When Lifting Weights, When Do You Exhale and Inhale?

Fit smiling couple exercising with blue dumbbells
A man and woman are lifting weights. (Image: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images)

When you're focused on proper form and struggling to lift weights, it can be easy to forget about your breathing. But your muscles need oxygen from your blood to work effectively, and improper breathing can make weightlifting much more challenging, even interfering with your heart's access to blood. Taking time to practice proper breathing may be the first step toward improving the quality of your workouts.

Step 1

Prepare to lift the weight by adopting the proper form for the exercise you're performing. As you move into your position, take a slow, deliberate breath. Your stomach should puff out if you're breathing properly. Avoid holding your breath, but ensure you're not hyperventilating or taking half-breaths. It can help to inhale to the count of 10.

Step 2

Lift the weight. As you exert yourself, slowly exhale. Novice weightlifters sometimes exhale all at once, but it's much more efficient to exhale slowly to the count of 10. As you exhale, your stomach should sink in because you're releasing air. Strive to make your breathing coincide with your movements so that you're done with the exertion phase of lifting as you exhale.

Step 3

Inhale again as you lower the weight back to the ground. If you're holding the weight for an extended period of time rather than doing a quick lift, you may have to take multiple breaths during the exertion period. Ensure that you're always inhaling during the preliminary lift, and aim to make your breathing deliberate and slow as you hold the weight.

Tip

If you're new to weightlifting or have any respiratory or breathing problems, talk to your doctor before beginning a new routine.

Warning

Failing to take in enough air while you're lifting weights can cause pressure in your chest. Pressure can reduce your heart's access to blood, causing fainting or a more serious issue, such as a heart attack.

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