Ready to step up your freediving with some more advanced breathold techniques and exercises?

Getting your breathing right is the most important aspect in improving your dive time and depth, and with proper training you will very quickly start to notice massive improvements in your freediving abilities. Breathhold training, is all about training our bodies comfort or tolerance level to deal with Co2, as it’s our carbon dioxide level that gives us the urge to breathe, not our oxygen level.

One of the most common mistakes people make when starting their breathhold training is going too hard and too fast. These exercises require patience and persistence, and each exercise should be seen as a stepping stone. To really see fast improvements, it’s not strictly about how long you manage to push yourself, but rather how many breathholds you do each day and each week. Consistency and persistence here is key.

The best place to start your training is actually out of the water by just sitting or laying down and practicing holding your breath with a buddy. The aim is to record your breahhold time, and gradually try and increase the length of your breahhold over time.

Before you begin to hold your breath you will want to clear your mind, relax your body and muscles and try lower your heartrate. Simply try to calm and relax your entire body. Take 3 to 5 deep, slow breaths in and out. Then take one very deep breath filling up your belly, then your chest, then the back part of your body. Finally when holding your breath, try to think of other things that calm and relax you, and don’t focus on your breathhold or needing to breathe.

Record your times, and gradually try and extend your breathhold over a period of a few weeks or even a few months. Remember not to push yourself too far to avoid blacking out, and always have a buddy with you.

Once you’re feeling comfortable, this static breathhold can also be practiced on the surface of the water, either in the oceans shallows or a swimming pool with a buddy. The steps are the same as before, the only difference being that you are practicing with your head in the water. Repeat the steps, of calming your body, relaxing your mind, taking 3-5 deep breaths in and out, before one big breath in filling your belly, chest, and the back part of your body, and holding onto the edge of the pool or your buddy, place your head in the water and try to focus on calming thoughts. Time your breathhold and gradually try and increase it over the period of a few weeks.

Once you are feeling more confident, you can also repeat these steps and begin training your breathhold on the bottom of a pool, or shallow water. This exercise is very similar to the static breahhold we just practiced with the addition of duck diving underwater after our final large breath. Once you have breathed up, duck dive down and slowly descend to a comfortable position on the pool floor. While holding your breath, sit and lay still and keep your mind away from thinking about your breath. It’s also important to ensure that you have a buddy present. Time your breathhold and gradually try and increase your bottom times.

This exercise requires a bit of persistence and consistent training, but over the period of a few weeks you will notice drastic improvements to your bottom time, and lung capacity.

Some more advanced exercises include following the above steps of calming your body and breathing up, but instead of practicing a static breathhold and remaining still, we’re going to begin active breathhold training. As we duck underwater after breathing up, we’re going to slowly descend to the bottom of the pool and with our body streamlined and straight we’re going to swim laps of the pool underwater. Be sure not to bend your knees, and while underwater and inbetween breathstroke kicks and strokes keep your body as flat and streamlined as possible. Similarly, try keep your mind on other relaxing things, and be sure to have a buddy present. Time your active breathhold and gradually try and increase your bottom time. As before, never push yourself too far to avoid blacking out.

The final technique is moving this active breathhold training into the ocean. Similarly to the last exercise after breathing up and calming your body and heartrate, slowly duck dive and descent down remembering to equalise. While underwater holding your breath, calmly begin kicking at a steady pace, and keep your mind focused on your surroundings. When you feel your body starts to constrict, slowly ascend and return to the surface. Be sure to have an experienced buddy with you. Time your bottom times and gradually try and extend them without pushing your bodies limits.

Remember that while in all of these exercises we are gradually trying increase our breathhold time, whats more important is the consistency at which we practice or train. The more exercises we do the more Co2 tolerant or comfortable underwater our bodies will become, It’s not necessarily the length at which we push ourselves during training that matters. As a guide, when starting out it’s best to surface or breathe before or when we feel our first contraction. As we continue to consistently train we will notice that our comfort level, before experiencing this first contraction should gradually be extending.

Finally how often should we be doing this breathhold training? Well that depends on the diver, and it’s well understood that rest is critical to allowing the body to recover. Starting out try keep it to 2 or 3 sessions a week, and as you become more experienced gradually increase this amount to a level where you feel comfortable, remembering that overly stressing your body will only hinder your breathhold and your training.

Get training, and I’ll see you underwater!