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Fitness Theory and Practice. CrossFit's rationale & foundations. Who is fit? What is fitness?

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Old 03-03-2008, 06:54 PM   #1
Matt Thomas
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Holding your breath?

I was reading an article on isometrics by Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell and in it, as one of the negatives of isometrics, he states this:

"Holding your breath for a long time can have a negative effect on the cardiovascular system."

Does this statement apply in general, or is it specific to isometric strength movements and/or powerlifting training? It's weird that holding your breath would be bad for your cardiovascular. I use to follow this SEAL prep workout by Stew Smith that had a lot of what he called "hypoxic swimming," which is freestyle swimming while holding your breath for a specified amount of strokes. The idea was that your muscles learn to function in an oxygen deprived state. It also had a lot of underwater swimming for distance, which obviously involved a lot of breath holding. Is this actually counterproductive to your cardiovascular system or is it taken out of context of what Louie was talking about?

Here's the full article if anyone is interested. http://www.westside-barbell.com/Arti...isometrics.pdf (wfs)
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Old 03-03-2008, 07:03 PM   #2
Derek Maffett
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Re: Holding your breath?

Well, it certainly had a bad effect on me during a max effort clean, but that's a different story really. I was only holding my breath for a few seconds there. He might be talking about a somewhat longer time holding your breath.
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Old 03-03-2008, 07:52 PM   #3
Matt Thomas
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Re: Holding your breath?

Yeah I'm wondering if it applies to holding your breath for 30 seconds or longer while swimming.

But since you bring up holding your breath during a max effort didn't Matt Deminico (I think it was him, sorry if I'm wrong) say you're supposed to do that? I always thought you were supposed to breath through the movement as well, but I believe he said you should hold your breath to keep your muscles tight and improve stabilization. Granted, in the thread I'm refering to he was talking about deadlifts and holding your breath so you don't lose your lumbar curve at the top of the movement, but maybe it carries over into other lifts? I dunno.
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Old 03-03-2008, 08:24 PM   #4
Derek Maffett
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Re: Holding your breath?

I've experimented just a little with grunting/hissing during the lift, which seemed to help me avoid becoming lightheaded. I need to try it more with the heavy lifts before I can say for sure. However, breathing in and out normally while deadlifting heavy sounds like a recipe for disaster.
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Old 03-03-2008, 10:03 PM   #5
Michael Teague
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Re: Holding your breath?

I don't know about holding your breath for long periods of time but I don't think I could lift heavy while breathing. Coach Rip talks about breathing during lifts in SS. Holding your breath helps stabilize the trunk.

One precaution. Straining against a closed glottis in the medical world is called a Valsalva Manuever. This can cause a drop in blood pressure and heart rate. It is used at time to treat rapid heart rates. We often this in people straining in the bathroom. Usually they hit their head on the sink on the way down.
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Old 03-04-2008, 05:25 AM   #6
Benjamin Murphy
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Re: Holding your breath?

If you're straining against the glottis you're probably using way too much energy during a swim. Though while lifting heavy, filled lungs are used to help stabalize the thoracic spine (upper midline) I believe, but this is not my area of expertise.

I've done a number of hypoxic swims and have some experience with dynamic apnea in general. My advice: don't do hypoxic swims to work on your dynamic apnea. It's extremely dangerous. Now, if you're going to try for SOF, (which is the only reason I can see why you'd be worried about a breath-holding swim guide by Stew Smith) I'd try googling "dynamic apnea" to see how those guys train it. Some of the people who are into this are freaks, going hundreds of meters without breathing. To safely increase and measure your work capacity while holding your breath, my advice is to walk on a track and see what kind of speed and level of calmness is going to get you the furthest before you give up/black out. But at least you'll be blacked out on a track and not underwater. To work on your underwater stroke, only go a very comfortable distance underwater. DON'T hyperventilate beforehand, and if you feel any seizures in the ol' diaphram coming on, call it quits. Don't let your ego drown you, and no, the lifeguard is not an adequate safety measure.

As far as that training translating to the pool, just look at the time spent in a hypoxic state. Let's say that your 50 meter underwater (assuming you're trying for SOF you need a 50m most likely) would take you about 60-70 seconds, then you'll want to be able to maintain a slow to moderate pace walk for that same amount of time. Another good one is to very calmly go from lying down to standing up while holding breath, like a lame slow motion burpee or TGU. This gets your blood spread a little thinner and adds another dimention to the training. Do whatever you want to test it but being underwater or in mid-flight during a blackout is probably not the best idea. In other words, doing full on burpees, anything on a high bar or underwater is kinda dumb.

So far as it hurting cardiovascular health, I have no idea. Doesn't seem to hurt mine. Good luck and be safe.
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Old 03-04-2008, 02:42 PM   #7
Nate Fucile
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Re: Holding your breath?

i dont know the anatomical reason for it but i have alwayrs read the heavy lifters out there today all hold thier air and had better results doing it myself as well
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Old 03-05-2008, 08:08 AM   #8
Kirez Reynolds
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Re: Holding your breath?

I did apnea / hypoxic swimming for a long time, sort of a casual/amateur freediver, and this comment about cardiovascular harm is baseless. Without specific details or a more specific claim, we can't even respond to it; it's just an empty assertion.

My wife is a doctor with a research bent (she knows her stuff) and she's done hypoxic and apneic training with me. She agreed with me, the only danger you need to be aware of is depleting the brain of oxygen.

But the nervous system is wired to prevent excessive oxygen depletion --- hence the instinctive, forced breathing which comes when you've gone too far. If you forcefully override the breathing reflex, you're brain will simply go unconscious and THEN you'll breathe in (like many do in the BUD/S 50 meter test). (This is the excess CO2 switch.)

Cardiovascular harm -- means damage to the heart. It doesn't even refer to oxygenating the blood. How can you claim damage to the heart? It would be detected in people with heart disease -- increased incidence of heart attacks, basically. The claim is nonsense.
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Old 03-06-2008, 08:05 PM   #9
Robert Gonzalez
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Re: Holding your breath?

I always felt that for the high weight low reps that if you scream you have more motivation and are able to get that weight up a lot easier. Not like a long scream, but a short outburst and then breathing out the rest. Is this just me?
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Old 03-06-2008, 08:54 PM   #10
Skylar Cook
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Re: Holding your breath?

It's debateable. Screaming or outbursts definitely can motivate you, but most of the time when I'm approaching ME I do Valsalva until the lock out, then comes the outburst (which has been building and straining against my glottis for the duration of the lift). Breathing out makes the lift harder, IMO, but a vocal outburst can definitely help. Does the cost outweigh the benefits? I think it's personal.
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