You don’t know what it’s like to wear a mask while working out until you do a 5 x 5 RM deadlift. It’s not pretty, but it’s doable. Here are guidelines.

I had to try three different kinds of masks before I found one that fit halfway decently and didn’t irritate the area under my eye.

After about three months of lifting weights at home when gyms were closed, I finally got back into the gym.

Few people were wearing a mask (before mandates). I was one of those few.

It was a no-brainer; wear the mask for the entire workout, including 5 x 5 RM deadlifts – which was my first routine on back day, and they were intense and heavy.

What Deadlifting Feels Like with a Mask

It made me think of what people with COPD probably feel like when lightly strength training or, in more severe cases, when walking across a room.

COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

I also wondered if the feeling was similar to what someone with chronic heart failure feels like.

People with COPD and heart failure aren’t the people you’ll find doing deadlifts.

But it’s food for thought: Wearing a mask while lifting heavy shorts you on oxygen. You’ll be breathing noticeably harder. And I’m referring to wearing the mask OVER your nose, not just over your mouth.

Your mask may get sucked into your face with each deep breath following an intense set. Rather than remove it, lightly pull it out a bit while catching your breath.

Another optiion: After completing each max set, steal away to a corner (rather than near people or in a heavily trafficked area), pull the mask down and gulp air for 30 to 45 seconds.

As time goes on with subsequent gym visits, you’ll find you’ll no longer need to pull the mask off to catch your breath; you’ll be able to do it with it fully on.

But this also depends on the thickness of the mask (mine is thicker than the common blue disposable ones).

It was only after deadlifting 5 RM that I had to (initially) pull down the mask (I soon adapted and only pulled it out to recapture my breath while it was still over my nose).

I had no problem keeping it on while recovering from other movements such as the leg press, tire squats, heavy dumbbell squats and incline barbell press.

The mask did NOT reduce my lifting capacity for any strength training including the 5 x 5 RM deadlft. I killed it my first day back at the gym! You can too with a mask!

Another way to describe deadlifting heavy while wearing a mask is that the feeling is perhaps pretty close to what it’d be if working out at an altitude 2,000 feet higher than what you’re used to.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 



Top image:, 8photo   copper wear mask