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Exercise and Fitness

Sudden head pain when squatting heavy weight



Hi, I am currently participating in a sports acceleration program and today I was working out on a plyo press with my trainer. I was squatting some heavy weight after just finishing some other plyo execises when my head started throbbing. This was on the fifth and final rep of the set I was doing and I was going real hard. I think I may not have been breathing like I should have which may have factored into the headache. My trainer had me take a short break and walk around. The pain subsided quite a bit to where it was more of a dull pain all over my head. We then continued the workout. The dull pain remained and did not increase much the rest of the workout and an hour after the workout the headache is nearly all gone. I was scared I may have popped a blood vessel or something so I thought I would get your opinion on the matter. P.S.- A few months ago I was lifting heavy weight on a pectoral fly machine and I got a sudden pain in one part of my head. Could these be linked or what may have caused the pain in this incident. Oh, I have also had a few incidents when I have felt real faint and dizzy after a strenuous workout. I think these incidents were due to dehydration because I was not well hydrated before the workouts but I thought I would include this information in my question in case you thought it may be due to something else. Thanks.


Sounds like you are experiencing what is called the "Valsalva Maneuver".  This happens frequently when you hold your breath during resistance exercise.  Some side effects include lightheadedness, passing out, and even broken blood vessels.  I would suggest that you focus on a proper breathing pattern during your workout or these symptoms will persist.  A proper breathing pattern consists of exhaling during the positive/concentric portion of the exercise and inhaling during the negative/eccentric portion of the exercise.  If this is not the case and you are breathing properly, I would suggest that you consult your family physician.

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Response by:

Jayme   Johnson, MS Jayme Johnson, MS
Program Manager
Fitness Center at CARE\Crawley
University of Cincinnati