how to breathe during a squat

Learn the importance of proper breathing during squats and how to implement the right technique for optimal strength and stability

Squats are a staple in strength training and bodybuilding routines, but many people overlook one crucial aspect: how to breathe during a squat. Proper breathing is essential for maintaining core stability, preventing injury, and optimizing your workout performance. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the importance of breathing in squats, delve into the Valsalva maneuver (the recommended breathing technique), and discuss common mistakes to avoid.

Additionally, we’ll examine how breathing differs for low bar and high bar squats, provide tips for implementing proper breathing into your squat routine, and touch on the role of nutrition and recovery in squat performance. By the end of this article, you’ll have the knowledge and tools to breathe effectively during squats, allowing you to reach new heights in your strength training journey.

At, we’re committed to providing you with valuable insights and practical tips to enhance your fitness experience. In this spirit, we’ve covered topics like The Ultimate Guide To Strength Training and Compound Vs Isolation Exercises. Now, let’s dive into the intricacies of breathing during squats!

The Importance of Breathing in Squats

Breathing plays a crucial role in squat performance, yet it’s often overlooked or misunderstood. When done correctly, proper breathing can provide multiple benefits, including:

Increased Core Stability

One of the main reasons why breathing is essential during squats is to increase core stability. A stable core helps maintain proper posture and reduces the risk of injury. The Valsalva maneuver, which we’ll discuss in more detail later, is a breathing technique that creates intra-abdominal pressure, effectively bracing your core and providing a solid base for your squats.

Enhanced Strength and Power

Proper breathing can actually boost your strength and power during squats. The increased intra-abdominal pressure generated by the Valsalva maneuver helps you maintain a rigid torso, allowing for a more efficient transfer of force from your legs to the barbell. This results in better squat performance and increased lifting capacity.

Injury Prevention

Incorrect breathing can lead to a loss of core stability, potentially causing you to round your back or lose your balance during a squat. These issues increase the likelihood of injury, especially when lifting heavy weights. By learning how to breathe properly during squats, you can minimize the risk of injuries and ensure you’re lifting safely.

Improved Focus and Concentration

Proper breathing can also help you stay focused and concentrated during your squat workout. By paying attention to your breath, you can stay in tune with your body, allowing you to execute each rep with precision and control.

Incorporating proper breathing into your squats is essential for maximizing performance and minimizing the risk of injury. To further enhance your strength training, consider exploring topics like How To Progressive Overload Properly and Full Body Vs Split Workout. Now that we’ve covered the importance of breathing in squats, let’s dive into the Valsalva maneuver, the recommended breathing technique for squats.

Proper Breathing Technique: The Valsalva Maneuver

The Valsalva maneuver is a widely recommended breathing technique for strength training, particularly during squats. This technique involves taking a deep breath, holding it, and then creating intra-abdominal pressure by attempting to exhale against a closed airway. Let’s break down the Valsalva maneuver step by step:

  1. Inhale Deeply: Before beginning your squat, take a deep breath, filling your lungs and expanding your diaphragm. Ensure that you’re not only expanding your chest but also your belly. This helps create a solid base for the following steps.
  2. Hold Your Breath: As you initiate the squat movement, hold your breath. This serves to maintain the pressure you’ve created in your abdomen and supports your spine.
  3. Create Intra-Abdominal Pressure: While holding your breath, attempt to exhale forcefully without actually letting the air out. This action generates intra-abdominal pressure, effectively bracing your core and providing stability during the squat.
  4. Exhale at the Top: As you ascend from the squat and approach the top of the movement, slowly release your breath. This controlled exhalation helps you maintain stability and prepares you for the next repetition.

Performing the Valsalva maneuver during squats offers several benefits, such as increased core stability, enhanced strength and power, injury prevention, and improved focus. However, it’s essential to be aware of your body and any pre-existing medical conditions. If you have high blood pressure or a history of heart issues, consult your doctor before implementing the Valsalva maneuver into your workout routine.

For additional insights into strength training, check out our articles on The Ultimate Guide To Nutrition and How To Train Grip Strength. In the next section, we’ll discuss common breathing mistakes to avoid during squats and how to correct them.

Common Breathing Mistakes to Avoid

While the Valsalva maneuver is an effective breathing technique for squats, it’s crucial to avoid common mistakes that can hinder your performance or even lead to injury. Here are some pitfalls to watch out for:

1. Shallow Breathing

Taking shallow breaths before squatting can limit the amount of intra-abdominal pressure you’re able to generate. This reduces core stability and increases the risk of injury. To avoid this issue, practice taking deep breaths that expand both your chest and abdomen.

2. Exhaling Too Early

Releasing your breath during the descent or at the bottom of the squat can cause a loss of intra-abdominal pressure, which can compromise your core stability. Make sure to hold your breath throughout the squat and exhale only when you approach the top of the movement.

3. Holding Your Breath for Too Long

While holding your breath is an essential part of the Valsalva maneuver, it’s important not to hold it for too long. Doing so can cause dizziness or lightheadedness. Be mindful of your breath and release it at the top of the squat to avoid any discomfort.

4. Breathing Through Your Mouth

Breathing through your mouth during squats can lead to shallow breaths and reduced core stability. Focus on inhaling and exhaling through your nose, as this helps facilitate deeper breaths and better overall breathing control.

5. Ignoring Your Breathing Altogether

Failing to pay attention to your breath during squats can result in a variety of issues, including poor core stability, reduced strength, and increased injury risk. Always be mindful of your breathing and practice the Valsalva maneuver to maximize your squat performance.

