How to Hold Your Breath for Longer

Boy in scuba mask

If you’re able to hold your breath, you can catch sight of many wonders of the ocean, but if you don’t know how to hold your breath for longer, you may find yourself having to go up for air often,  especially if you’re not using the best dry snorkel. Most snorkelers admit that you can see many of the best sights from just fifteen feet below the water’s surface. This means, if you’re able to hold your breath longer, you will be free to wander without your snorkeling gear and check out amazing reefs and underwater gardens. The trick will be to train yourself using breath control techniques, which is what I’ll go over here.

Breath Holding Skills

The ability to hold your breath for a long period of time allows you to become better acquainted with everything including whale sharks and clownfish, coral, cichlids, and more.

Training for Duck Dives

The first step is finding a friend with some snorkeling experience to help you practice. When you practice, you can learn how to duck dive and hold your breath, rather easily. With a duck dive, you’ll learn how to dive as fast as a duck can. If you’re right above a reed, you’ll need a friend on hand so they can help you keep an eye on sharp coral, tides, and strong currents.

Next, put on your snorkeling or scuba diving fins, which will allow you to propel your body more effectively as you dive while practicing holding your breath. Make sure you gently enter the water, feet first, if you’re on a boat. You can also swim out from the shore, with your mask on and your snorkel in place.

Increasing Surface Intervals

Many pros recommend focusing on increasing the length of your surface interval in order to improve your breath holding skills. This will be the time that you spend on the water’s surface preparing and recovering from a dive. Bottom line if you want to hold your breath longer then surface time is crucial.

In fact, skilled snorkelers claim that you need to spend at least three times more time on the water’s surface than you do underwater. Guessing at the length of time you usually spend on the surface can be tricky. Because of this, you should consider wearing a diving watch. You’d be surprised by how many divers think they’ve hung out on the water’s surface for five minutes and it’s only been two. Purchase a diving watch and don’t pay attention to your dive time or diving depth, just stick to paying attention to the length of the surface interval. Learning how to freedive deeper will happen over time.

Meditative State

Exhale and inhale deeply for five seconds after each inhalation and exhalation, for approximately 120 seconds while you’re floating and relaxed. This will allow your heart rate to slow down as your lungs work on becoming fully oxygenated. The goal is to enter a meditative state of sorts. During this time, you will need to try to prevent hyperventilation. While this technique is used by pro snorkelers and freedivers, those new to diving are susceptible to hyperventilating and may even pass out.

Duck Diving

Snorkeling man

In order to duck dive, you need to also learn how to hold your breath. The following technique is simple to learn, with plenty of practice in mind.

Once the five-minute surface interval is up, make sure you signal your friend with a thumbs up, indicating that you’re ready to dive. Now, take a deep breath via the snorkel, in order to fill up your lungs approximately eighty percent. This will be just short of your full lung capacity. As the water pressure increases as you dive, your lungs and torso will compress.

Next, scoop your arms down as you position your body straight down, directly below the water’s surface. Take the tuck position, with your knees folded to the chest and your torso upside down, just like a duck when they swoop down into the water for food. Straighten out your legs, allowing your feet to stick above the water’s surface, with the weight of your legs allowing you to slide into the water.

As you hold your breath, choose a goal in the water. It can be a large piece of coral that’s ten to twelve feet below you. When you feel like your lungs are on fire and you’re not able to hold your breath any longer, exhale slowly pushing out small bubbles through the snorkel, then gently scull the water a couple of times as you head to the surface. Your body’s natural buoyancy will do most of the work if you relax, although you’ll need to use your fins here to help out a little as you rise.

You can practice this duck dive, remaining underwater longer each time. As you can see, this will take a lot of work and time in the water. Don’t expect to get the hang of this type of dive overnight. Instead, plan on practicing for several weeks before you’re able to double the length of time you’re able to remain underwater.

What May Be Holding You Back

Many people struggle to learn how to hold their breath because they’re not comfortable in the water and what potentially lies beneath it. In order to train to hold your breath you must be comfortable in the water. It’s important that you learn how to overcome your unnatural and natural fears. Even just a little fear can reduce your ability to hold your breath and causes your heart to beat faster.

Some people have seen too many scary movies and have a very real fear of sharks. Sharks are very large predators, but they are also surprisingly skittish and fear humans. They’re also very cautious when it comes to eating something they’re not familiar with. Humans are an unknown food that sharks are hesitant to even try. Should you run into a shark, show them that you’re not food. Swim right up to them and show that you’re not afraid. The shark will immediately turn away.

