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Beyond 6:30 in static apnea

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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Well-Known Member
Aug 13, 2001
On past threads, we've talked a lot about physical preparations for static (aerobic training, diet, breathing patterns, increasing carbon dioxide tolerance, fasting, increasing hemoglobin, etc), managing physiological responses (contractions, feeling of suffocation, heat, overventilation tingles, hypoxia, blood pressure, etc), and now we're just getting into the psychological/mental aspects of breath holding with posts from Tyler Z. I believe Tyler is correct about the fallacy of expecting that one element will overwhelm all other factors contributing to a static to make it a good one.

You cannot isolate one element of static apnea from the others: take for example, contractions. Say one day, I hold my breath for 30 seconds more than my personal best. Hmm, I think, my CO2 tolerance must be high, or maybe my blood was more alkaline to start, or maybe my mental tolerance (or as Tyler might call it, "acceptance") of contractions improved, or maybe I was cold that day, or I ate foods and drinks high in bicarbonate without knowing it, or maybe that hour on the stationary bike made a difference (I doubt it would), or maybe after having sex my body was especially relaxed! :) You may argue that paying attention to any of these elements (maybe it's better NOT to have sex before a static) will improve your static, but as the more than 300 posts in these threads show, freedivers who can hit their max (6:30+) reliably are few and far between.

More and more freedivers are doing breath holds of 6-8 minutes. But I would say that surpassing the 6:30 mark is indicative of having a whole host of elements come together. I believe that you only need a few things to go right to make statics between 5:00-6:30 depending on your "ability." Past 6:30 is where you need everything to work in harmony.

I have never really spent any length of time training for static, except right before a competition. This worked well for me in years past, when a 5:00+ static still put you in the top ranks. I made 5:23 in my first competition; 5:30 in Ibiza (I beat Pelizzari!); and in 2001 I had a pb of 6:11. My training came down to two weeks of 'cramming' right before each competition. And it also proved to me, at least, that I wasn't really that good at static if that's what I'm getting after only a ten days of training. Or to put it another way, I was getting by with tweaking only a few elements of breath-holding, not putting the energy into developing a more in-depth and personal approach to static apnea. As I begin my static training for Team Canada qualifying in 2004, cramming ain't gonna cut it, given that there are a couple of Canadians now who can do seven minutes or more! More than the competition aspect, I am interested again, after two years off from doing statics, to rediscover what I am capable of and to explore the mind/body combination with the challenge.

What I am interested in knowing from you freedivers who surpass 6:30 on a regular basis, is what happened the first few times you exceeded your personal bests past 6:30, 7:00, 7:30, 8:00? What felt better? Did it seem that things fell into place overall or did you isolate a few key factors as being the reason for your success? As I pursue longer statics and the intangibles of a "good" static, I would be interested to know your opinions of what it was that brought you to reconsider your limit. This is an open question: I expect some replies to be unspecific, given the nature of the beast. But if you figured out what worked for you that first time over what you were doing before, what was it about? What does being in the "zone" feel like to you? What little things are important? What preparations, mental or otherwise? What philosophy of static apnea (if I can call it that) to you take?

As I rediscover static apnea, I will keep track of how things go so I can contribute to this discussion...

Pete Scott
Vancouver, BC
Hi Laminar.

I have the same interest as you have. I did 6.17” in the IV Spanish apnea national competition celebrated last 11-13 July 2003, and my PB is 6.20”, I’m very interested on the techniques that will let us surpass 6.30”. Some help please????

i would say 3 things are particularly important:
1. develop *HUGE* tolerance to hypercapnia
2. learn to really relax, mentally as well as physically
3. develop and fine-tune your own warm-up routine
Personaly I think that you have to have a solid routine. I try to do my routine the same every single time.

You also have to be at peace with yourself. When I'm in the "Zone" I feel that calm peacefulness (a happy feeling) and it blends in with the little noises I hear in the water (if that makes any sense).

