Written by Lisa Allen, MD
When performing bodybuilding exercises the standard recommendation is to, ‘breathe out on exertion’, which means breathing out when the weight is being lifted. However, there are some exceptions to this rule which leads some people to say, ‘Just make sure you breathe continuously when performing a set’.
Unfortunately though this recommendation is also incorrect simply because there are certain points during the performance of a movement, ‘sticking points’, where it becomes useful to actually hold your breath momentarily!
This momentary breath-holding, also known as the Valsalva Manoeuvre, helps to increase the intra-thoracic pressure, which stabilizes the thoracic section of the spine during the movement. The Valsalva Manoeuvre is performed by exhaling against a closed glottis (airway).
It is imperative that the Valsalva Manoeuvre is only performed for a brief moment, until the sticking point is passed, because it does cause a significant increase in blood pressure. Some examples where performing a Valsalva Manoeuvre may be useful include: at the bottom point of a squat or leg press, at the start of a deadlift, at the bottom point of a shoulder press.
Exceptions To Standard Breathing Recommendations
Even though the vast majority of bodybuilding exercises should be preformed using the standard breathing technique of breathing out on exertion, there are a few exercises where the opposite breathing technique should apply.
The exercise where you should breathe in when you’re lifting the weight involve the expansion of your rib cage during the lifting phase of the movement. Some examples include: seated rows, lat pulldowns, chins, upright rows, and lateral raises.
It is a good idea to try both breathing techniques to see which one suits you best. However, the majority of people report that it feels better when you follow the breathing recommendations outlined in this article.