Learning everything you can about the fundamentals of freediving can potentially save you months or years of frustrating practicing how to freedive deeper. There are a couple of important elements you need to focus on when trying to freedive deeper including breath-holding and relaxation. Both techniques can go hand in hand and each are issues that beginners tend to struggle with. In this guide, I’ll go over exactly what you need to do to reach your diving goals, easily and safely. Freediving is very challenging, even for experienced divers, but that’s what makes it so exciting for many. If you want to achieve your diving goals, then the tips and techniques that you’ll find in this guide can help get you there.
The Main Elements of Freediving
As a new diver, you have a lot to learn ranging from perfecting your back-roll scuba entry, to using the proper gear, practicing relaxation techniques, and learning how to pre-dive breathe-up. Learning how to freedive deeper can be a long process and one that takes several months to learn. It’s all about breath-holding control, remaining relaxed, and challenging your body. Of course, there is some diving gear that can help you achieve your goals, including the best freediving watches and top of the line fins.
But even if you have all the right gear, there are certain techniques you’ll still have to practice before you’re able to easily and comfortably dive deeper. As I mentioned above, holding your breath and relaxing underwater are important and most beginners tend to struggle with both of these elements.
So, how can you focus on relaxing when you’re underwater? How can you get better at holding your breath?
First, when it comes to holding your breath, there are many exercises that you can practice that can help to increase the length of time you’re able to hold your breath, allowing you to dive deeper. Additionally, there are tips and tricks you can try that will help you feel calmer underwater. Fear and panic are the beginner’s biggest enemies. But once you master this, you’ll be able to easily reach your dive goals.
By following the exercises and techniques included in this guide, you can achieve the results you’re striving for. Many people who have used these techniques claim they can dive approximately one hundred and ten feet more, in just a matter of a few months, holding their breath for four to five minutes. However, there are other things you can try that will help you dive deeper that don’t have to do with relaxing or holding your breath.
Factors such as fin type, diet, finning technique, and experience can all factor into how deep you can dive.
Now, let’s begin by going over the exercises you can follow that can improve your breath-holding time for deeper diving.
Increase Breath-Holding Time
One of the most important things to master about freediving is the ability to hold your breath for a long period of time.
It won’t matter how good the gear you have is, which equalization technique you use, or how fast you can fin if you haven’t mastered your breath-holds. If you want to reach your potential as a freediver, then you need to learn how to hold your breath longer.
When it comes to mastering your ability to hold your breath, it will come down to practicing one to three times a day.
There are a few things you should focus on when you’re practicing:
- Your general breathing ability
- The carbon dioxide threshold
- The hypoxic threshold
Train with these three things in mind in order to increase your threshold.
Your Ability to Hold Your Breath
Different body types, genes, and lifestyle can all factor into how well the lungs function. Since there is a variance in lung function from person to person, everyone will have a different starting point concerning their general breathing abilities.
Some divers have naturally larger lungs, while others have smaller lungs. Some divers may smoke a pack or two a day, while other divers are physically fit and highly active. Fortunately, where you start off doesn’t really matter. With discipline and practice, in addition to following the correct breathing techniques, you can easily maximize your ability to hold your breath and freedive more than one hundred feet in a matter of months.
When it comes to your general breathing ability as you freedive, there are a few main things that can have a positive or negative impact on your ability. This includes Pranayama yoga, using an air restriction device, and abdominal breathing.
Breathing from the Abdomen
For abdominal breathing, you’ll focus on breathing through your nose so that the entire abdominal cavity and stomach will expand first. Once your chest has filled up with air, you’ll expel the air through your mouth. While it may sound simple, many divers fail to practice and follow abdominal breathing and do chest breathing instead.
Chest breathing involves inhaling shallowly and rapidly through the top portion of the lungs. This will lower the body’s ability to absorb oxygen into the bloodstream. This results in the need to take more breaths to keep the body running.
You may be surprised to learn how many divers believe that they’re breathing deeply during a pre-dive breath up, when they’re actually just doing a version of basic chest breathing.
