You are concentrating really hard, your feet are shoulder wide apart, chin is up, you look straight ahead, your chest is out and your core muscles are flexed. Your elbows are to your sides and you raise one dumbbell with a twist until the forearm is horizontal and your fingers face the shoulder. Then you lower it back to the original position and repeat the move with the alternative arm… Nice Biceps Curl. But wait, something is missing. You forgot to breathe!
It may seem that breathing is the most natural thing in the world. In the end of the day we all do it, right? It’s a reflex action. Maybe you can get away with that when you don’t do sports. But since I started swimming I can tell you from my own experience that proper breathing technique is actually the key to success. I am still scared of the water for whatever reason and my breathing is not calm and regular – you should see me, I get exhausted and am panting for air just after one row!
In the weight room, the basic rule is: EXHALE WHEN LIFTING (EXERTING THE FORCE), INHALE WHILE LOWERING (GOING BACK TO STARTING POSITION).
When the loads get heavy, the tough guys momentarily hold their breath as a means of handling intensity. Unfortunately, breath-holding (medical term is Valsalva) obviates our ability to produce high intensity muscular contractions, and it can actually be dangerous. Breath-holding during exercise increases blood pressure rapidly and this can lead to fainting, painful exercise induced headaches or even a stroke.
Our goal is to have a continuous contraction force combined with fluent and relaxed ventilation when it comes to breathing. This will keep our effort on the resistance and allows our body to transport nutrient-rich oxygenated blood to the hard-working muscles.
If you are groaning, grunting or even speaking during your set, it means that you are performing Valsalva and not breathing correctly. It is also incorrect to blow air by pursing the lips and puffing out the cheeks, to hiss air through a grimaced mouth or to burst air after holding it. Try to breathe through the mouth primarily. Keep the jaw unclenched, the mouth open and the teeth parted. If you breathe properly, your breathing sounds will be light and you will take in more air with less work.