That peaceful feeling is very important to me. I had one day while in Cyprus when I received some disturbing news frome home and it brought my static down from 7' to 6'. The following day I had a great time and was very happy and did 7'14".

After I returned from Cyprus, my statics were always over 7 mins and I felt like I could do 7min. any day any time. I even did a 7'48" with room to spare.

But the sh$t hit the fan on the home front and now my inner peacefullness is gone. Last week I had difficult time doing 5 minutes.

I hope this helps.

Best regards,

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I do have to disagree with El-Man,

Also in Cyprus I was riding a high from doing a PB in CB and didn't want to train for Static. I was doing 7+ before going there and did 1 or 2 while I was there, but after my dive they dropped off. My concentration wasn't there. I went into the comp alone with no coach or team mates to help me. I had to ask people that were sitting around the pool to help me time my warm ups (I don't wear a mask). The first warm up didn't go well at all and that set the tone of my nerves. I was so nervous going into the comp zone that I started breathing very loadly so that I would not hear my name being called. My heart rate was up for the first few minutes of my static and then I was able to get it under control. I may not have done 7:00 then, but I got very close.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that no matter how perfect your routine is in practice or how many times you've done 7+ it all comes down to how well you can control your "self" under the pressure. Everyday is different and your routine will change.
Hi guys,

Thanks for the ideas so far. Sounds like the ability to concentrate is one of the most important factors that brings everything together. I've been thinking about this for a while and Eric F. suggested it to me a while back. An effective "cross-training for static" might simply be concentration exercises that help you to maintain focus, combined with an initial clearing of the mind with some passive (simple) meditation.

I remember Martin Stepanek telling us that holding his breath past 6:30 to 8:06 was extremely difficult, because with every contraction he wanted to bail. Sounds like he had a very high level of concentration to push through that mental distress--when you watch the video, his body is buckling with contractions even as he does his recovery breathing. Martin's record may be unbreakable by freedivers attempting it in competitions or world record events, because Martin did it in his friend's pool, away from the crowds and distractions.

However, watching Hebert Nitsch practice in Ibiza was a different story. At 8:11 he comes up and does one big hook breath, waits a couple of seconds and then is all smiles. Talking to him later, he said delaying the first contraction as late as possible was most difficult for him and most important--of course, that was 2 years ago and things may have changed since then. I saw him delay his contractions until 6 min and then pull up at 6:45. Did resisting contractions take too much out of him?

I have also experienced the "pulled plug" effect of having something negative on your mind when trying static apnea.

DSV, Alun, Luc (elevatorman) and anyone else, what about your first "long" static, and how was it different from the others? Better concentration, more relaxed? What were your expectations going into it? Did it just happen to "go well" on that day or were you gunning for a certain time?

Interesting discussion so far,

Vancouver, BC
oh yeah, that was one thing i forgot!...