If you don’t want to kill your total breath-hold time, then learn how to breathe into your abdominal cavity correctly.
Abdominal breathing will boost a diver’s ability to breathe efficiently, allowing their body to get more oxygen while working less. Following this breathing technique will also release an increased level of carbon dioxide from the body when exhaling. This will increase the diver’s starting carbon dioxide threshold.
If you practice this abdominal breathing technique enough it can turn into a habit in which you breathe into your abdominal cavity all throughout the day, without even being aware of it. This can lead to a better pre-dive breathe-up.
Even when you’re not diving, this type of breathing has been shown to help promote relaxation, decrease blood pressure, and lower heart rate.
In most cases, a freediver will not do this type of breathing technique correctly since they use a weight belt that can prevent the abdominal cavity from fully expanding.
Standing Breath Exercise
To practice this breathing technique, follow the standing breath exercise by standing with your back straight, placing one hand on your chest, with the other hand on your stomach. Next, breathe in slowly through the nose as you feel your stomach rise.
Breathe out through the mouth and feel the stomach deflate. As you follow these steps, keep your hand on your chest still. This exercise should be repeated a total of ten times.
This is the perfect starting exercise and one that ingrains abdominal breathing into muscle memory and the subconscious, so you can begin doing it all throughout the day or you can practice right before a dive.
So, how many times a week should you practice this exercise in order to experience results? I recommend shooting for two to three times a day for two minutes. After practicing for four or five weeks you should notice your breathe-ups before a dive are much deeper and more relaxed.
What are Air Restrictions Devices?
Another easy way you can improve your breathing ability is to use an air restriction device. These devices will work by limiting the diver’s amount of air that is exhaled and inhaled. This type of extra resistance is designed to boost the lung capacity and strengthen the lungs while increasing the diver’s carbon dioxide threshold.
For the best results, you should practice with this type of device two times a day, seven days a week.
If you don’t own one of these devices, then you may be missing out on a highly accessible and easy way to boost your lung capacity. Using this device will take discipline, but it’s definitely worth giving it a shot since it basically allows you to train your lungs for freediving like a pro.
There are many different types of yoga, each of which can increase your ability to breathe freely, promoting oxygen consumption that’s more efficient.
However, many divers swear by this branch of yoga since it specifically deals with relaxation and breath, making it the most useful for increasing breath-hold time for diving purposes. This type of yoga focuses on breathing deeply using the diaphragm, which will lead to deeper inhalation during a breathe-up before a dive. It can also help with improving regulation and control over your breathing while promoting relaxation. I recommend practicing yoga two times a week for fifteen minutes.
How Do You Boost Your Carbon Dioxide Threshold?
When you breathe in, the body uses the oxygen in the lungs to create energy. This will leave carbon dioxide as a waste product. The longer a person holds their breath, the more the body converts the air in the lungs to carbon dioxide. This will cause the level of carbon dioxide in the blood to rise. This will be detected by the CO2 receptors all throughout the body. Since these receptors have detected that there’s too much carbon dioxide in the blood, they’ll send a signal to the brain that you need to take a breath.
These high levels of carbon dioxide in the blood are what gives a person the urge to breathe. A person may also experience diaphragm contractions, which will begin in the chest and begin jolting up and down the body. This is another way the body reminds us to breathe. While the urge to breathe is telling you that you’re running out of air an experienced diver will recognize these signs as a warning and will know that they still have plenty of air left.
As a freediver, one of your goals is to train your body and mind to get used to an increased level of carbon dioxide in the blood. This is known as improving the carbon dioxide threshold.
In order to increase your carbon dioxide threshold and resist the urge to breathe your mind needs to recognize that these signals are fake. You will not pass out or die as soon as you feel it. These actions are simply a warning that the body creates. You can actually easily improve your carbon dioxide threshold by practicing some of the techniques below.
Static Apnea Types
Static apnea is a technique that allows you to practice your ability to hold your breath by holding your breath for determined periods of time, without moving.
