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Do I have a choice to make?

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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Well-Known Member
Dec 16, 2001
I have a question, and since I am kind of new to freediving, maybe one of you guys who has also done other sports can answer this. I like both bodybuilding and freediving, and try to do both. However, the supplements I use to help me want to train in the bodybuilding world seem to be kind of detrimental when I try to hold my breath underwater. Specifically, I take an Andro supplement, and also one of those Caffeine/Aspririn/Ephedrine stacks. These supplements really help me with the bodybuilding, and I couldn't imagine doing it without them, but they also tend to raise my heart rate and blood pressure and such. Is bodybuilding a sport that isn't really compatible with freediving? Do I need to make a choice between the two? I notice that a lot of freedivers tend to try to have little muscle tone in order to be able to use less oxygen, but I guess I'm wondering if there's any way I can stay a bodybuilder and still do freediving, at least to a reasonable level. I would appreciate a level-headed response to someone who knows how to use these supplements, and not just a safety lecture on the supplements please :eek:
I'm not a physiology expert, and am new to freediving myself, but I believe there is merit to bodybuilding as applied to freediving. The high intensity aspect should train your muscular and circulatory system to be used to the stresses of pressurization at depth. Also, it trains your mind to better focus on your bodily performance (those last few reps 'to failure'). However, I am discovering that freediving requires me to focus more on mental performance, so I am learning to listen to bodily signals that pertain to them (ability to focus, emotional states, and so on) and give priority over those pertaining to physical performance, if only because mental performance is harder / more subtle to observe and improve. Of course I need to be physically fit to dive, but I no longer see that as the only requirement.

As far as supplements go, I used to take protein enhanced with stimulant herbs - ginseng, etc. (no Andro though). The result was that I became pretty darn strong (over 1000 lbs leg press, for example) but after a while it interfered with my ability to relax and recover; i.e. I became unable to experience deep sleep due to all the stimulants in my bloodstream. I had to spend a period of time detoxifying my system. Plus now, years later, I have to contend with worn out cartilage on my knees, which made me wonder if taking any supplements (other than protein and standard vitamins) to do high intensity stuff was worth it.

Someone once said that a question phrased properly answers itself. For me, one sport can complement the other if I don't allow any negative interferences. I still go to the gym to lift weights, although nowhere near the maximums I did years ago, but my focus on the form and movement is now better than it ever was. The mental aspect of freediving is a big unexplored territory I'm going to happily spend years charting.

Do you think you have to give up one in order to become the best you can be at another? If so, it's just a matter of resource priority (time & attention), isn't it, and not how supplements in one sport interferes with another sport. If you want to do both, I suggest you supplement with stretching / yoga to purge out metabolic byproducts better and remain flexible.

Just my 2 cents.

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Body building and freediving.

My sports regimen includes weight- lifting and underwater hockey and spearfishing and freediving. I couldnt possibly entertain maintaining my performance at hockey or freediving without my consistent weight training ( building ) in the gym each morning.

My experience with hockey or freediving performance after being out of gym for a couple of weeks is very noticeable. My legs are usually strong and never give out , but after being out of gym training for a while the hamstrings begin to pack up on the last legs of a long dynamic or constant dive. Its like chalk and cheese.

I have also noticed a profound difference in static performance where quite quickly during a static breathold my forearms and legs will get that lame hypoxic ache if i have been lazy to go to gym.

Mentally if i have not been to gym i psychologically feel that i will not be at my best and my performance takes on an element of anxiety with obvious results. When i have been to gym regularly before a competition i feel like a powerhouse strong and flexible and this mental attitude shows in the results.

Lifting is anaerobic , freediving is definately an anaerobic exercise. The two in my experience go hand in hand. So does aerobic exersise ( cardiovascular fitness) in my opinion.

Big muscles use oxygen when you are using them but poor muscles must still do the same job and at a higher oxygen cost. Freedivers isolate their activities using as few muscles and little as possible. Anaerobically trained muscles can do better on less oxygen being more economically tuned to work and producing less lactic acid as a by product, recovering quicker with less pain / stiffness. Last i heard there was not a single sport that lifting did not contribute positively to.

Supplements i do not take except some protein shakes, but on the strength of a once off experience with ephedrine ( took a thinz diet capsule ) i was hot inside and cold and clammy outside with a racing heart and a mad dizzy feeling, there is no way i would even drive, let alone look at a pool with that in my blood stream.


Freediving is a dangerous sport. If you have ANY side effects from taking drugs (medicine/whatever) you cannot dive safely.

So, you've got the following options:
1.) Continue taking supplements that raises your heart rate, continue diving and risk your life
2.) Stop taking supplements and minimize the risk whilst diving, but negatively impact on your building
3.) Dunno ...

Personally, I try to stay away from supplements, especially when I dive a lot. If I have to take some form of medication / supplement for whatever reason, I try and find out from some or other knowledgable body what the effects would be whilst diving. If no conclusive proof can be found (either positive or negative) I don't dive. Easy as that.

It's all a matter of how much you value life. If you take some form of supplement / drug that you are NOT 100% SURE OF, effects, side effects etc, and you suddenly run into trouble in the gym whilst lifting, chances are you'll survive. Run into the same trouble at -40m, and, well, you've got a problem.

