6 Reasons Lifters Pass Out and How to Avoid It

As we all know, lifting can get pretty intense. When you put your body under these extreme conditions, weird things can happen. But why do some people pass out while lifting weights?

There are multiple reasons for passing out while lifting. These include:

  • Holding your breath too long
  • Low blood sugar
  • Low blood pressure
  • Lifting too much weight
  • Dehydration
  • Not controlling your lifts

Now while many of these can cause you to pass out outside of the gym, they can happen even easier when you’re working out.

Smelling salts are one way to be woken up from being passed out, which you can pick up from AmazonOpens in a new tab. if you’re really worried about it.

While smelling salts are a great way to fix passing out, they don’t fix the underlying problems that caused it in the first place.

Taking the proper precautions, like controlling your breath, lifts, as well as diet, can all help you prevent fainting.

A lifter, who has passed out, laying on the ground.

Despite being embarrassing, passing out in the gym can have some serious consequences. You can drop the weight on top of yourself, as well as fall and break teeth or even bones.

If you learn about why people pass out, and how to avoid it, you can save yourself from injury. Taking the proper precautions can also save you money, say at the dentist if you broke a tooth after passing out.

Overall, it’s not likely that you’ll pass out while you’re working out. In a casual session, it’s more unlikely, but for powerlifters and weightlifters, the risk is greater.

Holding Your Breath Too Long

This might sound weird, but holding your breath while weightlifting can actually be helpful. This is known as the Valsalva Maneuver, which is when you close your airway and put pressure against it using your lungs.

I’ll go over this more in-depth later, but it’s not too important for now. As I said, holding your breath can be a good thing, but doing it too much or in the wrong way can cause you to lose consciousness, or pass out.

You pass out because your blood, and in turn your brain, isn’t getting enough oxygen. Your brain shuts itself down to save you until your breathing becomes normal again.

That’s when you wake up, and there are usually no consequences. You can actually do this yourself if you’re in a safe place, but I don’t recommend it. Babies and young children also do this, and while it’s annoying, there’s usually no long-term damage.

The best way to breathe while lifting is to breathe in during the “easy part” of the lift, and exhale during the “hard part”. I know, that’s a weird way to put it, but you’ll understand.

An example of this would be during the deadlift. You’d inhale while standing up, or while you’re going down. Next, exhale as you push yourself back to the starting position.

If you need a deeper explanation, here’s an article from Built Lean on how to properly breathe while lifting.Opens in a new tab.

All this being said, there aren’t any actual studies that show this method of breathing is better. Although, breathing this way creates consistency and ensures that you’re actually breathing while you’re lifting, so you don’t pass out from lack of air.

Another benefit to this style of breathing is bracing. When you breathe in, out, and hold your breath, it puts pressure on different parts of your body. Adopting this breathing cycle will help protect your spine, and ensure you a lower risk of injury.

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Low Blood Sugar

Low blood sugar can be caused by many different things, including different diseases and conditions, or simply what you’ve eaten, or what you haven’t eaten recently.

Your body uses sugar as fuel, and without enough of it, it will fail. If your lack of blood sugar is severe enough, which is somewhat rare, you’ll pass out. If you don’t get the help you need soon, you could even go into a coma.

Man in the gym who may be on the verge of passing out.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not trying to scare you. This rarely happens, and unless you have a blood sugar-related condition, you should be okay.

However, in some circumstances, you might have something like diabetes and not even know it. If you avoid eating to lose weight and go to the gym, low blood sugar combined with other factors could cause you to pass out.

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Low Blood Pressure

Holding your breath, as I mentioned before, was just one way that you can get low pressure while you’re working out. While this is one of the major causes, there are a few more:

  • Dehydration
  • Poor Diet
  • Changing Position Too Quickly
  • Your Gear is Too Tight

All of these things can cause you to have lower blood pressure, and the first three I’ll go over down below.

Your gear being too tight is another way that you can get lower blood pressure. While fainting might not be directly caused by wearing gear, it can definitely aid in passing out actually happening.

By gear, I mean things like wraps and sleeves. These are meant to compress your muscles, and they’re pretty helpful.

This being said, if they’re too tight, they can negatively affect your blood pressure, in the same way that wearing a hat that’s too small can give you a headache.

If your gear is causing you problems, try stretching them out. If that doesn’t work, you should buy new wraps or sleeves.

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Lifting Too Much Weight

Lifting too much weight could also cause you to pass out. You probably know this, but your body is only able to do so much. When you try to make it do more than it can, the result can be losing consciousness.

If this happens to you, stay calm. Once you wake up, there are almost never any long-term effects. As I’ve mentioned, the only real danger is while you’re knocked out, falling, or dropping weight.

Man deadlifting in a dark room.

To stop this from happening, listen to your body. You should always push yourself in the gym but listen to your body. When your body and your muscles are telling you it’s too much weight, take the hint, and either stop or use less weight.

We all want to get stronger, but you have to do it slowly, otherwise, your body will give out. If you want to get stronger, set goals, progress slowly, and consistently.

If you do this and combine it with a good diet, you’ll get stronger for sure, all while keeping yourself safe and avoiding injury.


As we all know, water is essential for us to keep living. Without it, you’d be in trouble. When you lift weights or work out in any way, it’s even more important that you drink enough water.

If you don’t, there can be some pretty extreme side effects. One of those extreme side effects is passing out. When you have low fluids in your system, your blood is thinner.

This makes your blood pressure lower, and I’ve already gone over why you don’t want that to happen. This is usually a problem for people that are doing a lot of physical activity, like hikers, bikers, or even powerlifters.

It’s pretty common in outdoor sports especially but can happen to anyone that’s not getting enough fluid. Thankfully, aside from a disability in your body, passing out from dehydration is an easy problem to avoid.

Before you start lifting, make sure that you drink water. Along with this, keep drinking throughout and after your lifting session. Just make sure that you don’t drink too much water, or you may throw up, which I don’t think anybody wants to do.

To put it simply; drink water before, during, and after your lifting sessions.

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Not Controlling Your Lifts

Something that can also cause you to faint is lifting your weight too fast and in an uncontrolled manner.

This can happen to a lot of athletes when you’re moving too fast or doing too much at once.

For lifters, it can happen when you’re tossing your weight around and not lifting slowly. When you lift quickly, it can raise your heart rate by a lot.

When this happens, sometimes your body isn’t able to carry oxygen to your brain fast enough. This causes your brain to shut down temporarily, saving itself from brain damage.

Aside from you potentially passing out, moving your weights quickly is horrible for actually making progress in the gym. If you throw your weight around, instead of doing controlled movements, you’re using momentum to lift rather than your actual muscles.

Lifting correctly, in a slow, controlled way, is one of the best things you can do for your health in the gym, as well as for making real progress.

If you lift quickly, it might seem like you’re getting more done, because you lift more in a shorter period of time. As I’ve said, when you lift fast or throw around your weight, you’re using momentum to lift instead of your muscles.

Lifting this way raises your blood pressure, heart rate, and increases your risk of letting go of the weight, potentially dropping it on yourself or throwing it across the room.

Instead, lift slowly. It’ll activate your muscles, and make you more progress with the same amount of sets and reps. While you’re doing this, focus on your form as well, which will help you make even more gains.

Doing so will help you become a better lifter, but also avoid passing out, which is why I’m writing this anyway. Adopting better form and slower lifts will keep your heart rate down, and blood pressure in check, so you won’t go unconscious during your next lifting session.

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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