Wet static apnea should be done in the water, with a partner. You’ll begin by lying face down in the water as you hold your breath. The water will train and activate the mammalian dive reflex. This reflex does many things, such as lowering the heart rate and creating peripheral vasoconstriction, both of which will help the diver to optimize their body for diving as they conserve their oxygen.
Dry static apnea is practicing holding your breath on dry land, without supervision or movement. Both dry and wet static apnea can be used with carbon dioxide tables in order to boost your CO2 threshold.
So, what are carbon dioxide tables?
Below, you’ll find how CO2 tables work
You’ll hold your breath for a determined period of time, decreasing the amount of time you’re allowed to breathe in between a set. This will cause the CO2 levels in the blood to rise progressively. This forces the body to adapt to the CO2 threshold. Each carbon dioxide table should only include a total of eight sets of breath-holding a rest. Keep in mind, the apnea time should be approximately half the time of the longest breath-hold.
If the diver is able to hold their breath for a total of two minutes, then their apnea time will be just sixty seconds.
Dynamic Carbon Dioxide Tables
Unlike the static carbon dioxide tables, dynamic tables can be practiced as the diver is moving. These tables involve swimming underwater for a determined distance, for a certain period of time. After each lap underwater, the diver will come up and breathe for the remainder of the time that’s allowed for each lap. As an example, the diver will set a goal to swim sixty feet in sixty seconds. Once they’ve reached the sixty feet, they will come up and use the remaining time left to breathe. This should be practiced for a total of eight sets.
During the rest periods, it’s important that the diver breathes normally. If they breathe too hard they will flush out all of the CO2, which can have a negative impact on the effectiveness of the exercise.
Dynamic carbon dioxide training comes with a couple of benefits, such as training fin speed and it also increases the body’s lactate acid threshold.
Dynamic tables will help to train the brain and body to know how hard to fin, allowing the diver to maintain a sustainable pace during a freedive.
As I mentioned above, this type of training will also increase the body’s lactic acid threshold. Lactic acid is produced by the body when the muscles don’t have an adequate amount of oxygen needed in order to produce energy during exercise. Many divers have felt the effects of lactic acid, especially when they’re finning to the surface. Usually, this is felt as a sort of burning sensation and a weak feeling in the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and abs. The effects of lactic acid can have a negative impact on your finning, especially if you’re not using the best fins for scuba diving. This issue can end up cutting down on the driver’s freediving depth.
The dynamic carbon dioxide tables can work as a very powerful anaerobic exercise that boosts the body’s lactic acid threshold for longer and deeper diving ability. Practice dynamic carbon dioxide tables twice a week. Avoid practicing on the same day as static carbon dioxide training.
If you’re not able to do the dynamic carbon dioxide tables, then try practicing dry apnea walks.
What is a Dry Apnea Walk?
This is another form of anaerobic training and it refers to a type of training style in which the diver works their muscles without fresh oxygen, usually at eighty percent of their maximum heart rate.
This exercise is similar to dynamic carbon dioxide tables, however, you will not be swimming underwater. Instead, for this type of exercise, the diver holds their breath as they walk at a predetermined distance, on dry land. This exercise can be repeated several times with changes in the distance to make it more difficult or easier.
This exercise can also be done underwater, which may be easier for some people. Many divers will use this technique since it’s more convenient.
In order to do a dry apnea walk, you’ll begin by sitting on a bench or chair with a relaxed posture and straight back. Next, you’ll perform your regular breathe-ups during pre-dive. After the final breath, you’ll hold it for a period of forty-five seconds to one minute. While you hold your breath, start walking a distance that’s challenging for you, but still manageable. After you breathe again during the rest period, you’ll set a new destination goal. This destination should depend on how well the previous walk went. If the last walk was very easy, make this next walk more challenging. Do this for a total of seven times. Practice dry apnea walks two to three times a week if you’re not already doing the dynamic carbon dioxide tables.
