5 Reasons Why Lifters Get Nosebleeds (How to Avoid Them)

You might have seen videos or pictures of powerlifters with huge nose bleeds, sometimes all over their own face. It’s usually during huge lifts, with more weight than most people can hope to lift. I’ve wondered myself for a long time about why this happens, so I decided to share it with you too.

Basically, when you’re lifting weights, the contraction of your muscles sends blood to your head. This combined with raised blood pressure can make a perfect storm for a nose bleed. A few other common reasons are:

  • Raised blood pressure
  • Valsalva maneuver (more on this later)
  • Powerlifting gear
  • Your environment
  • Poor diet

Nose bleeding isn’t very common and tends to occur most when lifters perform supra-maximal loads.

If you’re worried about nose bleeds, you can grab BleedCease from AmazonOpens in a new tab., which stops any bleeding right away. It’s not very expensive, and it’s definitely worth it if you experience nose bleeds often.

Along with this, any amount of work that pushes the body to an extreme can actually cause a nosebleed.

During a nosebleed, blood flows from one or both nostrils. The intensity of blood flow varies from heavy to light. They can last from a few seconds to minutes, or even longer.

Nosebleeds aren’t usually a sign of anything serious. This being said, having them during powerlifting is usually a sign of extreme body exhaustion. This is because, under the normal circumstances surrounding powerlifting, most people aren’t robust enough to sustain the blood pressure increase.

Quick Rundown on Powerlifting

Explaining why many powerlifters experience nose-bleeds.

Powerlifting is a competitive sport that’s made up of three attempts at maximum weight on three lifts. These are the bench press, squat, and deadlift.

In powerlifting competitions, the athlete attempts a maximum weight single lift of a barbell loaded with weight plates. It is a very intense form of strength training which uses heavy weights in compound exercises. Compound exercises hit the target muscle groups pretty hard.

It does help people that do it get stronger, but it has some downsides as well. Powerlifting is more strenuous and quite distinct from weightlifting.

The sport of weightlifting is made up of two lifts: the snatch and the clean and jerk, where the weight is lifted above the head. Most people use the term weightlifting to refer to general working out, but it’s actually a sport just like powerlifting.

In powerlifting three intense lifts are involved: the back squat, bench press and deadlift, and most competitions are comprised of one, two or all three of these lifting disciplines.

During competitions, each competitor is given three attempts at each lift, the best lift in each discipline is then added to their overall total and the lifter with the highest total in their respective age and weight class will be declared the winner.

Powerlifting is also very distinct from weightlifting and powerlifting. The goals, training, and competitions are all different from each other.

What Really Happens When Powerlifters Get a Nosebleed?

During powerlifting, athletes usually tense their abdominal muscles in a process known as Valsalva maneuver. This is where you put force against a closed airway which ultimately builds up body pressure.

This maneuver 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.

In the nose, there is an area, quite close to the skin where blood vessels pass called the “Little’s Area” or “Kiesselbach’s Plexus” located on the front part of the nasal septum. As a result of increased blood pressure, bleeding can occur especially if there is an aggravating factor contributing to that increase in blood pressure.

These aggravating factors may include; allergies, change in humidity, prior history of nosebleeds, decreased clotting factors, diet or use of a steroid-based nasal decongestant.

They are also less extreme activities other than lifting huge weights that could lead to nosebleeds. It’s also possible that the nasal blood vessels of people who experience these nosebleeds are very little channels rather than thick, robust pipes which are unable to handle the rush of blood prompted by the lift.

Other than this, maybe the blood pressure induced by the near-superhuman effort required to lift very heavy weights is much higher than any part of their human body is built to handle.

Blood Pressure

What causes nose bleeding in powerlifters during maximal loads? Heavy lifting has a tendency to increase blood pressure in the moment.

Although it helps lifters maintain healthy blood pressure in the long run, at the moment when the weights are actually being lifted, their blood pressure is much higher.

This is mostly a result of an increase in heart rate, pressure on the body which includes the abdominal/thoracic cavity, and the quantity of blood flow needed to carry out the lift.

An increase in blood pressure alone may not necessarily cause a nosebleed but when you factor in an athlete’s weight, lifestyle, and the intensity of their lifts, they contribute to making the athlete prone to nosebleeds.

