Do You Turn Into A Tomato Face When You Squat?
April 27th 2019
Find out how common it is to get a red face, as bright as a cherry tomato when squatting. Squats are one of the fundamental exercises for building strength. No strength training program is complete without including some squats. Usually, this will be at least once or twice a week. However, there are some programs that can have you squat four, five or even six times a week. For special squat programs, you may even squat everyday.
When you squat, do you have to get a red face? Is that normal? Is it healthy? I know that when I squat, I need to hold my breath. As a result, I could feel the pressure building up on my face and I would turn slightly red. So, is it common?
Having a red face when doing squats
It is normal to have a red face when you hold your breath while squatting. However, there are certain factors that can make redness more prone to occur such as spikes in blood pressure, body temperature, air temperature, and humidity to name a few.
Because of the breathing technique taught in many beginner strength training programs, like Starting Strength and Greyskull LP, we have to understand that we can only become tight if we are holding in your breath. Did you ever try to hold your breath as long as you can when you were a kid? The longer you hold it, the redder your face becomes. Eventually, your face may even turn blue, purple and then white. The remaining three colors are face colors you never want to see since your body is being deprived of oxygen. If no oxygen can reach your brain, this is not good news.
This red face feeling gets exaggerated when you couple it with heavy squats. Now, you are holding your breath and while having heavy weights on your back. As you try to actively get out of the hole, you can feel the pressure build up in your face, a result from both heavy squatting and holding your breath.
However, there are many other different signs that can cause you to develop face redness prematurely.
1. Blood Pressure spikes
As you squat heavy weights, your blood pressure will surge upward. This is partially due to you holding your breath when you get out of the squat hole. There is nothing much we can do here since this is the standard for a successful squat. We can, however, limit other factors that can limit our ability to squat heavy weights
2. Current experience level
Did you remember the first time you squatted 225lbs? How about when you first squatted 315lbs? 405lbs? As you continue to climb the strength ladder, you noticed that previous squat PRs are no longer a challenge. Before, you would turn red and continue to have a red face for 225lbs. Now, since your new PR is well over 225lbs, 225lbs feels like a warmup for you. Your body has adapted and no longer is challenged.
3. Body temperature
If you ever felt yourself heating up, either due to stress or illness, you will know that you are more prone to certain symptoms. When you are doing heavy squats while being stressed out about life, you tend to get a red face more often.
At the same time, many lifters will counterargue that you will get a red face regardless if you are stressed or not. That statement is a fact and I would also like to add that you are more prone to getting out of breath more. In addition to that, a higher body temperature may already make your face a bit redder than usual. Notice how fever patients typically have red faces?
4. Air temperature
When it gets hot, your body will also get hot as well. Though we have mechanisms to keep our body temperature normal, hot weather will cause our bodies to overheat. As a result, lifters are more susceptible to having a red face. So, make sure you stay hydrated and have a damp towel to cool your face and body down.
Lifting in a humid environment can also cause your body to overheat. As a result, you know what will happen - a red squat face. Up here in New York, we do not get too much humid weather since we experience all the four seasons. Since I lift in a garage gym, it gets particularly worse during the warmer days. I still train though.
For states and countries closer to the equator, you will experience a much more different training atmosphere, especially if your gym is outdoors.
When should a red face be a concern when squatting?
Squatting is a safe activity to do. Humans have been doing it for millions of years. However, heavy squats allow lifters to push through what many experts believe are “human limits.” Is it safe? Of course not. Heavy lifting is never safe. But we can best prepare ourselves in order to achieve what is right for us.
So, when is a red face an issue during heavy squats?
I. Difficulty breathing
If you are gasping for air, it might be wise to take a step back. Do you usually feel this way? Can you still breathe? You should never be running out of air during the squat. It is one thing to be deconditioning from lifting weights - you will need do more volume in order to build up your work capacity. However, if you know that something is wrong, just stop squatting and examine your situation.
II. Your heart is still racing even during your rest periods
It is normal to still have an elevated heart rate right after you stop the squats. However, if your heart rate is not dropping 5-10 minutes after one set of heavy squats, be mindful of what you do next.
III. Blurred vision
For some lifters that really pushed their limits with a red face during squats, you may get to see stars or even blurred vision! This can happen during the squat set or right after you racked the weights. Though it is not painful, many lifters claim that it is somewhat frightening since they have pushed past their previous limitations and really stepped into the unknown.
I have seen stars after multiple squats sessions. It is definitely not a good feeling and I made sure to take deeper breaths while staying hydrated.
IV. Heat exhaustion symptoms
This is more geared towards people who lift in hot weather or outdoor gyms. Making sure your body stays cool and hydrated is essential to having a good training session. If you are not taking care of your body during the hot weather, you can suffer from the following symptoms:
-Dark, colored urine
So, it is important to respect and acknowledge your body’s limitations. At the same time, do not let that handicap you and make you lose motivation to improve.
Bursted blood vessels in my eyes from squats? Normal?
For some lifters that exert themselves aggressively during heavy squats, you may develop small red specks around your eyes. This is due to your capillaries bursting from doing squats. It is just one of those things that can happen when you are training hard and doing squats the right way. Because you are holding your breath and creates a ton of tightness and pressure, you may pop a capillary or two in your eyes.
From what many lifters experienced, these injuries usually heal quickly. It is a good sign that you are training hard and should continue to do so.
Getting a red tomato face during squats proves to me that you are trying very hard. We are all on this journey towards getting stronger, one red face at a time during squats. As the years go by, you will chuckle when you use to get a red face now using your current working set numbers.