Last updated on October 30th, 2022 at 03:25 pm
So, you want to know, “Should I Hold My Breath During Bench Press?”
You’ve probably found that you occasionally hold your breath while benching anyway.
Plus, this may even help you to bench more effectively.
But, should you really be holding your breath?
Is holding your breath dangerous?
Or is this a legitimate benching breathing technique?
Let’s find out.
Should I Hold My Breath During Bench Press?
You can hold your breath during bench press, although there are a few ways to do this. Firstly, you can hold your breath throughout the entire set. This helps to create intra-abdominal pressure, while ensuring that your torso and shoulders stay tight throughout. However, this will lead to a buildup of carbon dioxide, which can pose a risk of passing out. Therefore, you can also reset your breath every few reps. Then again, you can also inhale and exhale with every rep. These are all viable methods of breathing during bench press.
Should You Hold Your Breath Throughout an Entire Bench Press Set?
As with most things lifting-related there is no single straight answer.
Basically, there are obviously certain protocols you should adhere to when bench pressing, but how our individual body’s react will differ from person-to-person.
So, in effect, you have to find what works for you.
That being said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with holding your breath when you bench press.
In fact, this is generally how most powerlifters choose to bench.
Basically, by inhaling deeply at the start of your set you’re able to stabilize your spine, while bracing your core.
This simple action will also push your ribs up your body, thus allowing the chest to rise higher.
Essentially, this actually decreases the range of motion.
And when it comes to benching for a few reps, i.e. training for strength, you will typically want to reduce the range of motion, as this makes the lift more mechanically advantageous.
This is also why you should retract your shoulder blades, thus forcing your chest higher towards the bar.
Now, the fact that your core is braced and your spine is stabilized makes the lift far more efficient.
You want to keep your body tight throughout the entire set, where possible.
So, by breathing during bench press you’ll end up actually allowing your body to relax.
This also means that you’ll need to literally reset your core and spine with each breath you choose to take.
This “holding your breath” is often referred to as the valsalva manoeuvre, although it is more often used during heavy squats.
However, it can be used for a variety of lifts.
In fact, many powerlifters take advantage of wearing a belt, not only to support the spine, but also to have something to “aim for” when they lift.
When you inhale deeply your stomach will rise.
So, with the addition of a lifting belt you have something to force your stomach into.
Once more, this allows you to keep your core tight and spine stabilized.
It’s Not All Good News
However, just to confuse matters, this doesn’t mean that everyone should be holding their breath throughout an entire set of bench press.
Remember, I’ve said that we are all different from each other, and therefore our body’s react differently to training stimulus.
Something else to consider is that when you hold your breath, especially while you’re stressing the muscles with a heavy load, there will be a buildup of carbon dioxide.
And unfortunately, this does increase the risk of you potentially passing out.
I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you how dangerous this is while your bench pressing, or performing any movement for that matter.
So, while holding your breath during bench press is a legitimate tactic, it may not be for everyone.
Valsalva Manoeuvre – What is It? And How to Use it?
You Can Reset Your Breath During the Bench Press Set
Okay, so holding your breath throughout an entire set of bench press may not be for everyone.
In fact, if this is something you’ve never tried before, I don’t suggest that you give it a go immediately.
In reality, you also need to train your breathing, in much the same way as your body, to eventually achieve this.
So, there are a couple of other ways to breathe during bench press.
The most obvious of these is likely to be what the vast majority of people do when they bench press.
This involves unracking the bar and inhaling deeply.
Once again, by inhaling at the top you have the opportunity to brace your core and stabilize your spine.
And you’ll want to keep everything tight throughout the rep.
Therefore, in effect, you’re still actually holding your breath during the rep.
You will then either exhale at a potential sticking point or at the top once your arms are fully extended.
The reason I mention the “sticking point” is because some people find that they tend to struggle with the bench press during certain parts of the lift.
As an example, if you struggle at the bottom of the bench press, this points to a potential pec weakness.
Basically, your pecs are most activated at the bottom of the bench press, while you try to push out of the hole.
However, once you get to the midpoint and onwards, it’s all about your triceps.
So, if you’re struggling here, then this points to a potential tricep weakness.
This is also why exhaling at your sticking point can actually help to move you through it.
However, if you feel good throughout the rep then simply exhale at the top.
You Don’t Have to Breath With Every Rep
Now, something else you can do is to breathe every few reps.
And this is especially true when you’re performing high reps of bench press.
So, as an example, you may choose to perform a set of 12-15 reps.
Therefore, you inhale at the top, perform a few reps and then exhale, once more once you are pressing the weight back up.
You can then quickly reset yourself, inhale deeply, and carry on performing reps until you feel you need to exhale again.
And obviously you should always be exhaling at the top or at your sticking point.
By following this method, you’ll get some carbon dioxide buildup, but this is obviously released whenever you exhale.
Plus, I would say this is fairly important if you’re performing a set of 12-15 reps, which could take up to 60 seconds to perform.
In other words, it could be extremely difficult and dangerous to hold your breath for a minute, while stressing the body with a heavy load.
That being said, even though these are all legitimate breathing techniques during bench press, once again I repeat, you have to find what works best for you.
So, I hope you understand that you can hold your breath during bench press.
This is a legitimate powerlifting technique, which allows you to stabilize your spine, brace your core, and keep your body tight while you bench.
That being said, this does also lead to a buildup of carbon dioxide, which may pose a risk of passing out.
Therefore, it is also perfectly acceptable to hold your breath for a few reps, reset yourself and your breathing, before you pump out a few more reps.
Then again, you can also inhale as you lower the bar, exhale as you press back up, with each and every rep.
All breathing techniques work while bench pressing, you just have to find what works best for you.
If you’re looking to take your bench press, and your muscular development in general, to the next level then take this opportunity to check out my review of the Massthetic Muscle 12-week workout program.
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.