I’m sure you realise that using proper breathing techniques are essential when lifting weights.
But, you probably don’t put as much thought into breathing with an exercise like bicep curls.
I mean, it’s not as though you are working the largest muscle groups, as you typically would when performing squats or deadlifts.
That being said, as your breathing can have an impact on your heart rate and blood pressure, it’s important that you do so correctly during exercise.
So, in this article I’ll explain all about your breathing when doing curls.
How Should You Breathe When Curling Weights?
You should exhale during the concentric part of bicep curls. Therefore, you breathe out as you raise the load towards your shoulders and contract your biceps. You should inhale during the negative portion of the lift. Therefore, as you lower the weights back you should breathe in.
Why Should You Exhale on the Concentric?
In truth, how you should breathe during bicep curls is exactly the same as how you should breathe during any exercise.
So, as I’ve mentioned, you exhale during the concentric and inhale during the eccentric.
Now, breathing generally means that you inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide.
And when you are performing an activity, such as bicep curls, your body requires more oxygen to sustain that activity.
However, when you exhale you are literally squeezing air out of the body.
That being said, when you exhale you increase core engagement, which in turn increases stability and power.
And it makes sense to have this increased power and stability during the most difficult part of a lift.
Additionally, by exhaling during the most challenging portion of a lift you can protect yourself against light-headiness.
Think back to a time that you performed an exercise, and as soon as your set finished you felt extremely light-headed, almost faint.
This simply occurred due to incorrect breathing during your set.
In a way when you exhale you are also regulating your blood pressure, which can drop significantly when you hold your breath.
So, always exhale when a lift is at its most challenging point, thus providing that additional dose of power and stability.
And the most challenging part of biceps curls is when you’re lifting the weight and contracting your biceps at the top of the movement.
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Why Do I Try to Exhale on the Eccentric?
Now, I don’t know whether this is just me, but I thought I’d mention it anyway.
Do you sometimes find that you’re trying to exhale on the eccentric portion of bicep curls?
For me, personally, if I’m not paying strict attention to my breathing I often find that I am exhaling when I’m lowering the weight.
And, in truth, this all comes down to the “not paying attention” part.
Let’s face facts, bicep curls are hardly the most taxing exercise on the cardiovascular system.
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In fact, I have read about this very subject on Reddit, i.e. breathing during bicep curls, and I felt that the person asking the question was almost ridiculed (even though the respondent said that they weren’t).
Basically, they were more-or-less told, “Why the hell are you worrying about your breathing during bicep curls?”
Granted, perhaps the person replying had a valid point, but still, I can totally understand someone worrying about this.
But, even using incorrect breathing during an “easy” exercise like bicep curls can have an impact on its effectiveness.
What I have sometimes found is that I am exhaling during the eccentric portion simply because I am lowering the weights in a slow and controlled manner.
So, in effect, it can feel quite intense doing this, so I almost take a double breath, inhale and exhale while doing this.
However, regardless of how long you take to lower the load, you should always ensure you inhale on the eccentric.
You are lengthening the muscle, thus it is almost an opportunity to “relax” before you put all your energy into the concentric part of the lift.
So, ensure that you pay close attention to your breathing, even for an exercise like bicep curls.
If you catch yourself exhaling while lowering the weights, reset yourself and get your breathing back on-point.
Remember, a big intake of breath through your nose as you lower the weight, and then forcefully exhale through your mouth as you curl the weight back up.
Why Do I Run Out of Breath Bicep Curls?
This actually ties in quite well with what I’ve just mentioned.
That being said, you don’t actually expect to be out of breath when performing bicep curls.
Granted, it’s a given for exercises like squats and deadlifts.
In fact, I often feel as though I have run an all-out sprint after one set of heavy deadlifts, which can leave me feeling pretty wiped out.
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But, you don’t expect this to happen during curls.
Much like I’ve mentioned above, you probably aren’t paying attention to your breath.
But, even worse, you may often find yourself holding your breath when performing curls.
And this is especially true as you approach fatigue towards the end of your set.
In fact, you probably don’t even realise you’re doing it.
But, it is this that can leave you feeling breathless, even during an isolation movement like bicep curls.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there is actually a legitimate lifting technique which involves holding your breath.
This is known as the valsalva manoeuvre, although it is most commonly used during the BIG exercises, such as squats, deadlifts, and bench press.
Basically, by taking in a big breath, and then holding it, you provide greater stabilization for the spine.
This, of course, is essential when performing an exercise like squats.
However, it certainly isn’t a requirement for bicep curls.
That said, you would still exhale at the top of the squat movement, even while using the valsalva manouvre.
So, if you do find that you’re out of breath performing curls, it’s likely that you’ve been unknowingly holding breath, most likely as you near the end of your set.
Proper Breathing Technique For Weightlifting – Valsalva Manoeuvre
Breathing during bicep curls is no different than when performing any other exercise.
So, you should always exhale during the most challenging part of a lift, as this provides increased core engagement.
Furthermore, your power output and stability also increases.
Therefore, you should exhale as you curl the weights toward your shoulders.
This means that you should inhale as you lower the weights.
Basically, the eccentric part of bicep curls sees you lengthening your biceps, therefore relaxing them.
This means that not as much effort is required by the body, making it the ideal time to reset yourself and take a sharp intake of breath.
This also provides the muscles with more oxygen, which in turn will help you for the upcoming most challenging part of the lift.
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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.