Suppose you are trying to lift a very heavy thing. You hold your breath and concentrate on lifting it with all your might. Or suppose you are trying to relieve constipation ... ;-)

Is there an English verb to describe it?

Remark: Holding your breath is the key.

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    Though it primarily refers to a woman in labor, you might consider "bear down".
    – user3169
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 2:58
  • 3
    Is there a word for this in your native language? You might mention it, someone might recognize it and find a good translation. Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 4:02
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    @CowperKettle Yes. いきむ Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 8:12

2 Answers 2


I think you are looking for the word strain. At the moment, I am unable to find a definition that explicitly includes "holding your breath", but at the very least I believe it is implied. It is also included as a symptom of constipation on WebMD.

One would also strain while trying to lift heavy objects.

I find definitions like this

1 [with object] Force (a part of one’s body or oneself) to make a strenuous or unusually great effort:

It is not explicit about the "holding your breath".

I found another case where it is used with boxes:

If you have to strain to carry the load, it's too heavy. [1.].

Here are a few images I got from googling "straining":

Man's face Male weight lifter


Valsalva Maneuver- Forced exhalation against a closed rima glottidis as may occur during periods of staining while defecating... meaning holding your breath while pushing out poop

  • 1
    I think this might actually be accurate, but it would benefit from a reference. Also, OP was looking for a verb.
    – Em.
    Commented Apr 15, 2017 at 3:53
  • @Max It doesn't appear to be accurate... Wikipedia says it "is performed by moderately forceful attempted exhalation against a closed airway, usually done by closing one's mouth, pinching one's nose shut while pressing out as if blowing up a balloon." It has nothing to do with pooping.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Apr 15, 2017 at 4:08
  • @ColleenV Yeah, I'm no expert, but when I took a look at the page, I thought maybe it was possibly the same or similar. The page does go on to talk about weight-lifting and "complications due to defecation". But in any case, this answer could benefit from including a source to give it some credibility.
    – Em.
    Commented Apr 15, 2017 at 4:27

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