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Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Improper breathing during workouts can even kill you !

Breathing forms the base of any workout but when I walk into gyms I find it is the most abused aspect. There are many forms of bad breathing. Holding your breath while lifting the weights is most common of them. Some do it intentionally others unknowingly.  

The rule is to exhale while lifting & inhale when weights are going down, whether they are in your hands or in a cable pulley. In simpler words ‘Exhale whenever you are applying strength’.
If you are a fitness enthusiast you must have heard/read/seen this principle a thousand times. But did you ever asked why? How does it help? Why it is the right way?

Ask your Personal trainers, floor trainers & bulked up friends who shoot their advices every now & then. I can bet more than 95% will be clueless. Fitness arenas have become a thriving place for quacks.  The above breathing technique is right for many reasons but most importantly because it is the only safe way. On the contrary holding your breath & exerting (pushing or pulling the weights) is called “Valsalva manoeuvre” Which can even kill you!

What is Valsalva manoeuvre?
Expiratory effort against a closed glottis, which increases pressure within the thoracic cavity (chest) and thereby impedes venous return of blood to the heart.

The manoeuvre stops the blood from entering the heart & increases thoracic pressure. With release of breath blood trapped in veins rushes, increasing the blood pressure & heart rate.

The patient may feel dizzy or faint during the procedure. There is a risk that the Valsalva manoeuvre can cause blood clots to detach, bleeding, and abnormal rhythms originating in the ventricle. It can also cause cardiac arrest. Consequently, the procedure is usually performed in a setting where emergency equipment is accessible.-Above taken from a medical dictionary.

Bodybuilding.com says, of the 25 documented weight room-related deaths in the United States between 2008 and 2012, the vast majority occurred due to asphyxiation caused by neck or chest compression during the bench press.

One of my trainees told me ‘I am confused because my much experienced former trainer advised to apply this technique. It helps to lift more weight’. My reply was ‘what is more important, to remain alive or lifting more weights?’

Valsalva is a technique used in certain medical procedures but how come it made its way into bodybuilding is interesting. Power lifters used it first because it increases intrathoracic (chest cavity) pressure, which disperses pressure across the trunk thus decreasing the load on the spine (perhaps the reason behind our tendency of performing this manoeuvre unknowingly) & keeping it safe (research supporting this is however limited). This propelled the popular myth that it helps you lift heavier. Also Power lifting is way different from strength training it has its own demands. Power lifters go for heaviest weights. They don’t have X sets of Y repetitions. They do it for seconds. Time is a great factor in Valsalva method.

So if you want to get healthy in a healthy way, exhale when you push/pull & inhale on the way down. 

As I said above Fitness industry is full of quacks because very few trainers are certified & if they are, than not updated. So keep that “WHY” ready every time you hear an advice & do cross check if you get an answer. This is your mantra to keep your workouts safe.


If you have any other questions regarding breathing techniques post it in the comments or shoot it to me on Suraj10c@gmail.com

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