Why Do Powerlifters Get Nosebleeds?

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Though nose bleeds aren’t common, but some lifters going extremely heavy may experience it. But most of such nose bleeds aren’t serious and temporary in nature. They mostly resolve on their own.

In a lift which requires maximal effort, like a 1RM deadlift or squat, the powerlifter creates a massive amount of tension in the body in form of body bracing, due to which there intra-abdominal and intra-thoracic pressure goes up, which shoots up their blood pressure.

Now, unlike the heart and vascular system, the blood vessels sinuses, eye balls and under the skin, can either contain the pressure, The elevated blood pressure forces blood vessels in the nose and even eyes to burst and leads to “epistaxis”, or a nose bleed, and red discoloration in the whites of the eyes.

There are several reasons for this rise in blood pressure:

  1. Valsalva Manoeuvre – During heavy lifting, most lifters hold their breath in their belly, and exhale forcefully.

During resistance exercise, a brief Valsalva manoeuvre is unavoidable when lifting heavy loads (>80% of maximal voluntary contraction) or when lifting lighter loads to failure. Performance of the Valsalva manoeuvre during resistance exercise increases the stability of the spine due to augmented intra-abdominal pressure. The Valsalva manoeuvre was associated with an increase in blood pressure during resistance exercise.

Valsalva straining during lifting may produce sudden blood pressure transitions both during and immediately after straining .

During maximal efforts, the blood pressure can steeply rise. A study showed that during maximal effort lifts, the blood pressure may rise from an average resting blood pressure of 127/80 to 311/284. The study suggested that, arterial hypertension produced during heavy weight lifting with Valsalva is extreme and may be dramatically reduced when the exercise is performed with an open glottis(without Valsalva).

This manoeuvre combined with the force being exerted on the lower legs drives a lot of blood from the lower legs. All of this leads to an increase in blood pressure in the upper body, the neck, and the head.

  1. Supportive Gear – powerlifters use strong compressive gears for support during heavy lifts, like weight belts, knee wraps, squat suits, in order to maximise trunk stability and rigidity during lifts. These gears are extremely tight and compressive, and combined with the Valsalva manoeuvre can generate a tremendous amount of pressure on the body.