It goes without saying that breathing is an important part of exercise. Most novice lifters however, aren’t fully in tune with their breathing. This is not only a hindrance to the workout, it is also potentially dangerous depending on the individual. While breathing is considered one of the most basic pillars of exercise, it is important to revisit this rudimentary technique.
The basic rule of thumb when it comes to breathing is “ breath in with rest and exhale during the work.” In other words: when the exercise reaches its most difficult point you should exhale. While this rule is simple it doesn’t always come naturally to new lifters. Part of the reason for this is that they don’t quite yet recognize the “sticking point” of the exercise. The sticking point also known as the hardest part of the exercise, can be difficult to identify if you’re new to lifting. Let’s take the push-up as an example. As you lower yourself to the floor during a pushup, breath in. The force of gravity will help lower you. Although its true that your muscles are still working to lower you, they aren’t working quite as hard as when you push yourself off of the floor. The final push is the sticking point for this exercise which requires you to exhale.
Apart from regulating your breathing to coincide with your lifting, you should make every effort to avoid holding your breath. Holding your breath can cause an immediate spike in blood pressure. This can halt the progress of your workout entirely. Dizziness, nausea, exercise induced headaches, and possible stroke can all be brought on by consistently holding your breath during exercise. Another point to remember is that holding your breath will also increase the internal pressure in your chest and abdomen during a lift. While increased pressure in these areas may not cause immediate problems, they could lead to complications further down the road.
Another item to remember while breathing is to not exhale with a closed wind pipe. Professionals refer to this as the Valsalva maneuver. This breathing pattern not only presents the potential for an increase in blood pressure, it could also lead to fainting. Although this technique is sometimes used by power lifters to drive more weight, it is not recommended for the novice lifter.
Remember that nothing is ever more important than the basics. It is basic and essential skills like breathing that will help you improve your fitness and your physique. Without mastery of lower level techniques it will be impossible to progress to any higher fitness level. As a final tip: if you’re having trouble syncing your breathing with your lifting, use a mirror. A mirror will help you identify whether you’re inhaling or exhaling. Practice breathing through your mouth for obvious signs of breathing. This will help you time your breathing appropriately to your lift.