Fainting when lifting weights, 3 main causes and how to prevent it

I’m pretty sure you’ve seen many times in real life or on social networks images of gymers fainting while lifting weights, right? So what is the cause of fainting and how to avoid this condition from happening?

Fainting when lifting weights, what are the causes and how to prevent it?

When you push your body to new limits (in search of new personal records), such as performing deadlifts with maximum weights, there is always a (usually small) chance that you will experience damage. injury.

Recently, videos of weightlifters waking up while lifting weights have been circulating on social networks, and the discussion in the comment section is really heated (You can watch one of those videos here.)

There are comments saying this is a bad way to train, then you have comments saying how difficult that lift is, but no one tends to comment on why it happens.

Fainting while lifting weights is actually quite rare and can be avoided if you know why it happens.

Although uncommon, lifting heavy weights can lead to fainting due to a sharp drop in blood pressure and oxygen flow to the brain.

What is fainting?

Syncope/Passing Out/Fainting is the medical term used to define a temporary, usually short-term, loss of consciousness. The typical cause is low blood pressure, which prevents the heart from pumping enough oxygen to the brain. This lack of oxygen and drop in blood pressure leads to fainting, which in the case of weightlifters usually occurs when subjected to heavy loads.

Obviously there are many reasons why a lifter might pass out while lifting heavy objects, such as underlying serious health problems, but for a healthy person to experience fainting from lifting weights, There are usually three main factors.

3 factors that make you faint when lifting weights

1. Valsalva Maneuver (Sudden drop in blood pressure)

Most people know the Valsalva Maneuver as holding your breath through your belly while performing a deadlift, then holding and exhaling at the top of the movement. It is a common practice for athletes to lift heavy weights in an attempt to maintain a strong and stable torso.

There is a lot of debate in both directions about the potential health problems that come with Valsalva Maneuver and no one answer can be considered correct. For example, if a weightlifter performs a maximal Squat at the expense of squat stability, they are at risk of falling and injury, so it is difficult to argue against this breathing method, although despite the health risks that come with it.

Fainting when lifting weights, what are the causes and how to prevent it?Fainting when lifting weights, what are the causes and how to prevent it?

For the majority of cases of fainting while lifting weights, Valsalva Maneuver often plays an important role. But what does it do?

When we hold our breath while lifting and exert energy/force, we are increasing pressure (and blood flow) in the chest, especially the left atrium. The initial pumping volume increases, then it is quickly obstructed by the pressure created in the chest. Obstructed flow causes pump volume to decrease, blood vessels to constrict, and heart rate to increase.

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This sharp drop in blood pressure is often associated with the lifter fainting during maximal lifts, but will soon end once the pressure is relieved and pressure, breathing, and blood flow stabilize. Combine this with prolonged breath holding (lack of oxygen to the brain) and you have a recipe for fainting.

More experienced lifters will often be more proficient with this type of breathing and will have a better understanding of what their body can do. If you find yourself constantly dizzy after lifting heavy objects, you may want to take a look at your breathing. Here are some things you can check for yourself:

Abdominal breathing versus chest breathing: For Valsalva, the goal is to increase intra-abdominal and intrathoracic pressure. Are you breathing too shallowly or just breathing into your chest? Check out Brian Alsruhe’s video below on Breathing and Stretching.

YouTube videosYouTube videos

In addition, you can also see other Breathing topics below to have the most comprehensive view of breathing.

Holding your breath for too long: Beginners often hold their breath for too long, then immediately start the next movement. One way to minimize the impact of Valsalva on the feeling of lightheadedness is to exhale as you reach the top of the movement. Slow, controlled exhalation through the top of your movement can help regulate breathing while maintaining torso stability and promote slightly more oxygen flow to the brain and prevent fainting. lift the weight.

Breathing too fast: Sometimes, people lifting weights take in too much air continuously. This phenomenon is called hyperventilation, when they inhale and exhale too quickly, leading to narrowed blood vessels reducing blood supply to the brain. Breathing too much can also cause you to faint when lifting weights

How to deadlift and breathe if you have dizziness

If you get dizzy during the deadlift, check your breathing. Are you taking in too much air while preparing or taking too big a breath? Do you take so long to do each repetition that you have to hold your breath for too long?

How to practice DeadliftHow to practice Deadlift

We found that a short, forceful exhale during lockout (early in the deadlift) helps reduce lightheadedness during the deadlift and reduces fainting during the lift.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Inhale, position your back, and pull the bar up to the lockout position
  2. When locking the joint, exhale short and strong – just a small exhale
  3. Hold your remaining breath as you lower the bar all the way down
  4. Exhale completely only after the bar has been placed back on the floor
  5. Prepare for the next iteration

Note that you don’t want to exhale too much when locking out the joint – you still need air inside for support because you’re still holding a heavy bar in your hands. This is just a short exhalation in which you release only a small amount of air.

