When to Breathe During Strength Training Exercises

Recently, a client asked me about the timing of her breathing during a strength training workout. When should she exhale? Inhale? The easiest rule to remember during a strength training workout is to exhale when you are exerting force and inhale on the recovery. That’s easy to master – in theory. Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out what is the exertion portion of certain exercises. Let’s look at some popular strength training moves and identify when you should exhale and inhale.

Bicep curl – When you are curling the weight toward your chest (exertion phase), exhale. As you lower it, inhale.

Push-up – Inhale as you lower down and exhale when you push back to the top.

Sit-up – Exhale as you sit up and inhale as you lower back down.

Squats – Inhale as you lower yourself down and exhale as you push back up to the starting position.

Bridges – Exhale as you lift your glutes off the ground and inhale as you return to the ground/starting position.

Lunge – Inhale as you lunge down and exhale as you return to the starting position.

Why does it matter when you breathe?

If you are holding your breath during strength training, it can lead to serious problems such as loss of consciousness or a hernia. Additionally, improper breathing can weaken your muscles in your lower back and pelvic floor as well as disrupt correct shoulder and spine movements.  

Breathing Tips:

  • Practice breathing before your workout. Place your hands on your lower ribs and breathe. This signifies that you are breathing with your diaphragm rather than your upper chest.
  • If you’ve finished a grueling workout, don’t try to catch your breath by bending over and resting on your legs. Stand up tall and breathe.
  • Slow your movements down if you are having a hard time getting the timing of your breathing correct. Working out at a slower pace while lifting weights is beneficial – you get to experience the full range of motion and focus on breathing during the appropriate times.
 Inhale as you lower down during a push-up and exhale as you push back to the top. 

Inhale as you lower down during a push-up and exhale as you push back to the top.