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I posted this at Darden′s forum in an effort to clear up some misconceptions several people had about breathing while training and not a single person responded to it, so I figured, with the time i spent typing this out, I′d copy and paste it here in the hopes that someone might benefit from it. I′m pretty much through with posting at Darden′s. If it doesnt jive with what Arthur Jones wrote, they dont want to hear about it.

BloodandGuts wrote:

Excerpts from "Starting Strength" by Mark Rippetoe . . .

page 57, chapter on squatting:

"Much controversy exists about breathing patterns during exercise, largely due to a misapplication of the CYA principal. It is thought that by "inhaling on the way down and exhaling on the way up" is a good way to eliminate the possibility of cerebrovascular accidents during exercise, by lowering the peak blood pressure during the rep. This may very well limit the momentarily elevated systolic/diastolic pressure, but such advice overrates the likelihood of a cerebrovascular injury, an extremely uncommon event, and underrates the likelihood of an orthopedic injury, an all-too common occurance.

It behooves us to understand the function of the Valsalva maneuver, the breath held against a closed glottis while pressure is applied by the abdominal and thoracic muscles, during the squat. The Valsalva is a technique the vast majority of humans will use anyway until "professionally trained" personnel interfere.

If your car runs out of gas at an intersection, and you have to push it out of the way or get killed, you will open your car door, put your shoulder on the doorframe, take a great big breath and push the car. You will probably not exhale except to take another quick breath until the car and you are out of the way.

Furthermore you will not even think about this, as millions of years of your species pushing on heavy things has taught your central nervous system the correct way to push. "Professionally trained" personnel probably do it this way too, yet they insist on ignoring the advice of their own DNA while in the weight room.

When you inhale, pressure increases in the thoracic cavity. When you hold your breathe and tighten your trunk muscles, this pressure increases more. Since your thoracic and abdominal cavities are separated only by your diaphragm, abdominal pressure increases too. Thus, pressure is being applied to the anterior side of your spine.

The spinal vertebrae are being held in correct position by the back musculature, and this correct position is reinforced by a static pressure head transmitted to the anterior side of the spine by the hydrostatic column of the gut, the essentially non-compressible contents of the abdominal cavity.

As pressure in the thoracic cavity increases with a big breath held, and this pressure is increased by the tightening of the abs and obliques, more anterior support develops for the spine. The back muscles support the back from the back, the abs, with the aid of a big breath, support it from the front. A weightlifting belt adds to this effect, it′s main function being to add anterior support rather than to apply pressure from the back.

the concern of our "trained professionals" is that this thoracic and abdominal pressure is also being applied to the cardiovascular system embedded in the trunk, and that the increase in pressure is being transmitted up the big blood vessels to the head, and that this increase in pressure has the potential to cause a cerebrovascular accident, such as a stroke or an aneurysm.

This ignores the fact that the same pressure is applied to the cerebrospinal fluid, which transmits pressure up through the subdural space in the skull and throughout the cranium, balancing cardiovascular pressure across the blood/brain interface. Furthermore, no one gets under 405lbs and squats it without training. The cardiovascular system adapts to resistance just like all the other tissue systems in the body, and this adaptation occurs as strength increases.

Anyone who is capable of squatting extremely heavy weights is adapted for it in all the necessary ways. It is far more likely that the advice to "inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up" will actually cause an orthopedic injury than that it will prevent a cerebrovascular injury.

In fact, it is good advice to teach trainees to take and hold the biggest breath they can. The Valsalva maneuver will prevent far more problems than it has the potential to ever cause."

page 100 chapter on bench pressing:

"As it is for all barbell exercises, air is support for the bench press. In the squat and deadlift the Valsalva maneuver provides increased back support. In the bench press, it provides support for the chest.

This takes the form of increased tightness throughout the thoracic cavity due to the increase in pressure provided by the big held breath. A tight ribcage allows for a more efficient transfer of power to the bar by the muscles attached to it when they contract. If the pec and delt origins on the external chest wall contract against a tight structure that does not move when they contract, then more of the force of that contraction can be transferred to the end of the kinetic chain that does move; when it′s tight, less force gets absorbed, or dampened, by the movement of the chest. This is analogous to trying tp pick up a heavy weight while standing in a floating canoe as opposed to standing on a concrete driveway.

This tightness, along with the support provided by the lower body connected to the ground, radically increases efficiency in the bench press. Also, in the extended spinal position that the arch requires of the bench press, the abs cannot tighten. They cannot therefore increase intra-abdominal pressure, and cannot contribute to the needed increase in intra thoracic pressure, thus making the big breath the sole source of support for the chest"

page 129, the chapter on deads:

"While we′re on the floor here, breathing should be discussed. Breathe while the bar is on the floor, not while supporting a heavy weight at the top. Remember from our discussion of the squat and the role of air and pressure in trunk support. This applies especially to the deadlift. Review this now please, if you are not familiar with this concept. A set of deadlifts should start at the floor, meaning that each rep begins and ends at the bottom, the back getting set and a new breath taken for each rep while the bar is on the floor between reps."

there is much more on this in the deadlift chapter but the basic gist of it is . . . When doing heavy compound exercises (and probably most others as well) breathe before or after a rep, never DURING.

The fact that may people have trained for years while breathing during heavy squats and deads does NOT prove it is correct or safe!!!

I have to wonder how many people over the years, who complained of injured backs from Squats and deads, aquired their injury because of breathing during the rep?


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