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How to handle

Please sit on the floor. Take three deep breaths and exhale slowly. Continue for three to five minutes before slowly standing up.

How to prevent this in the future

Many people hold their breath or restrict their breathing during certain exercises, such as core exercises. Try to find a balance between holding muscle tension and holding your breath. The longer you do this, the easier it will become.

2. Blood sugar level

This cause is less common than Valsalva, but can still play a role in causing the weightlifter to lose consciousness. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, although not common, can lead to fainting.

Athletes who diet while training and exerting maximum force are susceptible to fainting due to low blood sugar. Additionally, people who workout in the morning without a light breakfast or who follow a ketogenic/low-carb diet should also pay attention to possible warning signs of hypoglycemia.

Shaking, sweating, feeling nervous, pale, dizzy, blurred vision, irritability and weakness are some warning signs of mild/moderate hypoglycemia.

How to handle

If you experience any of these symptoms while exercising, then you should consume some form of snack or liquid food such as a fruit smoothie immediately after noticing them to help balance your sugar levels. blood.

If you can’t prepare snacks, look for bar foods like protein bars to replenish your energy quickly and conveniently.

How to prevent this in the future

To keep your blood sugar from dropping during exercise, make sure your body has plenty of stored glucose to use. You can do this by snacking on whole grains or lean protein about an hour before your workout.

3. Dehydration

Fainting while lifting weights due to dehydration can be a serious health threat and will be most common in athletes who exercise outdoors, attempt to increase their weights, and lift weights in hot climates. When we experience a decrease in body fluids, we also experience a decrease in blood pressure. This drop in fluid and pressure can lead to fainting.

Dehydration is one of the reasons why you faint when lifting weightsDehydration is one of the reasons why you faint when lifting weights
Dehydration is one of the reasons why you faint when lifting weights

Dark urine, dry mouth, tremors, headaches, muscle cramps and dizziness are some of the first warning signs of dehydration. For training purposes, everyone tends to their own practice and instruction.

A general rule of thumb is to consume 300-450ml for every pound of body weight lost during/after exercise. It’s also beneficial to make sure you’re hydrated when you start exercising and that you take your workout environment into account

How to prevent this in the future

Carrying a bottle of water is not enough, you also have to drink it!

You may find it helpful to try to establish break times during your workout. Consider drinking water after you complete a certain number of minutes or repetitions.

You should also make sure you have enough water to stay hydrated during your workout.

See also  Instructions on 4 steps to warm up properly when performing Deadlift

You can use electrolyte drinks to not only help rehydrate but also electrolytes lost through sweat during exercise.

What to do when you think you’re going to faint while lifting weights?

What if the above doesn’t help and you can feel the signs that you’re about to faint?

If you start to feel lightheaded/dizzy/unsteady or start seeing black or dark spots, get down on your knees or get as low as possible ASAP!

Vasovagal syncope itself is not a problem, as you will regain consciousness relatively quickly once your blood pressure normalizes.

The main problem is that you are in a gym environment, surrounded by very hard, heavy and potentially sharp objects. You need to be really careful when falling into a pile of weights on the way down (you can watch the video at the beginning of the article to feel the danger of fainting at the gym).

If your fainting is mild and you only temporarily lose consciousness (or are close to it), stop exercising and rest. Drink some water or an electrolyte-fortified drink to replenish your vital fluids. From a psychological point of view, it is important to return to lifting as soon as possible so that this experience does not adversely affect your courage.

Vasovagal syncope is uncommon and, if it occurs, it is usually not serious. If you feel dizzy while deadlifting, pay attention to your breathing and try exhaling forcefully at the lockout fix we suggested earlier.

What if I’m pregnant and I have dizziness?

If your normal exercise routine suddenly causes dizziness, rest until you can talk to your doctor.

Pregnancy shouldn’t have any effect on your workout routine, which means your vertigo is likely caused by one of the conditions listed above.

In some cases, dizziness can be a sign of iron deficiency anemia or preeclampsia.

See your doctor immediately if you are experiencing:

  • swelling in the face or hands
  • High Blood Pressure
  • blurred vision
  • persistent headache

Your doctor will want to perform some tests to determine the cause of your symptoms and whether it affects the pregnancy. They can advise you on any next steps.

Epilogue

A person who faints while lifting weights is not always an immediate red flag, but should be treated as if it had occurred.

Usually, fainting when lifting weights is due to prolonged Valsalva, which causes blood pressure to drop too much for the lifter’s body to handle, thus avoiding spending too much time lifting weights.

It is almost never seen in the average lifter and is more common in competitive elite athletes or athletes performing 1RM lifts.

In most cases of vasovagal syncope, treatment by a medical professional is not necessary.

If you find yourself frequently fainting while lifting weights or feeling dizzy after exercising, seek a medical professional to analyze the underlying health issues.

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