The Valsalva Maneuver : Proper Breathing For Lifting Heavy

The Valsalva Maneuver : Proper Breathing For Lifting Heavy

Breathing is an involuntary action controlled by the autonomic nervous system. Everyone knows how to breathe. But do they? Everyone breathes. But the truth is not everyone knows the proper breathing technique. And there is different breathing technique for different activities. A runner’s synchronised breathing with strides is different from a woman’s slow breathing during labor. A swimmer has to exhale while his/her head is under water but an actor or a singer doesn’t have to worry about that. Their main concern is to hit the resonators in their head while projecting their voice. But there is one thing common while breathing in all these activities and that is the breathing should be diaphragmatic. In this article, I’m gonna talk about the proper way to breathe while lifting heavy weights. Your body comes under a lot of stress when you lift heavy. If you haven’t been breathing right, incorporating the right breathing technique can prove to be a game-changer for you. You’ll be able to lift more and protect your spine at the same time. The breathing technique is called the Valsalva maneuver.

What is Valsalva maneuver?

 Valsalva maneuver
If you ever have the experience of pushing extra hard while taking a crap, you already know what Valsalva maneuver is. Just try to remember the last time you were constipated or your poop got too big and refused to come out and how you managed to defecate. You tried to produce as much force as you can to empty your bowel, didn’t you? But how did you produce that amount of force? What technique did you use?


  1. Inhale air diaphragmatically filling your stomach.
  2. Now try to exhale while not letting any air escape building the intra-abdominal pressure.
  3. This also increases pressure in the ear as well as the chest.
  4. This technique must be used only for a few seconds.
  5. The purpose of generating this intra-abdominal pressure is to contract the core to provide support for the lower spine and prevent it from injury.
  6. We use this technique during workout whenever there is a heavy load on the spine like squats, deadlift, bench press, military press, push press, push jerk, snatch, and clean and jerk. It’s not required while performing isolation movements.

What’s the purpose of using the belt while lifting?

The weightlifting belt amplifies the already generated intra-abdominal pressure making your torso more rigid when you push your abs into the belt reducing a significant amount of stress from erector spinae and vertebral column.

Drawbacks of using weightlifting belts

If you rely too much on the belt, your abdominal muscles will not be able to develop or adapt to the stress so that it builds enough intra-abdominal pressure on its own. This means anyone who is accustomed to lifting weights by relying only on belt will put their erector spinae and spinal discs to great danger if they perform heavy lifting without the belt.

Risks associated with Valsalva maneuver

Remember I told you to use this technique only for a few seconds. It restricts the blood flow to the heart and elevates the blood pressure. And when the blood pressure is really high a lot of bad things can happen like ruptured blood vessels, stroke, cardiac arrest, aneurysm, among other things. The most common are blackout and fainting. And you don’t want to blackout while lifting heavy weights. Anyone with cardiovascular problems must never try this.

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