How to Boost Your Hypoxic Threshold
Once you’ve practiced your carbon dioxide threshold, the next step is to get the body used to functioning on lower oxygen levels. This technique is referred to as hypoxic threshold training.
The hypoxic threshold is the body’s ability to function with low oxygen levels. Usually, this type of training is done by getting the body into the state of low oxygen repeatedly, until the body gradually adapts to it.
With enough training, the body will learn how to efficiently operate with lower oxygen levels, which is crucial for freediving. This type of training can lead to longer breath-holding times and diving at deeper depths.
After enough training, your body learns to operate very efficiently even when it has low oxygen levels, which is crucial for freediving. Keep in mind, that this type of training can take several months before you see improvement.
Oxygen tables is a great training exercise to practice that will force the body to adapt to functioning on low oxygen levels. The less oxygen the body needs to function, the deeper the diver will be able to freedive. Just like carbon dioxide tables, oxygen tables have a total of eight sets of apnea, complete with rest times between each of the sets. During oxygen tables, the rest time between each of the sets will remain the same while the apnea time will change with each set.
Increasing the apnea time can drain the bloodstream and body of oxygen which will make this type of training more effective. You can practice this technique two times a week, however, it should not be practiced on the same day as the carbon dioxide tables.
A good pre-dive breathe-up can be very useful if you’re trying to dive deeper, allowing you to maximize your bottom time. The best pre-dive breath-up will allow the diver to get as much oxygen into the body as possible as they remain as relaxed as possible.
Keep in mind, the pre-dive breath-up shouldn’t be done at a pace that can result in hyperventilation, which can be potentially dangerous.
In order to pre-dive breathe-up correctly, try exhaling twice as long as the length inhaled. So, if you inhale for five seconds, you’ll exhale for ten seconds. This should be done for a total of two minutes. Once you’re finished, you can take a final breathe before you begin your descent.
For more information, click here to read my article on diving tips for beginners.
How to Remain Relaxed
One of the most important things a new diver needs to learn how to master in order to boost their diving depth is to learn how to remain relaxed. When a diver remains relaxed throughout the entire experience it can have a huge impact on how long they’re able to hold their breath. This type of diving is a mental game. The diver’s ability to hold their breath and remain relaxed will determine how deep they can dive. Ideally, a diver’s heart rate should be below forty-five beats per minute. If a diver is not able to relax their mind, then their heartbeat will rise above forty-five beats per minute, which will cause the body to burn off more oxygen. This can ruin your total bottom time, resulting in a shorter diving depth. Freediving is all about challenging the diver. If the diver is stressed out during a dive, they won’t be able to remain underwater for long.
This is a great relaxation technique. Research has shown that when a diver consistently visualizes themselves performing well they will be more likely to achieve their goals. Try to set aside ten to fifteen minutes a day and visualize a dive and how well you do underwater. Try to choose a specific moment during a dive, one that normally stresses you out and force yourself to visualize this moment going well. This can help to keep you relaxed and calm the next time by rewiring how your brain responds to it.
Meditating can be very effective and can help you to remain relaxed during a deep dive. The key will be to meditate daily by finding a quiet spot in the home, closing your eyes and focusing on your breath. Try focusing on what’s in your control. When you’re diving, the best way to remain relaxed is by focusing only on what you’re able to control. A diver that’s calm will not concern themselves with worrying about something they have zero control over. Worrying during a freedive will only cause you to breathe harder, preventing you from staying underwater for long.
Try listening to music that makes you feel relaxed, right before a dive. Use some headphones and listen to positive happy music, which will cause your brain to go into a more relaxed state.
If you want to learn how to freedive deeper, you need to master holding your breath and relaxing while underwater. Doing so will give you the best shot at breaking your current record, allowing you to hit more than one hundred feet in a matter of months. Additionally, the best way to boost your ability to hold your breath longer is to freedive more often. These exercises in my guide should be applied to real-life scenarios in order to force the body and brain to learn how to adapt to diving deeper, safely.