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Old 04-26-2012, 09:16 AM   #1
Vickie Ellickson
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Deadlift Breathing

I've noticed that when I'm doing heavy (for me) deadlifts, there are times when I hold my breath (at least partially) during the pull. When this happens, I get an awful pain in my chest and it takes a full minute or so before I can recover enough to even move. On a pain scale of 1-10, it's 7-8ish. I'm assuming that the problem is that I'm not actively exhaling during the pull, and expanded diaphragm + heavy pull = disaster. I don't feel this pain during any other activity.

My guess is that I need to focus on exhaling. Should I take a big breath when I'm set and immediately start exhaling to start the pull, or wait until just after the bar is off the ground?
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Old 04-26-2012, 10:38 AM   #2
Clint Harris
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Re: Deadlift Breathing

That doesn't sound good - is it a muscle pain or in your ribs, or is it internal like your heart stopping or lung bursting ?
Do you know if you're doing a big belly breath (good) or is it more high in the chest. There's a huge difference and perhaps if it's high in your chest, it may put too much pressure in that cavity. I dunno.
My understanding of breathing in the DL is as follows.
Breath big and deep into your belly (may need practice) so that you can exert pressure in your core to stabilize it. A few hyperventilating breaths before hand can help psych you up and get more air in.
Hold it as you pull - all the way up above the knees so that your core stays tight. If you need to exhale (to stop from passing out) make sure you don't loose your core and little <tssch> type releases are OK because it's easier to keep core tight (loosing air can loose tenseness) and prevents you from passing out - when trying to lock out though, sometimes a giant war cry will help (which is an exhale of sorts). When at the top, breath out, breathe into the belly and go again (unless 1rm, then drop and try not to pass out).
Now, whether this is right or makes sense, I'm not sure, it's how I do it and was taught. Often, after really heavy lifts, I see stars and need to sit down but never any pain.

Practicing a belly breath can be done as follows. Breathe in through nose until you can breathe no more. Now, through the mouth, try to breathe in so the air goes down your spine into your belly - you should be able to get more in there. The lungs get filled from the top first, so you need to learn how to get air down into your belly earlier (and easier). Often, not expanding and lifting the chest as you breathe in will help, but that feeling of going down the spine will help (it's from some zen stuff I do for golf).

Last edited by Clint Harris : 04-26-2012 at 10:43 AM.
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Old 04-26-2012, 10:50 AM   #3
Michael Loucas
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Re: Deadlift Breathing

Pretty sure for the deadlift, You wanna take a deep breath before each rep, and hold it throughout the whole movement until the bar is put back down. This is all in reference to regular deadlifts, not touch and go. Not sure how it works for them.

As far as the chest pain, I'd definitely get it checked out. To echo the question above, what kind of pain does it feel like?
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Old 04-26-2012, 10:59 AM   #4
Vickie Ellickson
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Re: Deadlift Breathing

Thanks Clint!

I'm pretty sure my heart and lungs are intact. Hope so anyway.

The best way I can describe it is that it feels like there is pressure/pain in my chest (maybe a muscular contraction in the ribs and/or the diaphragm)? Seems to be centralized in the mid-lower sternum. It doesn't feel like the muscles are seizing, and it's not difficult to get air in and out of my lungs, but it is quite painful and I cannot do anything other than lean against something for a minute or so until it passes.

I wasn't too worried about underlying cardiac/pulmonary issues since I'm pretty young, healthy and don't experience this with anything else. However, if the point is to hold your breath during the majority of the pull, then I am concerned b/c I'm pretty sure I won't be able to do that w/o chest pain for heavier deadlift sets.

However, I'll try the belly breaths next week and see if that helps. I have no idea whether I'm breathing high into the chest or not, but it is entirely possible.
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Old 04-26-2012, 12:00 PM   #5
Jason Peacock
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Re: Deadlift Breathing

This is definitely not normal.

And during heavy DL, you should be holding your breath during the pull (pressurize & hold it), not doing a continuous exhale b/c then you're losing pressure and that's bad.

At the top of the lift you can take a quick breath, but then you need to hold it and and pressurize again while lowering.

You should def find a good doc who knows his physio stuff well and is familiar with heavy lifting (sports doc?).
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Old 04-30-2012, 05:51 PM   #6
Helen M Brennan
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Re: Deadlift Breathing

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vickie Ellickson View Post
Thanks Clint!

I'm pretty sure my heart and lungs are intact. Hope so anyway.

The best way I can describe it is that it feels like there is pressure/pain in my chest (maybe a muscular contraction in the ribs and/or the diaphragm)? Seems to be centralized in the mid-lower sternum. It doesn't feel like the muscles are seizing, and it's not difficult to get air in and out of my lungs, but it is quite painful and I cannot do anything other than lean against something for a minute or so until it passes.

I wasn't too worried about underlying cardiac/pulmonary issues since I'm pretty young, healthy and don't experience this with anything else. However, if the point is to hold your breath during the majority of the pull, then I am concerned b/c I'm pretty sure I won't be able to do that w/o chest pain for heavier deadlift sets.

However, I'll try the belly breaths next week and see if that helps. I have no idea whether I'm breathing high into the chest or not, but it is entirely possible.
not wanting to be an alarmist but i would still get it checked out. A very very fit friend of mine died from a massive heart attack aged 32...

severe chest pain should always be checked

Helen
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Old 04-30-2012, 09:38 PM   #7
Damon Stewart
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Re: Deadlift Breathing

Ditto on the above but...take a deep breath, push it down (Vasalva) and then hiss some out on the way up. If that works I'd still go see a doctor.
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Old 05-09-2012, 08:53 AM   #8
Kalle Beck
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Re: Deadlift Breathing

It's not like a muscle cramp? I've gotten those many times when deadlifting heavy and staying real tight.
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Old 05-09-2012, 09:23 AM   #9
Vickie Ellickson
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Re: Deadlift Breathing

So....turns out I was breathing wrong.

I'm not sure exactly how, but when I focus on not exhaling until the bar is past my knees I have no problems. I think I was exhaling too much too soon (or waiting until full extension to exhale at all), and for whatever reason, that made something in my chest very angry.

Since the initial post I've lifted heavier weights twice and haven't experienced any pain.

I'm sure my heart is ok, as I've never experienced chest pain doing any other activities, and I do quite a few that tax the cardio/pulmonary system. It very well may have been a muscle cramp. It felt a lot like getting a charlie horse in your chest.

Thanks to everyone who responded, it really helped.
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