziness. In fact, it has been proven that breathing more frequently during a workout can help improve training for people who are hypertensive or have poor cardiac tendencies.


To put it simple:

  • If you’re lifting heavy for low-reps, practice holding in your breath.
  • If you’re lifting moderate for high-reps, practicing rhythmic breathing techniques.
  • Practice both, knowledge is power.

I hope this helps you gain some extra understanding of how to perform a beneficial workout. Lean when to hold it or when to fold it! (That was bad analogy…just practice your breathing techniques, okay?)

How to Breathe
See, he’s probably not breathing right.

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

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