Squat Ph.d. #2: Valsalva and squatting

Welcome back class for our second round on how to squat. After reading this you are one step closer to being able to introduce yourself as [enter namer here] SQT Ph.d; you have to back it up by putting some tasteful weight on the squat rack and then blowing it up though.

The valsalva maneuver is a process where you inhale deeply filling the thoracic cavity creating intrathoracic pressure and then force the air against a closed windpipe. Big breath and squeeze. Of course you can google this proceedure and see claims of how unhealthy it may be or how it can be harmful to you. Those claims are by mom's who are very protective of their children [however by going heavy without a valsalva is worse than you may think]. Think of when you go to pick up something heavy or do something explosive, you inhale a deep and heavy breath, it's natural. Not to mention the valsalva is a natural way to protect and support the bodys spinal column.

The increase in intrathoracic pressure that occurs during the Valsalva maneuver incites a sequence of rapid changes in preload and afterload stress. During the strain, venous return to the heart is decreased and peripheral venous pressures become increased. Within the next few beats, systolic and pulse pressures begin to fall while mean arterial pressure remains near (or is elevated above) control levels owing to the transmission of airway pressure. Recruitment of autonomically mediated increases in heart rate and cardiac contractility assists the heart to maintain its cardiac output in the presence of diminished venous return. With the increased venous return that accompanies termination of Valsalva strain, there is an increase in diastolic filling and stroke volume output by means of the Frank-Starling mechanism. Heart rate and total peripheral resistance continue to be increased during the immediate poststrain period, and the ejection of an increased stroke volume into a constricted arterial system produces a rapid and marked increase in arterial pressure-the phase IV overshoot with its subsequent slowing of heart rate. [1]

This is informing us that by performing a valsalva that during the decent of the movement with controlled pressure the heart rate actually decreases due to built up pressures and is adapt for this exact mechanism. As we keep pressure the heart balances out diastolic and systolic resistances and pressures. By reducing the valsalva you will have a rapid increase in heart rate. This can be a crucial reason to hold the valsalva throughout the entire lift. By exhaling you are not only releasing the intrathoracic pressure and natural spinal support but you are causing a sudden spike in HR and as a result a possible "weaker" movement.

The take away from all of this should be to take a deep breath and valsalva, and not to release that breath until you are at the top of each movement. Like for the squat, you should take a deep breath and hold it at the start position; perform the rep by descending and then ascending; at lock out exhale breath. At first this may be tricky or "scary" but muscle through and you'll see gains in your lifts.

So class next time you squat valsalva like your life depends on it, cause it just might. Now a 545 x 2 squat with nausiating valsalva. [bad angle but 1st rep is at paralell second is below]

  1. C J Porth, V S Bamrah, F E Tristani, J J Smith (1984) The Valsalva maneuver: mechanisms and clinical implications. Retrieved. http://www.mendeley.com/research/the-valsalva-maneuver-mechanisms-and-clinical-implications/ (Pubmed Volume: 13, Issue: 5, Pages: 507-518)


  1. Good topic.
    Please can you send me the article you cited?

    1. It seems that the website link I grabbed the article from has been taken down. To get the article you would have to purchase an account for a journal.


About Me

My photo
BS, MS - exercise Physiology
EPC - Board Certified Exercise Physiologist

Published Thesis
The impact of three different forms of warm up on performance

The Effects of Glucose Supplementation on Barbell Velocity and Fatiguability in Weightlifting - A pilot study"

The Accute Effects Of Different Squat Intensities on Vertical Jump Performances
The Accute Effects of Different Squat Intensities On Jump Performance

Graduate from Midwestern State University, founder of Endunamoo Barbell Club, and Endunamoo Strength and Conditioning. Working to help athletes physically reach their goals and achieve scholarships while spiritually pouring into as many people as possible on all platforms.