My problem is that with most of my exercises I get breathless before reaching anything close to failure and little pump. This breathlessness thing doesn't look like nothing serious but is really annoying and frustrating because my heart starts beating really fast and i cant really get any meaningful rep nor good form.

I tried with light weights and heavy weights and the result is more or less the same. I fell like I get more out of the heavier weights but I'm still always getting tired before failure.

I also tried higher tempo rep and it got a little better with some exercises but then I lose good form.

The thing that I am trying now is to do a lot of low weighted reps (around 40 per set) to achieve some "burn" without that much tiredness.

I do mostly body weight compound exercises. I know this are probably more taxing than isolation exercises but I exercise with what I got at home (a pair of dumbbells and that's it)

What I am looking for is some way to exercise and only get the "muscle tiredness and burn" without having my heart so accelerated. I notice that I achieve this when I do dumbbells curls.

As you probably can imagine from what i am witting I am mostly a beginner. I imagine the problem is mostly my physical condition but i would like to know if I'm overlooking something else. Could it be maybe that I am not breathing correctly during exercise?

And lastly, if the problem is only my physical condition, how do I fix it quickly? How long until it's fixed?

If it is of any use I am a 24 year old male and do some cycling from time to time.

  • 1
    Have you seen a doctor or PT about the issue? While it might simply be that you lack conditioning, you might also have any number of underlying medical conditions. Dec 26, 2020 at 22:59
  • Yes, indeed I have already checked myself and there was nothing wrong.
    – Axel
    Dec 27, 2020 at 1:06
  • 1
    40 reps per set? I mean, that's basically cardio to me.
    – C. Lange
    Dec 27, 2020 at 1:42

2 Answers 2


Being a beginner, it is quite common to become breathless before failure - especially on compound exercises. The thing with compound, is that you're not only using a single muscle group but the whole chain of movement - which means that in a squat your focus could be on glutes and quads, but your core, back, hamstrings, calves are also doing the work. Because of this, it is difficult to get the "pump" the same way as you would in biceps curls.

Going to failure does not always indicate that a workout has been successful and the other way around - if you're not in failure after each set, you are still working towards your goals. I have worked with many clients thinking that if they don't go to failure or have muscle ache after the workout, the workout has not been as successful.

Though I can relate with the pleasant feeling of pump - and it does have it's benefits in hypertrophy training (gaining muscle mass).

I would recommend changing your workout regime slightly - as you enjoy compound exercises, work on these first - with the weights you have at home but reduce your reps and give yourself time to recover. The aim here is not to go to failure but build strength. You can even make this a bit more challenging by doing single leg squats, split squats or bulgarian split squats (on your leg day). And then as final exercises of workout focus on isolation to get the "pump" - in quads, low pulsating squats provide a solid pump, as does duck walks and wall sits.

The idea here is to have different aim at different stages of workouts - beginning with most exhausting exercise and maintaining form followed with isolation and "burn" exercises.

For example:

  • Chest workout - Push-ups followed by chest flyes.
  • Leg workout - Squats followed by Low pulsating squats or duck walk/lunges
  • Great! Haven't thought of that. Thanks. Will that idea of splitting the workout and changing the goal from pump all the time to build strength. It's a shame though because until now I measured progress by feeling the burn. Now it will be more difficult to know if i am progressing and to know when to add more load.
    – Axel
    Dec 28, 2020 at 23:36
  • 1
    Give it a go with the split up workout. If you'd like to measure progress in both styles separately, you can measure how many reps/sets you are able to perform with good form and technique. This gives you a good indication.
    – int5
    Dec 29, 2020 at 9:15

The way we breathe during intense and moderate intensity exercise is one of the most important things we can tune into.

Some doctors will say that your breathing is a function of your autonomous nervous system and leave it at that. However you must learn to take control of your breathe.

Controlling your breathe has numerous benefits. It allows you to conciously manipulate your functions, it ensures you do not prematurely overexert yourself, it allows faster recovery, and power when you need it.

If you're struggling to control your breathe, start with movements that are low risk and low intensity. For example, walking.

Walk, walk, walk and walk some more. Over time your body will get accustomed to the workload and your breathing will coordinate naturally to your progress.

Next try incorporating some moderate jogging once or twice a lap. Increase intensity but increase slowly.

Another method to produce good breathing technique would be to break out the kettlebells and try some swings. Go light! Your efficiency with swings is highly dependent on how you breathe during the movement. It sort of forces you to breathe and breathe deep. It will work your body but it won't kill it.

You will see improvements in your breathing after a week or two of walking, if you incorporate swings and "own" the process.

Also be careful to watch for light headedness during your compound movements. Think long term. Move Well, Move Often!

  • Ok thanks! One question. Is the static bike an ok substitute for walking outside breathing wise? Nowadays I really want to avoid going out as much as possible.
    – Axel
    Dec 28, 2020 at 23:41

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