Adam Lepley 
Affects of weight lifting and breathing technique on blood pressure and heart rate

During anaerobic exercise, blood pressure and heart rate have been shown to increase significantly above published normative values. Previous authors have suggested that exercise during Valsalva breathing (bearing down on a closed glottis) blood pressure may reach dangerous levels.  The utilization of this technique, along with individuals not knowing of underlying cardiovascular risk factors may result in catastrophic events potentially leading to death. This investigation has attempted to identify blood pressure and heart rate differences that exist during two different breathing techniques while performing commonly used methods of weight lifting.  METHODS: Seventeen recreationally active subjects volunteered to participate in this study (8 male, 9 female). Each subject, after satisfactorily completing a health history questionnaire, was tested to determine his or her estimated 1 rep max in the chest press and double leg press exercises. After an instruction on the two breathing techniques, each subject performed 10 repetitions at a metronome set at 40 beats per minute. There were 2 days of testing, one day for each lift which involved 2 sets, 1 with each breathing technique. Resting, during exercise, and 1and 5 minute post exercise measurements were recorded for both heart rate and blood pressure. Subjects did not to start their second set until full recovery of blood pressure and heart rate and at least 5 minutes rest. RESULTS:  Average values during lift were as follows, reported with the hold breath values first and controlled breathing values second. Systolic pressure:157.9, 142.4; Diastolic pressure:93.1, 88.2; Heart rate:88.4, 83.3., These values, along with peak, and 1 and 5 minute post exercise values were compared across lift and breathing technique. The hold breath technique posted higher, but statistically insignificant values for systolic blood pressure (sig. value of 0.399), diastolic blood pressure (sig. value of 0.594), and heart rate (sig. value of 0.715). CONCLUSION: It was hypothesized that subjects taking part in a resistance training exercise would significantly increase their blood pressure and heart rate if using a holding breath breathing technique. Previous studies have shown that a Valsalva maneuver, (bearing down on a closed glottis) has significantly increased blood pressure and heart rate. The hold breath technique utilized in this study produced intermediate elevations in heart rate and blood pressure, implying that it may be a safe technique to be used by those at risk for a cardiovascular event.

Faculty Mentor: Brian Hatzel


Adam presented at the American College of Sports Medicine Conference May 28-31, 2008 in Indianapolis, IN.

Page last modified July 14, 2009