New divers may have a fear of other animals in the ocean, such as poisonous fish and snakes. But both will not attack you. Instead, marine life tends to swim away in fear of you and want’s to simply be left alone. To learn more, read my in-depth article on the 5 reasons not to touch marine life.

If your fear involves becoming entangled in seaweed, you can also overcome this fear. Seaweed is very slippery and grows in a way that it’s basically impossible to get entangled in. While you’re in the water be sure to touch seaweed so you can learn how to detect them even if your eyes are closed. If you’re struggling with intense currents and rough sea conditions, then seaweed can also work to help you remain in one place.

Divers with a fear of drowning often struggle the most with learning how to hold their breath. But learning how to hold your breath can also help you get over your fears.

In many cases, snorkel instructors can make your fears worse by going in-depth concerning every possible thing that could go wrong. Instead of focusing on your fears, focus on how enjoyable a safe snorkeling experience can be.

Holding Your Breath for A Quick Dive

The ability to hold your breath is crucial. Before you head into the water, you need to learn how your body can react to a lack of air. This is accomplished in a number of steps. Make sure you use a clock with second hands or a stopwatch for this.

Try holding your breath as long as possible when the hand reaches the 60/0. Avoid cheating since doing so will prevent your progress. Most beginners will give up after twenty to forty seconds. Keep in mind that your body requires a breath every three seconds, so you have basically skipped between seven and thirteen breaths, which is great. In reality, the body doesn’t need to breathe that often.

If you want to attempt this again, make sure you wait a full minute in order for your body to catch up, then you can repeat it. You’re probably able to hold your breath longer at thirty seconds up to fifty seconds. This is a significant improvement. You’ll want to continue doing this technique until you find that there’s little improvement. By repeating this exercise, you will improve, but there are other techniques that you can utilize that will stretch your ability to hold your breath even more.

Advanced Breath Holding Techniques

Once you’ve stopped making progress with the other technique, it’s time to learn the advanced breath-holding technique that’s designed to improve your breath control. Just like the technique, I went over earlier for duck diving, take five deep breaths. Hold for three seconds when you breathe in and hold an additional three seconds when you breathe out. This allows you to store oxygen in your big muscles and all the circulating blood. Hold your breath again and see how long you can hold it for. You’ll find that you’ll give up at forty to ninety seconds, which is a huge improvement.

Avoid taking more than five deep breaths since this can cause you to feel dizzy, meaning you’ve removed too much carbon dioxide out of your blood, which will allow you to remain down past the safe level. This can cause you to drown or faint. Stick with the five breaths and avoid experimenting without a friend who knows what they’re doing and can keep an eye on you.

When you’re trying to improve how long you can hold your breath, it’s important that you learn what’s going on inside your body. First, it uses the oxygen that’s in the lungs. After approximately six seconds there will be no oxygen left in the lungs. At this point, it won’t make much difference whether you breathe it all out or you hold it in your lungs. The body will then use up the oxygen that’s found in the blood, which will take approximately sixty seconds. Next, the body begins to leach oxygen from the big muscles in the body. You may find that you suddenly feel exhausted. This is a clear indication that you’re in danger. It’s crucial that you avoid getting to this point. However, if you must, you can try doing so outside of water.

Tracking Heart Rate

During this time, you should also keep track of your heart rate. This can be done by feeling the pulse in your neck as you count one, two, one, two, until the second hand on your watch is on a mark. Next, you can count from one to six as usual, until you reach six seconds. Then multiple the score by ten. When you remain in a stationary position your heart rate can run at sixty, but even a slight movement can increase it to one hundred. If you have a pulse that’s over one hundred and ten, then you will not be able to hold your breath very well or for very long. So, the goal will be to practice keeping your heart rate below one hundred and ten.

To learn more about staying safe in the water, click here to read my article on snorkeling tips for beginners.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to hold your breath for longer will take practice. In some cases, it’s sheer willpower that allows some divers to hold their breath longer than others, especially considering that the act of holding your breath and feeling asphyxiated feels very unpleasant. Over time, you will get used to it if you practice with a friend regularly. Preparing your lungs for a dive will be important, whether you’re duck diving or freediving. By following the tips I’ve included here, you should have no trouble increasing your breath holding ability over the course of several weeks.