Can you tell me whether one should breathe in or out when lifting weights? Premier International [in the UK] taught me the principle of breathing out when moving weight away from the body on exertion and in when pulling weight toward the body on exertion. The Internet offers differing advice.
The most important aspect of breathing for exercise is that you do breathe! When clients hold their breath, they increase blood pressure within the body, which can be fatal.
It is standard with weight lifting to be taught to breathe out during exertion. The rationale for this is that this will activate the core and help produce more power. This approach is commonly applied to all exercises.
The exception to this rule (taught by Premier) would be when the exertion requires the client to move a weight towards them. The theory behind this is that the muscles required to pull a weight towards the body and the muscles required during inhalation are the same, so breathing out while trying to pull a weight towards you would not fit the body’s natural movement patterns.
The real answer depends on the aim of the exercise. If you are training a client to improve his function, then part of the description of a functional movement is that it is unconscious and result driven. In this instance, you have to allow him to breathe naturally.
In summary, use the following as a guide for correct breathing when lifting weights:
- Lower body exertion when heavy weightlifting – breathe out on exertion or use a bracing technique
- Upper body push when heavy weightlifting – breathe out on exertion
- Upper body pull when heavy weightlifting – breathe in on exertion
- Functional training and light weightlifting – breathe naturally