Proper Way To Breathe When Lifting Weights

Ask Lee:
What Is The Proper Way To Breathe When Working Out?

The general rule of thumb to breathing when working out is to breathe in while you lower the weights and breathe out as you lift the weights. In other words, inhale during the negative portion of the rep and exhale during the positive portion of the rep.

However, this changes when you are doing higher intensity lifts with heavier weights and lower reps. Generally when doing powerlifting or heavy power training you’ll hold your air in during the actual rep itself and breathe in between reps.

Taking a deep breath and holding your air in your belly will stabilize your torso and allow you to generate more power when you lift. If you ever go to watch a powerlifting meet you’ll see that all the advanced lifters do this.

They’ll start by taking a deep breath and holding their breath as they squat down. Then as they start to lift they may breath out or even shout or yell to help generate maximum force.

If you are doing low rep workouts (i.e. sets of 5 reps or less) I challenge you to give this breathing technique a try. Hold your air in during the actual rep itself and breathe in and out in between reps when the weight is locked out at the top.

Trust me you’ll feel stronger and may even set a new personal record in the gym!

Check out the video clip below for more info…

Note: if you can’t watch the embedded video clip above,
you can watch it right on my YouTube Channel by Clicking Here

Holding your breath like this isn’t dangerous for people in good health. After all you are only holding your air for the length of a single rep which is like 5 seconds or less. And if you don’t have the lung capacity to hold your breath for 5 seconds than you probably shouldn’t be lifting heavy weights either.

However, I have to post a “warning” here to cover my butt…
The info covered in this blog post is for informational purposes only. YOU are responsible for yourself and you have to use common sense when working out. So if you have high blood pressure, if you have a hernia, or any other physical problem such as a heart or lung condition then you probably shouldn’t be holding your breath and you shouldn’t be doing any heavy lifting either. In this case you should check with your doctor before doing any exercise routine.


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About The Author


Lee Hayward is a former competitive bodybuilder and muscle building coach who has been online coaching people since 1997. His work has been featured in several international magazines such as: FLEX, Muscle Insider, Muscle Mag International, Testosterone, Ironmag, and Forbes. Lee's main focus right now is with helping men over 40 - who don't want to be fat anymore - lose the gut, build muscle, and get back in shape. If you're ready to "Start Again" for the last time and finally build a lean healthy body that you can be proud of, just e-mail Lee to discuss a realistic action plan that's right for you...


  • Jason

    It’s funny Lee, the “breath in while gathering strength, out while exerting” philosophy has been burned into me from years of martial arts training.

    I do notice that I hold my breath during heavy reps occaisionally subconsciously! It happens naturally for me.

  • Great advice, l personally hold my breath when doing heavy bench presses. I find that it allows me to keep my body tight and stable when pressing. I’ve never been able to apply this technique for squats but l will give it a try

  • Bandar Hawsawi

    Hi Lee, I have a Significant question. Some athletes said that ”you must change your diet & training plan every single week in order to lose body fat and gain mass muscle, if your plan to participate in bodybuilding shows” .Why? and how can I change my diet plan every single week?
    Thanks in advance

  • Bandar Hawsawi,


    I’ll probably make a video about that one, but the bottom line is you DON’T change your routine every week. You body needs to “adapt and grow”. If you change things around too often you never get a chance to adapt, thus you limit your growth as well.

  • Jesse

    Hi Lee,

    Thanks! I’m doing very heavy deadlifts, well, to me they’re very heavy, and I have trouble pulling the weight. I noticed, I automatically hold my breath. I’m glad to find out that’s the way you should do it. However, I do have this problem that the food I ate (half an hour ago) comes back up when lifting. This makes my esophagus hurt like hell. But that’s hot nothing to do with breathing, I guess.

  • Sam

    Hey Lee,

    This was one of the best advices I’ve heard that applies to me because I regard the squat as the king of exercises.
    I’m way more comfortable/stable with the weight when I hold my breath for each rep.
    When you think you already know something and then hear something like this: you get a pleasant surprise.


  • andrew

    cant find my self Total Fitness Bodybuilding” shirts of my size