What is the proper way to breathe during strength training?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

The most important thing to remember during strength training is to breathe regularly to establish a rhythm. The biggest problem many have is not that they breathe incorrectly, but rather that they hold their breath. Rhythmic, paced breathing helps to prevent you from getting dizzy. Correct breathing technique helps to avoid problems with blood pressure rising too high during exercise.

Wendy Batts
The proper way to breath during a strength training program is to remember to do it!  The most important thing to remember is to breathe in and out normally/comfortably and not force a count on how long you should be breathing in and out.  Many people tend to hold their breath which can cause you to become dizzy or lightheaded and will decrease the overall performance of your program.  When you are starting out, your exercise repetitions should be slow and controlled.  For this reason, putting a specific count to how to breathe in and out does not make sense.  You should focus on controlling your breathing and exhale when you are exerting the most amount of force for the best results.

To properly breathe during strength training inhale on the eccentric phase and exhale during the concentric phase. Exhale while you’re doing the hardest work, and inhale as you’re coming back to your starting position. Properly breathing will make it easier to perform the exercise. If you are new to resistance training, exaggerate your breathing slightly until you get a good feel for inhaling and exhaling at the proper times.

People are often unsure how to breathe during a particular exercise or lift.  A general rule is to exhale under control while you are lifting the weight and  inhale with control while lowering the weight or resistance. This sometimes puzzles people because the starting position of the exercise dictates the way you should breathe. Don’t worry if you do the opposite, it is definitely better to breathe than to hold your breath during the whole lift.

Many traditional exercises will actually start with an exhale including: deadlifts, biceps curls, rows, pull-ups and shoulder presses. This is because you are actually lifting the weight or resistance; simply inhale while returning to the start position and repeat.

Some exceptions are the bench press, squat or lunge and their variations. During these lifts you are actually lowering the resistance first and the lift portion is second. So you start the exercise by inhaling and then exhale while returning to the start position.

During isometric exercises like the plank, you hold a position for time, so just breathe in and out under control during the exercise

You will often see elite lifters holding their breath during lifts or intense portions of a lift. Just remember, these athletes are trained and this technique isn’t suitable for beginners. Holding your breath can skyrocket your blood pressure, make you dizzy and affect your performance and safety.

 Key Points:

  • Most important- don’t hold your breath
  • Breathing in reverse order is better than not breathing
  • Breathe out while actually lifting the resistance
  • Breathe in while lowering the resistance
  • Correct breathing does take some practice, but you will pick it up in no time


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.