Unless you’re a swimmer or a free diver, you probably don’t think twice about breathing. And when you lift, you probably fall under one of two categories: Guys who suck air in and puff it back out with wild abandon, or guys who swallow as much air as humanly possible before descending into a squat or blasting out a bench press.
Gentlemen: There’s a better way.
“The fitness industry has examined breathing patterns at rest or when a person is doing a physical activity, like walking or jogging, and they’ve tried to translate those mechanics into strength training,” says Joel Seedman, Ph.D., exercise physiologist, athletic performance specialist, and owner of Advanced Human Performance in Atlanta, GA. “Problem is, even at rest, aerobic work relies on oxygen, while lifting is an anaerobic activity.”
So that’s the first step: You have to breathe differently during cardio than you would during a lifting workout. “Strength training is controlled breath-holding to a certain extent,” Seedman says.
Of course, breathing alone won’t save your squat—you also need to make sure you have good technical lifting skills. “Biomechanics, posture, and form need to be keyed in before you focus on breathing,” Seedman says. If you start with breathing techniques, it can distract you from learning proper technique. Once you nail the fundamentals, the breathing will come almost naturally.
Here are a few key pointers on proper breathing when lifting heavy.