delaying contractions for as long as possible.... this was really important for me. delaying them not through hyperventilation, but through pure mental control. i found i was able to almost let the extreme hypercapnia 'wash right over me' as if i just didn't care. i used to try to completely accept it and learn not to fight it. the longest i delayed contractions by this approach was around 6'30... that was for my pb. eventually the hypercapnia would always get the better of my feeble mind :) and the contractions would start.
i have no doubt that it can be done for much much longer, with training. that was a technique i just played with and never really trained it seriously. having these muscular contractions and being tense and 'fighting' wastes so much O2.
Hi all.
I started on a a fairly intensive program of daily apnea walks in the leadup to the competition in Cyprus. This was meant to be CW training(I was planning on boycotting the static part of the competition). Prior to this a had a pb of 6:30. I was quite surprised then when my next static attemp(after a month or two of hypercapnia) managed 7:40 or there abouts, and all subsequent attemps between 7:30 and 8:00.
The only other change was that I started packing for these attempts. I've since been curious whether the improvement was more a training response to the hypercapnia tolerence training or from including packing into my routine. I had a plan to graph my detraining after Cyprus to answer this question for myself, but havent been able to bring myself to do a static since then.
Dont know if thats adds any wisdom to this thread or just raises more questions?
What I find more interesting is the psychological battles involved in static. Not the response to physical discomfort but the response to pressure/nerves that DSV mentions (and that anyone who has competed has experienced to some degree). It seems to me like a cruel catch 22 situation where the more you care about how you do, the more important is the competition is to you,the worse you fare. I find what works for me is to spend time beforehand in the company of something that puts the whole spectacle of competition in perspective. 20 minutes with J. Krishnamurti and all competitive urge is drained from me, along with any performance anxiety I might have had. Someone else I know likes to practice half an hour of Metta, a Budhist loving-kindness meditation. He says that it takes his thoughs off himself, and turns everyone else from competitors into good friends, thereby also taking away nerves. Though if you dont find competition to be any anyway morrally questionable my method might not work for you. Nevertheless, I dont think you can approach the event of a competition static head-on,like you could an upcomming rugby match. cheers
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Hypercapnia is a term used to describe the unusually high CO2 levels that develop in the body during prolonged apnea. These elevated CO2 levels are the primary reason that you get an increasingly intense urge to breathe during a long static.
I have heard of other people who statics became better while they were doing apnea walking, so I am very interested in it. How long and how far where your apnea walks? What where your goals and how did you measure yourself? What kind of breath-up and warm-up did you do?

At first I counted steps, but that soon became difficult as I got into the hundreds and my mental ability decreased. Now I pretty much only count time. I have a long ways to go. My pb is only 2:33, but that was with having to go to the ground to keep from blacking out. I have only managed 2:13 still standing.

Marko, hypercapnia just means an excess of carbon dioxide in the blood. Just another way of saying CO2 tolerance.
Easy Street

I just had a thought: How would you rate your static apnea preparation in terms of mental difficulty?

It seems many freedivers prefer a long, gentle warm-up, with ventilations that last as long as each warm-up breath hold. I've always thought this type of warm-up was primarily to give the person time to work up to a longer static and relax.

Up until now, I only used two warm up statics, then go for the max static. Usually, my first static would be 3:30-4:00min, then 4:00-4:40, then 5:30+. I tried holding my breath after only one warm-up (3:30) and made 5:45 with lots of contractions. It strikes me now that while a short warm-up didn't matter so much physiologically, as mentally.

Anyone use a "difficult" warm-up?

Very good thread Pete. May I ad a few thoughts?

Annabel did a record time this morning with a longer and harder warmup than normal.

Eric and Tanya have made statements that they think a shorter breathe up may be better. Keep the dive reflex, I think.

After reviewing my records for 2 years plus, I'm unable to find any real pattern except, the more I do, the more consistent they become.
Although my times aren't anywhere near the 6:30+ mark, I have gound that if I do 5-6 negatives, first, I can hit 4:00-4:15 on my first hold and 4:30-4:45 on my second. It is also much easier, for me, to hit these times than if I did a bunch of full-lung practice holds.

Glad you joined the discussion, Bill. Give Annabel my regards and encouragement. The Canadians are rooting for her!

I've trained quite a bit with Eric over the last 4 years and we've gone through a lot of ideas with static. So many ideas, and never enough time to really test them out properly. Or rather, the tests seemed to raise more questions than they solved. And I think a long term experiment is what I want right now. Which is why I'm trying to start from scratch and reconsider every possibility.

The idea with the tougher warm-up came from splenic contraction, releasing extra red blood cells, coupled with natural buffering of highly acidic blood (evidenced by lots o' contractions) . The theory was, the more intense the hypoxia on the first static, the greater stimulus for splenic contraction. Eric took that one step further by doing exhale statics to samba, usually two of them, before doing two max statics. The exhale statics contracted the spleen, but I think more importantly they sent the signal to the body that the hB wasn't adequate for what he needed it for--a training stimulus. Interesting that Annabel is using one. Any more details about what she does?

