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“Remember to breathe” someone says as they walk past you while you’re sporting your tomato face during a hard set of squats.

You nod, smile, and ignore them, but you also wonder . . .  could they be right?

You’ve heard more and more noise about how holding your breath while lifting could be dangerous.

This technique is officially known as the Valsalva maneuver, and it’s become quite a controversial subject among us fitness folk.

Some say it increases your risk of fainting, aneurysm, stroke, and blood vessel damage. They also claim there’s no evidence that it improves your performance or makes lifting any safer, so it’s all risk and no reward.

This is why many trainers tell their clients to breathe continuously while lifting, why doctors often tell their patients not to use the Valsalva maneuver, and why the American Heart Association warns against it, too.

A few minutes of digging on the Internet brings up videos of people collapsing, dropping barbells on themselves, and passing out and crashing face first into the ground. (I’ll spare you the gory details, but if you want to see for yourself, Google “original deadlift passout video.” It’s not pretty).

Others say the Valsalva maneuver is not only safe, but an essential technique for safely lifting heavyweight.

Who’s right?

Well, the short story is this:

The Valsalva maneuver could increase the risk of stroke, blood vessel damage, and fainting, but only for a handful of people with a high risk of cardiovascular problems. For otherwise healthy people, the Valsalva maneuver is a safe way to you lift more weight and will probably lower your risk of injury, too.

By the end of this episode, you’ll know what the Valsalva maneuver is, why people use it, whether or not it’s as dangerous as many people say it is, who should and shouldn’t use it, how to do it correctly, and more.

Let’s start at square one.

What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

+ Scientific References