T Nation

Strange Way Air Pressure Works


We're taught that for maximum stability and therefore maximum weight used, etc to take in a huge belly of air, and for the most part, I do this. Benches, Back squats, Deadlifts. I cannot seem to do this for front squats.

Say, the weight's racked. I take in air, and get under it. As I lift it and walk back, there's an urge to expel all my air before I begin to do squats, which I usually do, and I generally complete the sets taking small breaths because the weight won't allow deep breaths.

I decided to try to force the air to stay in, and did a rep with max air. Basically, was lucky to even come back up. There was a buildup of pressure in my head, dizziness, and my conciousness faded. All this with a weight that is roughly an 8RM. After that, I kinda stood there for 20 seconds with the weight, and decided to complete the set, which went fine.

Why is this?


The weight is racked.
Take in air.
Unrack and step back.
Let air out.
Take air in.

Which grip are you using -- Olympic or criss-cross? How does your rack position feel? Comfortable or uncomfortable?

When you take in air, make sure to breathe low.

Just as a reminder, for your front squat, remember to lift your chest, don't retract the scapula, let that bar rest on the delts, and keep those elbows high.


Right, I do exactly that, olympic form. I just don't understand why conceptually it should be necessary to exhale and inhale again before the first rep, because the breath you will take in will be much less in volume than the one you started with, which when going by being taught that taking in a full belly of air will maximize stability means that stability is lost.

But yes, if what you described is what good form is, then thankfully I have good form.


you're supposed to take two breaths. a breath when you unrack the bar and without releasing any air, inhale more as you start the lift. the first breath shouldn't be so extreme that you get dizzy, just enough to stabilize the body. the second breath is the more important one


Also, think where the bar sits when you front squat. The bar position is probably as big a factor as to whether or not you feel lighthead. It does sit across one of the main blood supply lines to your brain like.


Seconded. By holding air in your belly, you are probably sticking your chest out and up like you should to form a good rack position for the bar. Chances are if you had a back rack position before you compensated by pushing the bar into your throat with your hands to hold it in place. My guess would be that you are good on holding the breath but need to loosen the bar from your throat a bit because it is pressing on your brains blood supply.

It takes a bit of time to go out from lack of oxygen, but a blood choke happens in seconds which sounds like what you are describing.


The diziness and whirzing sounds is from an increase in blood pressure. You're basically doing the valsalva maneuver... holding your breath throughout the entire movement. This is a good way to pop a blood vessel, A.

I hold my breath on the eccentric, but as soon as I start the concentric, I slowly release my breath so that when I reach the top, I've fully exhaled.


I agree completely. If I hold my breath through the concentric, the pressure in my cranium gets so bad that I will have headaches and dizziness for the rest of the evening. I must exhale on the concentric to avoid this.

I find that vocalizing on the concentric also increases my power. I can pull a few more pounds on DL when I shout. (I work out at home so I can do this!)


right before I unrack the bar, I take a quick, short breath, usually something that jolts my body and gets it ready to work. Then I step back, position, exhale, and do another quick, but slightly deeper breath, something more like what I do before clean or snatch.



muscleshark, two breaths are necessary. You take the first one with just enough air so that you're solid enough to brace against the weight and take a step back. Then you release your air and take the real breath with the full weight on your shoulders.

If you only do it with one breath and you take that breath before you're under the bar, you're right that you can fill up with more air. However, this is like filling up a balloon nearly to its maximum, placing a heavy book on top of it, and then pressing down on that book. The balloon compresses first under the weight of the book (in your case the bar), causing the pressure to increase, and then the pressure increases even more as you apply force to the book (in your case as you squat). The same thing happens when you take a breath before you bear the load of the bar. Your chest cavity deforms when you have a heavy weight on your shoulders. This double increase in pressure is not desirable and is the reason why you got dizzy.

So, at least, during training:

  • always take a breath with the weight already on your shoulders
  • take that breath at exactly the last possible moment before you squat to minimize the amount of time you're holding your breath

If you find you can't get a good breath with the bar on your shoulders, there's a problem with your rack position. Fix it.