I am puzzled as to why, during strength training, I need to exhale when I am using most force.

If you’re using strength training machines:

Start exhaling at the beginning of the movement – as you pull or push the weights away from the weight stack. Inhale as you lower the weights back toward the weight stack. If you’re using free weights:

  • Exhale as you work against gravity – as you lift, push, or pull the weights away from the floor.
  • Inhale as you work with gravity, and lower the weights back to their starting position.

What is the benefit of breathing in this manner? What is the scientific principle behind this?


1 Answer 1


I would not regard that author as focusing on strength. Instead, her experience speaks to "weight loss and wellness" camps, where the need for a rigid trunk during maximal and near maximal exertion is not necessary.

What probably is worth highlighting in a weight loss camp however is proper breathing, since it's primarily an aerobic (with oxygen) affair.

To be fair, the debate is still on with the Valsalva Maneuver. A 2006 study studied it a bit and summarized:

Although breath control was shown to influence intra-abdominal pressure, it does not appear to influence isometric trunk extension force in a knees bent position. Further, the intra-abdominal pressure produced in such efforts appears to be unrelated to the amount of force produced.

What I would add to that though is that the reasoning espoused by most lifters (and most vocally Mark Rippetoe) isn't necessarily about force production but rather spinal protection. Here's a decent video from Ripppetoe explaining his views on it.

Basically, by filling the lungs and tightening the diapgram and abdominal muscles, you're bracing the lumbar and thoracic spine, providing less opportunity for it to shift and get damaged.

This is not a concern for the strength loads involved in a "weight loss and wellness" camp, but it certainly is for strength athletes.

  • I agree on almost all you said, I think that there is a small difference if training with a belt and without it. Usually you Breath in through your belly and pressing against the belt for bracing Lumbar and thiracic spine. For people training without a belt, letting all the air out and lifting with empty lungs while bracing abs helped a lot of people... even legendary Bob Peoples :-)
    – mitro
    Commented Dec 31, 2015 at 19:50

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