When to Breathe When Lifting Weights

I started to title this “When to Breathe”, but I thought I should be more specific, haha!

It’s tempting to hold your breath when you’re lifting weights, especially heavy ones. The danger in that in doing so, some people do what’s called a Valsalva maneuver. This is when you exhale against a closed glottis, or larynx. This can increase your blood pressure and decrease your heart rate. The end result can be lightheadedness, passing out, or in extreme cases, stroke.

So now that we’ve established that breath holding is bad, we’ll talk about when to breathe. The basic rule of thumb is to exhale while you’re exerting. That means that for free weights, as the weight is going up, you’re exhaling. I like to use the phrase “blow the weight up”. Then you’ll inhale as you release, or bring the weight down. So for squats, inhale as you bend your legs and exhale as you straighten.

The tricky part is when you’re using weight machines, exercise bands, or water as resistance. Most weight machines still have the weight stack visible so we just apply the same “blow the weight up” phrase. Exercise bands give resistance when they are stretched. So that’s when you’d exhale. Water exercises depend on what tools you’re using. Most float so in that case, the resistance is when the item is forced to sink. That usually means that the exercise is exercising the opposite muscle group than the same movement on land does! Pretty neat!

Please drop me a note if you have questions!

Until next time, keep moving!