Proper Breathing During Strength Exercise

When exercising, it is important to select the appropriate resistance, use proper posture, and select the correct number of sets and repititions. To obtain the best results from your exercise routine, these are required. One important topic that often is overlooked for best results is properly breathing during your strength exercise routine. Proper breathing during strength exercise can, however, improve overall performance, safety, and results.


Before we look at the positives of proper breathing during your strength exercise routine, let’s take a look at the negatives of improper breathing and how it can affect your health and safety. The greatest mistake is to hold your breath throughout your exercise. Some individuals are naturally inclined to hold their breath while straining to lift a heavy object. Without proper breathing, they can experience lightheadedness, dizziness, a dull headache, or in more extreme cases, they may lose consciousness. Holding your breath while lifting a heavy object triggers a reaction in the body that causes blood pressure to increase rapidly. People that hold their breath while lifting a heavy object become red in the face due to the pooling of blood as they strain themselves.


Let’s address what we can do to avoid the negative health effects while also getting great results from our strength exercise routine. The solution is simple but can take time to master. As a personal trainer, I have some clients that understand and utilize proper breathing techniques quickly and others that struggle with the concept. Here is what you want to do: when exerting yourself (concentric phase), breath out, then breathe in as you come back to the starting point of your exercise (eccentric phase). Exhaling during the concentric phase will help avoid drastic swings of blood pressure, and inhaling during the eccentric phase will assure that your muscles receive enough oxygen and will not fatigue as easily during your workout.


When lifting a particularly heavy object, it may also be appropriate to use a technique called the “Valsalva Maneuver.” This technique slightly delays the exhale on your repetition to help create more force. You may hold your breath for the first half of the concentric phase of the repetition while breathing out once during the second half to complete the repetition. The breathing is slightly delayed, but you still must exhale on the concentric phase and inhale during the eccentric phase.


Use these breathing techniques while doing your next strength exercise routine and notice your results. I’ve seen several clients notice that their exercises seem easier now than they did when they were not breathing correctly. This can lead to increases of exercise resistance or volume and better overall results.



ACE Health Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer, AFPA Nutrition Consultant, CHES


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