Breathing during strength training: the right breathing technique for squats and the like

Breathing is a regularly underestimated training parameter in strength training. The correct breathing technique when lifting and lifting does not play a role in ensuring adequate oxygen availability in the organism. Fresh air is great for the oxidation of carbohydrates and fatty acids, of course.

But of much greater importance are the anatomical peculiarities , which develop through the use of a correct breathing technique and thus have a significant and elementary influence on your strength training.

Die optimale Atmung beim Krafttraining

Especially with the essential basic exercises like squats, deadlifts or bench presses as well as their Correct breathing technique is essential for assistance exercises!

Why is a correct breathing technique so important in strength training with the basic exercises?

Think about it for a moment. How do you react with your body when you have to cope with an extremely high stress or a stressful situation? Regardless of whether you have the “ass card” when lugging up old solid wood furniture in the stairwell of an old Hamburg building and have to lift the lower part of the piece of furniture, sit on the roller coaster in the amusement park or have to move heavy objects:

You automatically tense your entire body (this particularly affects the core and back muscles) and completely unconsciously try to hold your breath for the period of greatest tension.

This automated reflex has become completely imprinted in the course of evolution. No wonder: The task of this reflex is to protect sensitive and injury-prone areas of the body from injury. This is mainly your spine, essentially.

A severe back injury can often be treated well and specifically nowadays, but it would probably have meant certain death in the Stone Age! So you should pay your full attention to this valuable reflex again, understand it, learn to control it and use it specifically for strength training! This is the only way you can get maximum training performance and protect yourself from injuries as best as possible.

Do I have to hold my breath during strength training? Correct breathing during strength training and between repetitions

As we have already mentioned, the breathing technique has a primary function in strength training: It stabilizes the spine and the way you do the exercise.

However, we first have to differentiate a little and eliminate a small myth that is justified, but has certainly confused you once.

Many pawn wisdom claim that you should breathe in on the downward movement while exhaling on the upward movement. This is said to be particularly advantageous for intense squats and to regulate blood pressure peaks, which reduces the risk of cerebrovascular incidents, e.g. Strokes. With barbell training, however, this is a much lower risk factor than orthopedic accidents or injuries! (Rippetoe 2015, 73).

Thus, the breathing technique in strength training does not have to be focused on minimizing rarely occurring cerebrovascular incidents, but much more on the optimal support of the spine during the exercise.

The targeted application of press breathing on the one hand increases the internal lung pressure and leads to an increase in muscle tension, especially in the trunk area. This internal tension changes the tension state via the so-called pneumomuscular reflex your skeletal muscles, as a result of which a stabilizing effect on the spine can be observed.

The Valsalva method as the optimal breathing technique for heavy strength training

The so-called Valsalva method is a suitable breathing technique that is mainly used in exercises such as squats, deadlifts or bench presses (bench press) Can achieve stabilization effects.

The stabilizing effect of the Valsalva method on the spine (modified from Rippetoe 2015, Fig. 2-54.)

The Valsalva method describes the targeted inhalation and holding of air against a closed glottis while the abdominal, chest and back muscles are tensed at the same time and also exert pressure on the torso and thus the spine.

When you inhale, the lungs fill with air and the internal pressure increases. If you then hold your breath and the muscular torso and chest area are massively tensed, the pressure difference between inside and outside increases.

Because the abdominal cavity (which is mostly filled with liquid) can only be compressed to a limited extent and the back muscles exert additional pressure on the abdominal cavity when they are tensed, the vertebrae in particular are relieved by the massive static pressure in the trunk area Position fixed and stabilized (Rippetoe 2015, 73).

This effect is particularly advantageous for very stressful compound exercises such as the squat or the deadlift, because the stabilizing effect in the torso and chest area can prevent “sagging” with high training weights.

What should an ideal breathing technique look like when performing the exercise?

Basically, you should take a deep breath before each repetition and hold your breath during the entire stress phase (eccentric and concentric muscle work) during all heavy work sets, especially the basic exercises of the squat, bench press and deadlift!

In the light exercise sets, including the warm-up sets, one should practice regular breathing that is similar to the Valsalva method in its execution.

In general, you can only hold your breath for one complete repetition of the heavy exercises, while vigorous inhalation and exhalation is practiced in the static holding position of the weights.

With light exercise sets, you can hold your breath over several sets because the intensity is significantly lower and you don’t have to call up maximum power.

The exhalation and inhalation should, however, be carried out in a similar way to the Valsalva method, i.e. in the static holding position of the dumbbell or the weights. In this way you can specifically memorize the breathing pattern and, in an “emergency”, lay down a clean and airy-flaky-looking work set!

Breathing during strength training: Our conclusion

Proper breathing is not only important in strength training, it is really essential. The heavier your training, the greater the physical strain that your organism has to deal with every day. Only with a targeted application of correct breathing techniques such as the Valsalva method can you, whether man or woman, minimize the risk of back injuries and maximize your training performance. So: hold your breath! ?

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