More is better: Well, I'd say Andy LeSauce was the king of consistency. I remember on his website he claimed something like over 2,000 five minute statics, a couple of hundred over 6 min, and fifty or so over 7min. Maybe he was on to something.

Vancouver, BC
>Give Annabel my regards and encouragement. The Canadians are rooting
>for her!
When we dive on Sun.

>Any more details about what she does?
Her only secret is working her duff off. Some days it's before and after work. In statics, she does two warm ups of 40 and 60%, a two minute stand up recovery, eight minutes of deep, very slow breathing with two short purge sets and a lot of packs. Contractions start at the halfway point.

If you need a guinea pig this winter, to test a theory, maybe we can work some thing out. If I could help you guys, that would be a good switch. Of course if it works great, I wouldn't say anything until after the trials to give me the best chance of making the Canadian team.
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donmoore, I dont have any plan as to how long or how far I walk, my only goal is to expose myself to as much CO2 as possible.Quite simply, I walk as far as I can. I recon you should endure as much pain as you are prepared to endure, no more and no less. More obviously being better, but within reason.
Breathups are about 1:15, but are more like recoveries than proper breathups. They are deliberatly short and gentle because I think blowing off any more CO2 than you need is counter-productive. I usually wait untill my arythmia goes away before I start walking again but this doesnt take more than 60 seconds normally.
Laminar, my personal opinion about warmups for max statics is 'more pain more gain', the more contractions the better. I do 3 or 4 warmups to about the same level of discomfort/number of contractions for each. Typicaly 120 contractions, with about a minute recovery between holds. I dont see any point in longer breathups between warmups statics, I think they might be counter-productive even, and they just take to long. Before the max attempt though I'll take at least 8 minutes to breath-up. My approach though is based more on feel/intuition than reason. I could well be wrong but so could others' reason. Good thread this, it's got me interested in statics again(though I'm happy to be an armchair expert only :) )
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My brother too is working on hard warm up. We were working last month and he made a first static around 7-7:30, and then 6 min breathup, for the max
Hi everyone. It's quite an old thread, but I've been absent for a while and I'm catching up.

Unfortunately I'm not a 6+ guy (minutes that is... :D) and so what I have to say may not be so relevant. Also, it's difficult to put this into words.

Anyway, whilst everyone has they're own technique, I think Eric is probably 'right' (at least aligned with my experience) when he talks about conditioning the body through some tough warm-ups. I find that negative (or at least passive exhale statics) get my body ready quickly without tiring it out (I find long positive statics just boring and exhausting), whilst a good routine is essential for the mental side.

Another (controversial :naughty) technique I use is a strange shallow, quickened breathing during the negative recoveries. This actually helps me concentrate and relax whilst putting more pressure on my body (I think I get less oxygen than I would breathing deeply). Davide Carrera asked me which Yogi taught it to me, which was amusing :D.

I do as many negatives as is necessary to reach 2:15 (the number various depending on many factors) and then I go for the big one. It is good to be able to identify a benchmark that you can always hit despite the pressure of a competition. Actually in my last indoor competition they posted my name on the main list (lane E) but forgot to give it to the lane assistant. With 20 minutes to go she wouldn't let me in the water so I just settled down to do my negatives on the poolside. I hit 2:15 and kept going until they let me in (4 minutes before my official TOP :hmm).

The feeling of wellbeing with full lungs is very helpful after so many negatives.

I find this whole preparation extremely difficult in the water and therefore prefer to stay dry as long as possible. This was a big step forward for me in competition - doing what I wanted to do (replicate lying on my bed) rather than following the official routine.

Rereading I think I'm a bit off thread. Oh well :D, while I'm at it a big AUGURI to my friend and teamate Paolo Acanti who was just selected for the Italian National Team.


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