Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Proper Breathing Techniques

The Valsalva Maneuver and You:

Do you constantly hear me reminding you to breathe while exercising? Do you ever wonder why I am constantly harping on the point of "breathing out on the hard part" of the exercise? Well here is your answer. Today's thought is on the importance of correct breathing patterns while lifting weights.The "Valsalva Maneuver" is a technique employed by power-lifters and other strength athletes while lifting extremely heavy weights, but is also commonly used (quite accidentally, and inappropriately!) by the average exerciser. This maneuver involves holding one's breath while lifting weights. While a trained and experienced competitive strength athlete may employ this technique to hold air in the lungs, and thus create a "block" in the torso to protect the spine during a maximal heavy squat or deadlift, this technique is quite ill-advised for most of the population.Holding one's breath while lifting a heavy weight (or a light one, for that matter) causes the epiglottis to be forced shut, and in doing so, effectively cuts off the supply of oxygenated blood to the brain, and raises blood pressure. These are obviously not desirable effects, to say the least, and can cause fainting and injury. Aside from the safety issues at play, some studies have suggested that exhaling while lifting can actually increase the maximal amount of weight lifted, thus allowing you to work harder, and make better gains. All of this, just from the simple act of breathing!In conclusion, I urge all of you to bear this in mind, and concentrate on proper breathing technique any time you are lifting weights!
Steve Decker

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