T Nation

Blacking Out - Should I See a Doctor?

I was doing 1 rep snatches today at the gym and right after the lifts i would get sort of dizzy. This had been happening frequently over the past few months when i have been doing olympic lifts so i didnt think much of it. Near the end of my workout though, immediately after performing a lift, i walked towards the water fountain as i usually do and i began to black out. i got very dizzy, couldn’t see anything and then stumbled over the weight rack and almost fell down if i had not grabbed on to it. Within 10 seconds or so i was allright and just sort of shook it off. I cut the olympic lifts a few sets short and continued with some other exercises and everything was fine. Does this ever happen to you guys or should I see a doctor? What could the cause of this be? This is the first time i have actually almost blacked out so i am sort of worried. What about getting dizzy, is that normal? It only seems to happen right after a compound lift (squats, deadlifts), but mostly on the olympic lifts. It never happens on high reps either, just when i do between 1-3 reps. Also, i have been lifting and doing olympic lifts for over 5 years now and have never had this problem until recently. What could make it just start happening now? Any advice or comments you guys have is greatly appreciated. Thanks

nah… doctors what the fudge do they know? just be sure to get some decent death insurance, that way when you die (which will probably be soon) you’ll leave your family lots of money, they will pay off a good nunn to pray for you and you’ll go to heaven.

I had a problem similar to this, I remember completey passing out while doing squats, and many times falling over or grasping onto something so that I did not. I saw the doctor who ran a couple of tests on me but all she said was make sure to drink plenty of water. I figured it was just some bull she was saying, but I took a 20oz bottle of water everywhere I went and filled it up around 6-7 times a day. It ended up helping alot, whenever I start to feel dizzy I will drink water and within a few hours I usually feel fine. I hope this helps, but our problems could be totally different.

PS- I was already getting a good amount of water, I guess you just have to overdo it if you have these problems.

I agree that proper hydration is very important. Not just during exercise, but also all throughout the day. Also be sure you are getting proper nutrient intake in all areas.

I dont think it has anything to do with hydration in this case. I think its just a sign that you pushed yourself really hard. I remember totally blacking out on a set of squats where i did three or four more reps than i was supposed to. i did the last concentric rep without being able to see anything. I racked the bar and grabbed onto the rack. It happens quite often for me whenever I am squatting or deadlifting hard. I remember seeing Lars Hedlund always pass out after he exerted himself on the old Worlds Strongest Man contests.

I don’t have a good answer for you yet, but I’ll talk to my buddy who is finishing his doctoral work in blood pressure regulation. My best guess is that these lifts are causing a big increase in blood pressure and when the load is removed you are overcompensating by dropping blood pressure too much. One possible idea aside from drinking enough would be to make sure you keep your legs moving after these sets. This will help pump the blood that is likely pooling in your legs back up to the heart. I’ll still talk to my friend, but marching in place after these sets may help.

I think that drinking more water is a must!! I also know that when I was training regularly some of my most experienced clients would have the same problem on the major lifts. They would also have some nausea. I found that it was often a case of low blood sugar. After ingesting any form of carbs they immediatly came around. Try it see if it helps!

You are not breathing correctly. Breath deep through your nose on the negative then out through your mouth. before you begin any intense olympic lift, try doing a few controlled deep breathing excercises.

In addition to hydration, pay attention to your breathing patterns during the lift. If you’re holding your breath a lot, then when you relax and exhale there’s a BIG drop in blood pressure. That can cause the dizziness you experienced. When I was in heavy triathlon training, I had similar problems just standing up. I had to do valsalva maneuvers to keep from blacking out. That may help you as well.

Well, I have to agree with the other posts here that it is probably nothing. But I would still check with a doctor just to make sure all this is not caused by anything serious.

I did deadlift for 350 for 5 and felt ridiculously light headed and couldn’t ‘zone in’ on anything for about 10 seconds. I thought it felt cool so i didn’t attempt to put my head between my legs. I guess it is common.

once is not a prob. the other day i woke up and immediatly upon standing(far too quickly) i yawned and streched up, next thing i knew i was on the floor thinkig shit my knee hurts. dont expect it will happen again, but sometimes even healthy people can blackout, for ex if you are bent over for a while adn quickly rise it can happen. Dont worry.

Just finished discussing with my colleague. During a heavy lift, you are likely using the valsalva maneuver and thus increasing intrathoracic pressure and driving BP up. Also the high amount of tension throughout the body is restricting blood flow during the lift. Upon completion of the lift, muscular tension decreases and you get a reactive hyperemia. All of the sudden, the blood is able to flow and the shear stress from the increased flow is causing siginificant vasodilation throughout the working muscles. This will create a larger area to pump blood into, but will also cause venous return to drop because the blood is pooling on the venous side and not returning to the heart. Eventually something is getting out of phase (heart empties but not enough blood comes back) and you won’t have enough perfusion pressure to get blood to the head. My advice would still be to march in place following a heavy set to make sure that the leg muscles can help pump blood back up to the heart. This may not completely alleviate all the light-headedness but it should help.

Chances are you are doing what is called valsalva manuever. What you are doing is holding your breath and blocking off the blood flow to your head, which will make you light headed or faint. It’s effective to help lift heavier weights but if you are having probs I would watch your breathing and try to alter it a little bit. No need for a doctor though, it’s very common.

Dude, I hear you. Whenever I do more than 10 reps with squats (just the bar, even), the same thing happens to me. After squat day, I have trouble hearing for a few hours. I just stopped trying to increase my reps above 10, and just upped the weight instead.

Jason, I’m interested in what your friend advises. I’m a little shy about laying down and gasping after every set.

thanks for all of the replies. I am going to start drinking more water and watching my breathing and see if it still happens. Jason, thanks for finding out the scientific info of what is actually happening. I usually walk straight over to the water fountain on the other side of the gym after i perform olympic lifts so the blood should be flowing. Is this allright or would it work better to do some standing marches as you said? Once again, thanks for all of the replies.

  • Nic

Nic - Walking to the drinking fountain is definately better than standing around. Maybe just try to be a little more deliberate and march over to the drinking fountain to make sure that you’re pumping the blood back up from the legs. Please let me know if this helps.

I’ve had the same problem, but never blacked out. I found learning to breathe more/better helped a lot, so give that a go. Not sure about the water, I’ll have to try it.