Bloody Noses and Deadlifts: What are the Causes?
In 2016, 28-year-old strongman Eddie Hall deadlifted 500kg (1,102 lbs.), smashing the world record and shocking the weightlifting community in the process.
Just five years earlier, strongmen were struggling to break 460 kg (1,010 lbs.), and Eddie's record was a monumental feat. But it didn't come easy, and some of the most memorable images from that event show the Stoke-on-Trend native with a red face and a bleeding nose.
Hall also passed out after completing the lift and has gone on record as saying that he nearly died after pushing his body further than it was supposed to be pushed.
The deadlift record has actually been broken since that lift (Game of Thrones actor, Hafthor Bjornsson, went 1 kg better in 2020), but Hall's effort is still considered to be one of the most memorable. Not only did he put himself through hell to get there, but the lift also put him well ahead of the pack and it took 4 years before anyone bettered him.
Hall isn't the only heavy lifter to have experienced a nosebleed when performing this exercise, so what's going on here? Most nosebleeds are caused by nose picking and they are usually harmless, so what's triggering such aggressive bleeds in powerlifters and strongmen, and are they indicative of a serious problem?
Mikhail Shivlyakov, Eddie Hall, and Others: Deadlift Nosebleeds
Hall isn't the only lifter to have experienced a nosebleed during the deadlift. The same thing happened to Russian lifter Mikhail Shivlyakov during the Arnold Classic in 2018, sending YouTube into a furor in the process.
It begs the question, why do deadlifts cause nosebleeds?
Why Do Deadlifts Cause Nosebleeds?
Nosebleeds are not just seen with deadlifts, but they do seem to be more common with this particular lift. The problem is that the deadlift engages all of the back and legs, requiring a lot of effort and force.
Compound exercises like the deadlift create intra-thoracic and intra-abdominal pressure under the strain of a max effort lift, and this raises blood pressure. The high-pressure places strain on the delicate blood vessels in the nose, and this pressure increase can cause the vessels to rupture.
That's not all, as there are things that powerlifters and weightlifters do while performing the deadlift that can increase the risk.
The Valsalva maneuver, for instance, requires them to exhale forcefully while holding their breath, essentially exhaling through the mouth while holding their nose. It slows the heart rate and creates the force that lifters need, but the Valsalva maneuver also increases blood pressure.
Powerlifting gear (knee wraps, belts, squat suits) can also be problematic, as it's designed to compress and provide more rigidity, allowing them to generate more force during key lifts. And then you have smelling salts, which perk them up but also aggravate the nose.
Generally speaking, a high-level competitor performing a deadlift will do everything it takes to make that lift, even if it means suffering a nosebleed, passing out, or putting their body under immense strain. The good news is that while it makes for a pretty gory sight, the nosebleeds experienced by powerlifters are rarely serious.
It should resolve on its own, but you will need to see medical attention if the bleeding is heavy or continues for more than twenty minutes. If you are a non-competitive weightlifter or powerlifter experiencing regular nosebleeds, you should consult with a medical professional. You may have a problem with high blood pressure that requires medical intervention.
It is always better to be safe than sorry, especially if there is a large amount of blood loss or it's happening every time you lift heavy weights.
If you want to see the aforementioned record-breaking lifts for yourself, you can find them on YouTube. Hafthor Bjornsson, who played Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane in Game of Thrones and is also a world-renowned strongman, holds the current record following a 2020 lift.
He set the record at his home gym in Iceland while using strongman rules. Some have disputed it and played down his record due to the fact that it wasn't performed at a strongman event, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented those events from running and didn't give the Icelandic giant much choice in the matter.
As for Eddie Hall's epic record, it was performed at Strongest Man/World Deadlift Championship in front of 10,000 spectators. You can watch the full video here, along with some of the brutal aftermath.
Russian strongman Mikhail Shivlyakov’s nosebleed occurred at the 2018 Arnold Classic, held during the Arnold Sports Festival.
It's actually the video that most people remember, as the clip of Shivlyakov at the Arnold Sports Festival went viral on social media and has also been uploaded hundreds of times to YouTube.