Valsalva Maneuver

This is a process of weightlifting which involves the voluntary manipulation of air in the body to create increased tension and pressure during lifts.

When a lifter breathes and holds it in during a lift, they are performing a Valsalva maneuver.

This method of breathing causes an increase in blood pressure and tension on the body by restricting the ability of oxygen to flow freely.

Powerlifting Gear

Man wearing powerlifting belt, putting on wrist straps.

Lots of powerlifters use gear and tools like knee wraps, deadlift suits, belts, and ammonia during competition.

If you’re wondering why the hell they need to use ammoniaOpens in a new tab., I recently wrote a great article covering that. All this gear tends to restrict your blood flow, causing your blood pressure to rise even higher.

Part of the point of powerlifting gear is to increase pressure and tension in the body, but when combined with other factors, it can lead to nosebleeds.

Nature of Your Exercises

Most powerlifting routines involve compound exercises. These are lifts where you’re using multiple muscle groups at the same time to lift one weight.

All of these muscles being used at once raises your blood pressure far more than isolation exercises, where one muscle is being worked. All this extra blood pressure can cause the vessels in your nose to burst.

In fact, a recent study performed on blood pressure and heavy-resistance training actually found that squats and deadlifts exert the most strain on blood pressure.

This is one where you can’t or shouldn’t change anything about. Just because compound exercises raise your blood pressure temporarily, doesn’t mean that you should stop doing them.

Instead, work on lowering your blood pressure by having a healthier diet, and losing fat. This will lower your normal blood pressure, and help you be more resistant to nosebleeds.

Your Environment

Snow capped mountains in Alaska, and a valley in between.

Your environment might not seem like a significant factor for nosebleeds, but it can cause them more than you think.

If you live somewhere really dry, or with high altitude, you’ll know what I’m talking about. In these types of locations, dry conditions can cause your nose to dry out, making it much easier to experience a nosebleed.

This combined with heavy training can be a recipe for disaster.

Now this isn’t really something you can control. It wouldn’t be very smart to move across the country because of a few nosebleeds, unless you really don’t like the climate or geography.

While you can’t control your environment directly, just keep in mind that this may be a cause of your nose bleeds.

Nutrition and Diet

Diet is a less likely contributor, but it is a factor that can ultimately cause nosebleeds in powerlifters. For example, if a lifter has low levels of vitamin C, K, or some of the B vitamins and iron, it can make them more susceptible to nosebleeds. This is something to really consider especially if a lifter experiences nose bleeding frequently.

Among other things, powerlifting can also be extremely tasking and time-consuming which leads to overall exhaustion. Powerlifting workouts can take several hours unlike an average high-intensity cardiovascular session or a muscular endurance workout, where the lifter aims to minimize rest periods.

Powerlifters more often than not, take long rests to recoup strength between sets. In a geared powerlifting competition, where competitors wear special suits, the training sessions take even longer and cause more stress to the body.

Raw powerlifting workouts will take about an hour and thirty minutes to two hours, and a geared workout will take three or four hours. Most powerlifters train at least four times per week as well.

These usually include one squat focused session, one deadlift focused session, a bench press workout, and an accessory exercise session. A combination of all these very strenuous activities can lead to extreme exhaustion which can make lifters more prone to nosebleeds.

How to Manage Nose Bleeding in Powerlifters

The occurrence of bleeding during maximal lifts varies between elite athletes and recreational lifters. A normal powerlifter or recreational lifter is less susceptible to nosebleeds during lifts.

For the elite athletes who often have to train frequently in preparation for competitions, as the training progresses, there will always be a risk of bleeding during maximal attempts.

However, this risk can be minimized if the lifting is done properly. Proper execution of form for the three exercises involved in powerlifting is important and will go a long way towards preventing most of the risks involved in powerlifting.

Another thing to consider is incorporating supplementary exercise into the weightlifting program in other to improve the strength and resilience of crucial muscles responsible for stabilization throughout the body. This will further help reduce the risk of injury and reduce body tension.

It is also advisable for elite powerlifters to train under the guidance of an experienced coach or instructor. A powerlifter who follows a proper program created by an experienced coach will experience limited occasions of bleeding and injuries during a max attempt.

If they ever occur, it will only be during the peak phase of training cycles. This phase is usually constructed to last for a short amount of time during preparation for a competition.

