Last updated on October 30th, 2022 at 02:57 pm
Has anyone else experienced a nose bleed during bench press?
If so, I’m sure you realise that this isn’t exactly “normal”.
Plus, let’s face facts, it can be a huge cause for concern.
But, why exactly are you getting nose bleeds whenever you bench press?
And of course, what can you do to avoid this?
Allow me to reveal all.
Nose Bleed During Bench Press
There are various reasons why you may experience a nose bleed during bench press. The most obvious of these is the buildup of intra-abdominal pressure. This is especially true if you use the valsalva manoeuvre when you bench press. Furthermore, if you bench while wearing a belt, this can constrict blood flow, which will increase blood pressure. Additionally, if you suffer from hypertension you will already have elevated blood pressure, which is heightened whenever you lift weights.
The Role of Intra-Abdominal Pressure
So, as I’ve mentioned, I’m sure you’re aware that suffering with a nose bleed during bench press isn’t exactly normal.
In fact, the same can be said for any exercise or any activity for that matter.
Yes, some people experience nose bleeds regularly, although that is generally due to certain health issues.
That being said, there are a number of factors that can cause this to happen.
The most obvious reason for your nose bleed is due to intra-abdominal pressure, which is especially true if you use the valsalva manoeuvre while benching.
Okay, let’s put this into plain English now.
Basically, there are numerous cues that you should adhere to when you bench press.
And many of these cues are things that you should do before you even unrack the bar.
However, something that you should be doing is keep your body tight throughout your set.
This would usually involve retracting your shoulder blades, while keeping your upper back, lats, and traps tight.
This provides you with a stable base from which to bench.
Many lifters also use the valsalva manoeuvre when the bench press, although it is more commonly associated with squatting.
This involves taking in a big breath, pushing your stomach out, and then maintaining your inhale while you bench press.
Now, many powerlifters will actually hold their breath, while maintaining this upper torso stability, throughout an entire set of bench press.
The valsalva manoeuvre is a legitimate lifting technique, but it does create intra-abdominal pressure.
This simply means a buildup of pressure in the abdominal cavity.
However, this also leads to an increase in blood pressure.
This can also create pressure on the blood vessels of the nasal cavity, thus causing them to burst, and leaving you with a nose bleed.
Admittedly, this shouldn’t happen every time you bench press, and if it does I suggest you speak to a medical professional immediately.
That being said, if you’re benching at near maximum load then it’s likely that you’ll be building up a huge amount of internal pressure.
Are You Bench Pressing With a Belt?
There also happens to be certain weightlifting accessories that could cause a nose bleed when you bench press.
And I would say that the main culprit is likely to be a weightlifting belt.
This, once again, all comes down to intra-abdominal pressure.
Okay, so we know that it’s important to keep the body tight throughout your bench press set.
Plus, the valsalva manoeuvre, which basically involves holding your breath, while helping to keep the body tight, will also lead to an increase in blood pressure.
Now, what many powerlifters do with big lifts, such as bench press, is to not only use a weightlifting belt for spinal stability, but also something to literally push their stomachs into.
This also helps to keep the core tight, which once more will allow them to bench press more efficiently.
Essentially, there is something around your stomach squeezing you tightly, which will increase intra-abdominal pressure anyway.
Then through using the valsalva manoeuvre, you increase this pressure even more.
This of course will affect your blood vessels and your overall blood pressure.
You could say the same for any other “restrictive” gear that people use in the gym.
As an example, wearing knee wraps while you squat will increase pressure on the blood vessels as well.
So, while using a belt is again a legitimate use of equipment while you bench press, just be wary about the increase in blood pressure.
Do You Suffer From Hypertension?
Okay, so I mentioned earlier that some people may experience nose bleeds in their everyday life due to certain health issues.
And one such issue is hypertension, which basically means that you have elevated blood pressure, even while at rest.
So, if you already have high blood pressure anyway, you can obviously make this even worse through creating intra-abdominal pressure during bench press.
Additionally, someone with hypertension doesn’t need to create as much internal force as someone with normal blood pressure levels to experience a nose bleed.
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about this.
I will say that exercising regularly will help with hypertension.
However, you must remember that any physical activity will slightly elevate blood pressure at the time in all individuals.
So, when someone with hypertension is really stressing and straining, typically while performing a heavy bench press, there is a far greater chance of a nose bleed.
As I say, there isn’t a great deal you can do about this, well apart from benching with submaximal loads.
This is not to say that this same person won’t experience a nose bleed when training for hypertrophy or muscular endurance.
However, there is a far greater increase in blood pressure when you’re going all-out, typically when trying to hit a PR or lifting very heavy weights for low reps.
High Blood Pressure & Exercise
So, as you can see, there are a few reasons why you may experience a nose bleed during bench press.
However, in truth, this all comes down to an increase in intra-abdominal pressure.
Your aim when benching is to stabilise your spine, while keeping your core, upper back, lats, and traps tight.
And one of the easiest ways to do this is to use the valsalva manoeuvre, which is a legitimate technique used during heavy lifting.
However, the increase in intra-abdominal pressure also leads to an increase in blood pressure.
So, in effect, if you’re really straining yourself during a lift, there is the chance that the blood vessels in your nasal cavity could burst, thus leading to bleeding.
Additionally, your blood pressure could be further elevated by using a weightlifting belt.
Plus, if you suffer from hypertension, you’ll already have high blood pressure anyway, which is then elevated further whenever you exercise.
And if you thought getting a nosebleed was bad, it’s not in quite the same league as dropping the bar on your chest while bench pressing.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.