Breathing is important, right? If you are not breathing, chances are you are dead (a very good chance). Proper breathing during exercise is also very important. Some people take this to a whole other level by sounding like they are hyperventilating during a workout, but their mind is in the right place.
Another bi-product on breathing properly is the grunting and yelling that can occur in a gym. Studies do show however that grunting and yelling does help as opposed to trying to be quiet and holding your peace.
The general prescription for breathing during exercise is inhalation during the eccentric portion of said exercise, and exhalation during the concentric phase. To give an example using the barbell bench press, inhale before lowering the bar to the chest, and exhale when you are pushing the weight away from you.
When looking at the importance of breathing during aerobic activities, such as running or swimming, a good breathing pattern ensures that your working muscles will continue to receive the oxygen they need to keep contracting. Other than the oxygen side of things, proper breathing helps out as well with blood pressure control. This is were weight lifting and breathing comes in.
When a person is straining during a rep, their heart rate increases. If a person focuses on holding their breath, not only is this a strain on their lungs but also extremely taxing on their heart rate which equals higher than usual blood pressure. Dizziness can occur and headaches as well.
A good way to look at what holding your breath does to the body is when we look at exercises that involves a person holding their breath for their benefit. These exercises are squats and deadlifts. Squats and deadlifts take a heavy toll on your whole body and can cause an extreme change in your blood pressure which can make you dizzy from time to time. You will notice it the most when you are pushing new personal records in weight where there is a lot of strain to your body. It is typical that when you get dizzy that you are not getting enough oxygen to your bloodstream.
So, as you can see certain movements may benefit holding your breath, but that is usually when you are doing one big movement for power. Be mindful and remember to breathe (or grunt) during your reps, it does your body good.