There are rules for different aspects of strength training, each designed to ensure correct lifting of a weight and optimal results. How you breathe plays a significant role in the effectiveness and safety of lifting weights. If you don’t breathe properly, you may experience increased blood pressure, dizziness and even reduced physical performance. Therefore, it’s imperative that you know when and how to breath as you engage in resistance training.
The exertion of an exercise is when you actually lift or push the weight. For example, the exertion in the bench press exercise is when you press the weight up toward the ceiling. Since this is typically the hardest part of an exercise, it’s not uncommon for you to want to hold your breath. Think about a moment when you exerted a lot of energy -- likely, you didn’t breathe. While this may be a natural response to exerting energy, your focus should be on continually breathing during the exercise. During the lifting, or exertion, portion of a movement, slowly exhale through your mouth as you lift. Sync your breathing with the lifting of the weight so at the top of the motion you’re out of breath.
The rate at which you breathe is important as it determines how fast you execute each repetition. Breathing hard and fast can also lead to hyperventilation. You can prevent rapid breathing by focusing on your breath. To help maintain proper breathing, exhale for two seconds as you lift the weight and as you lower the weight back down, inhale for three to four seconds. This pace ensures your breathing rate remains normal while maintain a good pace during each repetition.
Dangers of Improper Breathing
Perhaps the biggest danger of holding your breath while weight training is the increase of blood pressure, which may lead to stroke even in young, and otherwise healthy, adults. A study published in the “Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation” found participants who lifted heavy weights while holding their breath had a mean blood pressure rating of 311/284. However, researchers noted that when participants exhaled slowly during the lifting portion of the exercise, their blood pressure rose just to 198/175. While strength training with heavy weights increases blood pressure, doing so while properly breathing is not as dangerous as lifting without breathing.
Benefits of Proper Breathing
Along with keeping blood pressure from spiking, proper breathing while lifting keeps each repetition at the perfect pace. Lifting too fast, especially with free weights, is very dangerous. Free weights are capable of building momentum throughout the movement, and as a lifter, momentum is your enemy. By breathing in a controlled manner and lifting weights in the same way, you’ll achieve safe and controlled repetitions.
Jonathan McLelland has been a professional writer since 2005. He has worked as a story writer and editor for the international sitcom, “Completing Kaden,” as well as a proposal writer for various production companies. McLelland studied communication and theater at St. Louis Community College.