The Importance of Proper Breathing: What is Valsalva? 

Proper breathing is a cornerstone of good form while working out. If you’ve been working with us at Vertex Fitness for any length of time, no doubt you’ve been coached on your breathing at least once–for many, on almost every exercise. It may feel natural to tense up, huff, groan, and even hold your breath, but you’re setting yourself up for serious issues if you follow any of these practices. Performing a strength training program is not about moving the weight; it’s about mindfully going through each exercise, targeting the correct muscle with the correct form, and controlling your breathing to ensure that you don’t experience dangerous fluctuations in blood pressure.

What is Valsalva?

Have you ever been on an airplane and experienced a painful change in ear pressure? Or perhaps you were swimming, and tried to get water out of your ears? You may have performed the Valsalva maneuver, exhaling against a closed glottis (entrance to the throat), which increases your pressure in your chest time to try to get your ears to “pop”. While it can be done intentionally to try to equalize pressure, it can also happen unintentionally while exercising. People tend to hold their breath while they exercise if they are not being mindful of their breathing, and the result is a rapid build up of blood pressure followed by a sudden drop. This increase in pressure involves a huge increase in total muscle tension (not just in the muscles needed for the current exercise) and causes a rapid increase in heart rate. This change in pressure can actually cause you to pass out.

Give Your Muscles the Oxygen They Need

Our muscles need oxygen in order to breakdown the necessary energy sources used for muscle contraction. When we stop breathing, we starve our muscles of much needed oxygen and prevent the removal of carbon monoxide by-products. What you’ll find is that instead of making the exercise harder, proper, calm breathing will actually make the exercises easier. Depriving your muscles of oxygen can also lead to a build-up of lactic acid, the compound responsible for that “burning” feeling when you work your muscles hard.

For help with mindful breathing during exercise, contact us today at Vertex Fitness to speak to a qualified trainer.


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