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Health & Fitness: Proper Breathing While Strength Training

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By Kim Duke NETA & AFAA Certified Trainer

Breathing effectively and efficiently during any physical activity will enable you to achieve maximal performance. It is just as important as maintaining correct form, using the correct weight and lifting tempo.

It is a good idea to get the basics right at the beginning.  Ensure you use a weight, which is well within your comfort zone, therefore enabling you to concentrate on the correct form and breathing techniques.  Don’t worry the weight will soon increase, but bad execution of form becomes habit and is harder to rectify. You will also achieve greater results getting it right from the beginning and will have a much-reduced chance of injury or suffering from a delayed onset of muscular soreness.

Most though will agree that it is more natural, as a general rule, to inhale on the eccentric (relax phase), and exhale forcibly but steadily on the concentric (exertion phase) of the movement.  To give a correct example using the barbell bench press, inhale before lowering the bar to the chest, and exhale when you are pushing the weight away from you.

Whether you’re lifting barbells in the gym or moving house furniture, it’s probably your natural inclination to hold your breath. Improper breathing technique can quicken fatigue, cause dizziness and increase your blood pressure, which can lead to fainting. By breathing correctly when lifting, you will likely have a higher degree of control and alertness during your exercise. Breathing correctly can help you avoid weight room-related injuries. Never start this or any new exercise regimen without consulting your doctor first.

Start by doing some deep breathing exercises before you start your workout session. Close your eyes and take in a deep breath through your nose, hold it for one or two seconds and let it go through your mouth. Repeat this for a few minutes. Deep breathing before you exercise sets the stage for controlled breathing during your workout. It relaxes you and makes you more conscious of your breathing.

Breathe out as you lift the weight. Begin breathing out right as you pick up the weight. For example, on a bench press you fully exhale through your nose or mouth as you push the barbell away from your chest.

Finally — do not hold your breath!

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