Breathe in…Breathe out… Part I

Breathing While Exercising Part I- Strength Training

By Afriqiyah Woods, PT

Often after an orthopedic injury people start a new strengthening routine for recovery and improved functional and athletic performance. When an exercise is considered, people do not necessarily contemplate the influence of breathing.  Breathing is important for efficient oxygen delivery for healing and repair. While taking a deep breath (inhalation) your diaphragm contracts and moves downward, then relaxes during exhalation, which causes the chest cavity to shrink and intercostal muscles to relax.   Doing the opposite, holding your breath during exercise, can impede the return of blood flow to the heart, possibly cause a hernia, possibly cause a blood vessel strain, and possibly cause a rise in blood pressure.  While lifting weights for rehabilitative purposes, the golden rule is that you should exhale on exertion (the effort phase of exercise).

E = EXHALE during the EFFORT (phase of activity)

A common example is the bicep curl exercise.  Start with your arm relaxed while at your side.  Inhale (or breathe in), and then exhale (or breathe out) as you bend your elbow bringing your hand to your shoulder.  You are exhaling during the ‘effort’ of the activity.  As you return your hand to the starting position inhale again.  Continue the breathing pattern during your repetitions of exercise or repeated activity. 

Benefits of Breathing More Efficiently with Functional Activities of Daily Living & Exercise

  1. Lower blood pressure
  2. Decreased stress
  3. Improved muscle & athletic performance

To avoid potential harm while starting a new strength-training program, it is advised to get clearance from your doctor and have a physical therapist initiate, monitor, and advance your strength program.  Feelings of dizziness, headaches, or fatigue can occur when breathing improperly.

What to Avoid While Strength Training After Returning from Injury….

The Valsalva Maneuver is a technique that involves taking a deep breath immediately prior to lifting and holding that breath while you lift.  Instead of using the Valsalva Maneuver (a technique utilized for heavy weight lifting), consider “bracing” during the inhalation phase of activity.  Bracing requires your core musculature (abdominals, obliques, thoracolumbar spinal musculature, and latissimus dorsi) to create a total midsection tension throughout the activity. Bracing should be maintained through all of the inhalation and exhalation phases of the activity. The stability created while bracing the core is crucial because it reduces the risk of injury. 

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