Nelson, M. D., Kellawan, J. M., & Wolski, L. (2006). The Valsalva maneuver revisited: A natural occurring phenomenon leading to strength acquisition. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 38(5), Supplement abstract 1771.

"Temporary apnea combined with forceful exhaling against the glottis, defined as the Valsalva maneuver (VM), has been reported to produce large increases in blood pressure, fluctuations in heart rate, and increases in intra-abdominal and intra-thoracic pressure. These side-effects, among others, have lead athletes and sport enthusiasts to consciously avoid practicing this technique. A great deal of research has investigated the potential risks associated with the VM; however, to our knowledge no study has investigated the potential benefits the VM may provide with regard to strength acquisition, as well as the mechanisms for an increase or decrease in strength development."

This study determined whether the Valsalva maneuver enhances strength development during maximal voluntary isometric contraction. Ss were randomly assigned to perform maximal contractions with either control first or the Valsalva maneuver first. Strength was measured using a grip strength dynamometer and a Cybex Isokinetic Dynamometer (knee flexion and extension).

Maximal grip strength was higher when practicing the Valsalva maneuver in 67% of Ss. Maximal voluntary isometric knee extension at 90 increased in 80% of Ss while performing a Valsalva maneuver. Maximal voluntary isometric knee flexion at 140 was significantly improved when a Valsalva maneuver was performed.

Implication. The Valsalva maneuver, when practiced by healthy college age individuals, improves strength during maximal voluntary isometric contractions.

Return to Table of Contents for this issue.