By avoiding these common breathing mistakes, you can ensure you’re getting the most out of your squat workouts. For more strength training tips, explore our articles on How To Balance Cardio And Strength Training and Strength Training Vs Hypertrophy. Up next, we’ll discuss how breathing differs for low bar and high bar squats.

How Breathing Differs for Low Bar and High Bar Squats

While the Valsalva maneuver is applicable to both low bar and high bar squats, there are subtle differences in how you should breathe for each variation. Understanding these nuances can help you optimize your performance for each squat style.

Low Bar Squats

In a low bar squat, the barbell rests on your rear deltoids, slightly below your upper traps. This position requires a more horizontal torso angle and greater hip hinge compared to high bar squats. To maintain proper form and stability during low bar squats:

  • Focus on taking a deep breath and filling your abdomen as well as your chest.
  • Emphasize the creation of intra-abdominal pressure by bracing your core tightly.
  • Keep your chest up and maintain a slight forward lean to accommodate the bar position.

High Bar Squats

In a high bar squat, the barbell sits on your upper traps, just above your rear deltoids. This position allows for a more upright torso and emphasizes the quadriceps to a greater extent than low bar squats. When breathing during high bar squats:

  • Take a deep breath, filling both your chest and abdomen to create a stable base.
  • Engage your core and generate intra-abdominal pressure, similar to the low bar squat.
  • Focus on maintaining an upright torso throughout the movement to ensure proper form.

In summary, while the overall breathing techniques for low bar and high bar squats are similar, the key differences lie in the specific body positioning and emphasis on core bracing. For more insights into squatting and strength training, check out Compound Vs Isolation Exercises and The Ultimate Guide To Strength Training.

Implementing Proper Breathing into Your Squat Routine

Now that you understand the importance of proper breathing and the Valsalva maneuver, it’s time to implement these techniques into your squat routine. Here are some practical tips for getting started:

1. Warm-Up and Practice

Before diving into heavy squats, take time to warm up and practice your breathing technique with lighter weights or bodyweight squats. Focus on deep inhalations, core bracing, and controlled exhalations to build muscle memory and form.

2. Gradually Increase the Weight

As you become more comfortable with the Valsalva maneuver, start to increase the weight on your squats. Maintaining proper breathing and core engagement throughout your squat sets will help you progress more safely and effectively.

3. Monitor Your Body’s Response

Pay attention to how your body responds to the Valsalva maneuver. If you experience dizziness, lightheadedness, or any other discomfort, consider modifying your breathing technique or consult with a fitness professional for guidance.

4. Consistency Is Key

To reap the full benefits of proper breathing during squats, make it a habit. Consistently practicing the Valsalva maneuver will not only help you see progress in your squat performance but also reduce the risk of injury.

5. Combine Breathing Techniques with Other Training Principles

Proper breathing is just one aspect of successful strength training. Combine your breathing techniques with other important training principles, such as progressive overload, proper nutrition, and recovery, for optimal results. Our articles on How To Progressive Overload Properly and The Ultimate Guide To Nutrition can help you in these areas.

By incorporating these tips into your squat routine, you’ll be well on your way to improving your squat performance and overall strength training success.

The Role of Nutrition and Recovery in Squat Performance

While proper breathing techniques are essential for optimizing your squat performance, nutrition and recovery also play a significant role in your overall strength training success. Here’s how you can enhance your squat gains through diet and rest:


Proper nutrition is crucial for fueling your workouts and promoting muscle growth and recovery. To maximize your squat performance, consider the following dietary tips:

  1. Protein Intake: Consuming adequate protein is key for muscle repair and growth. Aim for at least 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily. For more guidance, read our article on How Much Protein Per Day For Muscle Growth.
  2. Carbohydrate Intake: Carbohydrates provide energy for your workouts, helping you power through challenging squat sessions. Focus on consuming complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, for sustained energy.
  3. Healthy Fats: Incorporate healthy fats, like avocados, nuts, and olive oil, into your diet. These fats help regulate hormones, reduce inflammation, and support overall health and muscle growth.
  4. Hydration: Staying hydrated is essential for overall performance and muscle function. For more information, read our article on the Importance Of Hydration During Exercise.


Adequate recovery is essential for muscle growth and minimizing the risk of injury. Here’s how you can optimize your recovery:

  1. Rest Days: Ensure you’re taking enough rest days between squat sessions to allow your muscles to recover and grow. Overtraining can lead to injury and hinder your progress.
  2. Sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Sleep is vital for muscle recovery, hormone regulation, and overall health.
  3. Stretching and Mobility: Incorporate stretching and mobility exercises into your routine to promote flexibility, prevent injury, and enhance your squat performance.
  4. Active Recovery: Engage in low-intensity activities, such as walking, yoga, or swimming, on rest days to promote blood flow and aid muscle recovery.

By prioritizing nutrition and recovery alongside proper breathing techniques, you’ll be well-equipped to maximize your squat performance and overall strength training success. For more information on nutrition and recovery, check out our Ultimate Guide To Nutrition and Intermittent Fasting For Busy Schedule articles.

Wrap Up

Mastering how to breathe during a squat is essential for optimal performance and reducing the risk of injury. Implementing the Valsalva maneuver, avoiding common mistakes, and adapting your breathing technique to different squat variations will help you make the most of your squat sessions. Don’t forget the importance of nutrition, recovery, and other strength training principles for overall success. By focusing on these aspects, you’ll be well on your way to improving your squat performance and achieving your strength training goals. Keep practicing, stay consistent, and always prioritize proper technique and safety.

Extra Resources