The important thing is to know the risks and strategize in such a way that this peak period only lasts for a short duration so as to limit bleeding and injury occurrence.

What to Do in the Event of a Nosebleed

Men boxing, one of them with a nosebleed.

You’ve probably experienced a nosebleed at least once in your life. This being said, I’ll give you a quick rundown on what to do in case you get one unexpectedly.

  • Sit down and slightly tilt your head backward, proceed to firmly pinch the soft part of your nose just above your nostrils for at least 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Lean forward and breathe through your mouth so as to drain the blood down your nose rather than the back of your throat.
  • Put an ice bag in a towel and place it on the bridge of your nose. The coldness from this can help reduce blood flow. As an added tip, make sure you do this while you’re still pinching your nose.
  • Make sure you stay upright also as this helps to reduce the blood pressure in the blood vessels of your nose and will help stop further bleeding.

In the instance of a serious nosebleed, these procedures might be required:

  • Cautery: In this procedure, the bleeding is sealed off by applying a stick with a special chemical on it which helps stop the bleeding.
  • Nasal Packing: If cautery isn’t able to stop the nosebleed, doctors might have to pack the nose with special sponges to stop the bleeding, this is usually required when the nasal vessels have a severe eruption.

When your nosebleed eventually stops, try not to do the following for 24 hours: blow your nose, pick your nose, drink hot drinks or alcohol, or pick any scabs that form as they help the rupture to heal properly and prevent infection.

You may also want to stop any form of weight lifting or strenuous exercise for a while. If the bleeding continues after this procedure it is best you seek medical attention.

How to Prevent Nose Bleeds

Blue water in a deep lake or ocean.

Although you can’t stop 100 percent of nose bleeds, there’s some steps you can take to prevent them. Nose bleeds are often caused by things you can’t control, but there are still things you can do to help.

Drink enough water: Hydration is one of the most important aspects. If your body is dehydrated, the membranes in your nose are much more likely to crack and become dry. If this skin is dry, it’s more likely to bleed under the wrong circumstances. Drink a healthy amount of water every day, and avoid getting annoying nose bleeds.

Fix vitamin deficiencies: As I said before, the lack of vitamins like C, K, B, and even iron can cause nosebleeds in anyone, not just powerlifters. Vitamins and nutrients like these help manage and clot your blood, so if you don’t have enough of them, you could be in trouble. When you get a cut or start bleeding anywhere, your blood is designed to clot. You also form a scab and stop the bleeding. Missing out on these vitamins can stop your blood from clotting, so you might bleed for longer than you should.

Manage your blood pressure: Your blood pressure is another important aspect. There are many ways to control blood pressure, like having a better diet and being more in shape. If you’re into exercise at all, you’re hopefully already doing these things. In fact, salt is one of the main causes of high blood pressure.

These are just a few ways you can prevent nosebleeds, but overall, just keep yourself healthy. If you have poor health and diets, you’re more likely to get them, and other negative health effects. Keep yourself healthy, and you should avoid unnecessary nosebleeds.

The Bottom Line

Like any other sport, powerlifting and lifting maximal weights have their risks and disadvantages. If you find yourself experiencing frequent bleeds, you should seek medical attention in a bid to identify the underlying issue.

While there may be many downsides to powerlifting, nose bleeding still remains one of the rare negative effects and they only occur in situations when the body can no longer take the pressure.

These negative effects of powerlifting, regardless of how mild or severe they may seem, does not change the fact that powerlifting can also be an incredibly rewarding activity to partake in. It’s usually the lifter who ultimately determines how much of the potential negative effects they let affect them.

If you wish to break world records and become an elite lifter, then powerlifting will take over your life and you’ll experience more negative effects. However, those who just want to lift as a means to build muscle strength may probably never experience most of the negative effects.

Overall, powerlifting can serve as a natural means of exercise for just about anyone. This is one of the things that make the sport even more interesting.

Competitions, where there’re a wide variety of individuals competing to break records, are even more fun to watch and partake in.

Pete Schenkel

My name is Pete Schenkel, and I've been into weightlifting since I was a teenager. Now, my main focus is growing Powerful Lifting and putting more information out there. In fact, I'm also currently working on becoming a certified personal trainer.

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