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Biggest factors in sustaining apnea?

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A Brownsword

Well-Known Member
Mar 25, 2002
Originally posted by efattah:
I don't always like talking about the lung volume issue because it's not as important as it seems -- air is the worst kind of energy store because of the compressibility, narcosis, and pressure on the arteries during packing.

Eric posted this interesting comment in another thread. It begs the question "what is important to a good performance"? Lets focus primarily on constant ballast endurance at comfortable depths (which obviously vary with the individual) as opposed to extreme depths since this ought to help the broadest audience. There are a few things that I think I know about, obvious and otherwise (no particular order):

  • Relaxed, calm activity (low heart rate)
  • Being well hydrated
  • Being properly "warmed up" (increasing the tolerance to CO2)
  • Being warm (but not too warm?)
  • Having awoken the infamous/renowned "mammalian diving reflex"
  • Flexible diaphragm and chest cavity
  • Effective equalization and minimal airspace in the head/mask

Please add to the list, expound upon it, discuss it, refute it, prioritize it, etc. Insert wisdom in space provided below...
additions discussions

Your list surprised me a little.

First, I would like to nominate the low heart rate as another thing that may not be so important. Mine is higher than most and I claim to be the only one to hold his breath for 425 beats. A doctor told me that the heart always pumps the same amount of blood per stroke, but I'm not sure he was right. Mine seems to vary something besides frequency.

How about taking a course? I've watched many of the best over the years and learned from them, but Kirk and Bret are better divers and can teach too. One hour in the water with a good teacher can mean 30% more depth (comfortable or max), it did to me.

Practice, disciplined practice, regular, scheduled, disciplined practice. When someone asked Eddie Merkx how to be a great rider, "ride the bike, ride the bike, ride the bike", was his answer.

A good buddy. Hard to relax if you have to worry about someone else doin' their part. Someone will know if you don't train right.

You asked for 2 cents and got the whole dime.

Heh, I'd been sort of thinking that the list would include things taught in a course... but having just finished a 3 month course with Kirk I'd have agree that good coaching is really helpful.

I tossed the low heart rate in there as part of being relaxed. Underwater most people's heart rate seems to drop (perhaps as part of the diving reflex?). I'm sure Eric and Erik have some comments on this...
Andrew, I think that the ability to relax and focus are the two most important factors. Psychology is 90%, I believe. Many things can affect that, like competition nervousness, fear of the deep, bad visibility, and comfort levels based on training and experience
I do notice a big change in relaxation ability once the dive reflex has started, so it's reciprocal too.
One's heart rate will drop at a sufficient depth, probably no matter what the state of mind. I'm sure that fear would raise that rate too, though. I.E., if at a specific depth, your BPM is usually 30, but you get scared by say, a Nuclear Submarine, then it might jump to 40. Just a guess.
I've recorded 30 bpm at 30 metres, and below 20 bpm with a negative-lung dive to 10 metres.
Bill's right, the heart doesn't necessarily slow down at the surface, and my statics have really high heart rates. I think that the volume of blood pumped could be the same, but the shunting definitely changes where the blood goes. That said, once I'm in dive mode, a "not too deep breath (held)" will result in a lower heart rate.
Cheers amigos,
Erik Y.
Erik Y.
Originally posted by Erik
.....a specific depth, your BPM is usually 30, but you get scared by say, a Nuclear Submarine, th.....

wouldnt you just have an urge to hitch a ride... rofl

and then the navy would be all over you....:ban
I would be very pleased with myself if seeing an attack sub bearing down on me only caused a 10 BPM increase in my heart rate.

Back on topic, however, I just had my first Yoga class tonight. First impression is that this is going to be good for freediving...
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Reactions: Erik
Freediving is very yogic. If you can surrender to the depth you'll understand surrendering to the pose. They'll both compliment each other.

My most important aspect of a good dive or static is finding that point in relaxation that brings on timelessness. I suppose it includes all the things on the list plus Eric's Psychology of letting go. Since yoga is control of thought waves in the consiousness both efforts have the same goal, ie; trying not to think. ( I was so good at it in school) I find it unfortunate that Brahman yogi's are afraid of submersion, they could rip under water!
It's working for me!

Originally posted by A Brownsword

I just had my first Yoga class tonight. First impression is that this is going to be good for freediving...

I'm not the kind to jump on bandwagons, but I've been attending yoga sessions for the last 2 months, with a marvelous teacher and my times and vibe have made dramatic and very pleasant improvements. I heartily recommend looking into the practice.

That said, as to the list, I'd go with area familiarity as a factor. I know that when I'm in an area(s) I've not dove in for a while or before, my vibe is very tenative and wary- definitely not conducive to big times and fish. I go there the next time, I'm slamming 'em.

Speaking of submarines

Sharks is also a factor - in fact a very real factor in Cape Town.

Not that I mind them much - you get used to the grey circling forms after a while. Sometimes I actually stress out when I don't encounter one.

What about vision? If you can't see that well, it gets nasty ... Speaking of which, at what depths (more or less exactly) does the water become a 'different' color? ie darker ....

I know that blood seems green at around 40m ... freaked me out.
While I'd agree that vision & visibility do play a role (its usually pretty murky around here, only a couple feet of vis)... my original post had been asking primarily what we can do to optimize our diving ability independently of the conditions we might be stuck with.
need to have a good head

Originally posted by A Brownsword
[Bmy original post had been asking primarily what we can do to optimize our diving ability independently of the conditions we might be stuck with. [/B]

knowing my kids are OK and the bills are paid is a biggy w/me. I get out there and if the commitee in my noggin is going at full steam, I may as well have never gone in.

Re: Speaking of submarines

Originally posted by SASpearo

Speaking of which, at what depths (more or less exactly) does the water become a 'different' color? ie darker ....

I know that blood seems green at around 40m ... freaked me out.


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For me its definitely relaxed state of mind. If i have somthing to take my mind off air i improve. I had lifeguard timing some holds for me at depth and when she timed me during scuba lessons when i had an audience and people to look at i increased to just over 3.00.
Hey lgdeep, you should have a buddy within arms reach who is watching you if you're pushing yourself underwater in static. :naughty Read some of the safety threads on this site to get an idea of how to do pool static more safely. If you can't find anything, then email me privately.

But I do agree with you and others that say static is mostly in the mind.

Before I left for the Yukon, I could pull off statics between 5:30 and 6 min fairly regularly with the following pattern: 2min breathe-up, 3:30 static, 3min breathe-up, 4min static, 4min breathe-up, max static.

Then for 5 months I did nothing. No static training at all. Froze me butt off up north.

A week ago, I was at Eric Fattah's and decided to try some statics on his oximeter. For benchmarking purposes, I took only two deep breaths and slow exhales as my breathe-up.

This is what happened. (these were dry statics)

#1- 3:30 with contractions (my usual test time)

(breathed normally for recovery until my oxygen concentration went back to normal levels, about 1:00-1:30)

#2- 5:36 with contractions (a pb for two breaths)

Then I tried some exhale statics
On my second one, I made 2:43 with no samba. (new pb)

Then I tried two more inhale statics with more aggressive breathing:

#3 5:06 ten contractions
#4 5:21 ? contractions

These surprising results remind me of training I did when I was first starting out. I'd get bored doing many 3 and 4min statics day after day, take a week off and then on the second or third try, make over 5min.

I don't think my breath holding capacity has improved, rather it's my ability to minimize the distractions, the burn, and the struggle phase.

The same goes for deep diving, but rib cage flexibility, psychology, and fitness have more of a role to play.

I haven't done any statics since the other week :D

So practice does make perfect, but I think you need to give your mind and body time to become used to the whole process of holding your breath.


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