Maybe I'm just being cynical. But personally I'd take a long hard look at anything in my life that might be to my detriment before continuing with it.

Like I said, diving is dangerous - and it's in a fairly diffcult environment to help someone experiencing problems.

Hope this helps.

Riaan C
Good question freediverdude!

I used to be a competitive swimmer about 4 years ago, but then the pool got knocked down. Real bummer! So I took up general fitness which quickly turned to weights. Now I wouldn't class myself as a bodybuilder but I lift weights 4-5 times a week. Being very interested in BBing I found that most of the top bodybuilders are extremely flexible something that is favoured upon in freediving.

When it comes to supplements I am no expert. I do take a whey protein shake after a work out to aid recovery but don’t tend to take any stimulants because I overtrain quite easily (poor excuse I know!!). I wouldn’t imagine that any of the supplement companies would have every tested their product in an extreme situation such as freediving so it would remain pretty much uncharted territory. Here is a BBing forum that is quite useful. Try asking them about the supplements, they are the experts! www.muscletalk.co.uk
weight programs

What kind of weight lifting programs are people doing to improve their freediving?
I lift two days a week. I do it after 30 minute warm up on the stairmaster. When I am on the stairmaster I breath for 20 seconds and then hold my breath for 10. This is done with my heart rate at 75-80% of max.
I then lift for about 30 minutes keeping my heart rate up to about 65% of max the whole time. I have been doing reverse pyramids. That is, 15 reps @ 100#'s, then another 15 reps @90 #'s and continuing on until I hit 80 -100 reps. After I am done with my 80-100 reps I move onto the next exercise.
Is this similar to what others are doing? If not, what things could I change for greater improvement?
I also swim and play hockey on other nights.

The only supplement I have ever taken is Zinc, and that is only when I feel a cold comming on.


You are talking to the opposite side of the world in more ways than one. Very interesting subject; two subjects actually. I never got to try an illegal drug (too expensive when I was a vulnerable teen and an occupational hazard when it was affordable) but, some chemicals at the pharmacy and the health food store do make life better. A few years ago, they gave me an unlimited supply of morphine for a few days of experimentation. The surgeon did not like my 'attitude'. He said "just use the damn stuff", or something like that.

At 62 yrs and 6 ft(180cm) with a 'lean body mass' about 130#(60k), the chance of appearing on the cover of a muscle mag is slim (does that qualify as a pun?), but I'll throw in my 2 cents anyway.

>Last i heard there was not a single sport that lifting did not contribute positively to.

Way back when I raced bikes, the French and Italian coaches were very much against weight lifting. This country's (world's?) best bike rider claims that the loss of muscle during chemo therapy was a big factor in achieving his present level. I can't believe that a marathon runner would gain from weight lifting.

It also seems to me that freediving only becomes anaerobic (without O2) at the very end of a dive and is very aerobic during the other 98% if you include the prep. When I watched the deepest diver on our national team last summer, she seemed to emphasize efficiency far more than strength.

Some interesting points!

I think you will find that the reason why many cyclists and marathon runners are 'against' weight training is because their particular sport is weight bearing over a considerable amount of time. Muscle is very dense, therefore the more you have the more weight you have to carry. In events such as cycling and marathon running this is obviously a detriment. When it comes to events where your body is supported ie rowing, it doesn't matter too much. Steve Redgrave weighed over 100kg when he won his 5th gold, a weight a marathon runner would faint at!!! I suppose that in freediving having the extra weight of muscle would help you on the way down, but hinder you on the way up (in constant weight that is)

Each sport has a certain physiological and psychological criteria that describes the optimum athlete. Nowadays this is achieved using many scientific tests. I would guess that this profile would be pretty different for the 2 sports. So I suppose that if you want to be the next Arnie or next Jaques Mayol you do have a choice to make. If not, enjoy both!

Just an opinion though!
My Perspective....

I think this issue brings up an interesting point that should be addressed...

I myself have been weight lifting now for about a year and have noticed huge gains in overall strength, especially when doing my dynamic apnea laps. It has also helped in my self confidence and overall appearance physically and mentally.

I have begun to look at freediving as part of my lifestyle now instead of a sport I do. And since I view it as a part of my overall exercise program, I include weight lifting to break up the monotony of doing nothing but pool work. And to incorporate it as such, I do apnea weight lifting which has begun to show huge results for me in my pool work as well. Having just begun it and noticing its effects in my finning, I am encouraged to see what a few months of this type of lifting is going to do for my freediving this summer...
Wow thanks for all this advice!

Well it's nice to hear some of the opinions expressed here. While there doesn't seem to be a cut and dried answer, it does seem to me that I could probably still do both, just that the supplements might hinder me slightly in the freediving, so that I probably wouldn't end up being another Pipin or whoever is the hottest right now, but as long as i can do it to my liking and still have fun, what would it matter? Would you guys like me to report to you my findings if i keep using the supplements and freedive? I'll try to relay the differences the supplements make as best i can. I know when I take these I don't get all dizzy and heart racing and clammy and everything like one of you described- those are the symptoms of taking too much- the pill was probably too strong. You should get a feeling of having more energy, and maybe your heart beating slightly stronger, and feeling a little edgy, and that helps you lift the weights with more power. Well, I guess since I am in a dangerous sport anyway, all i can do is try it and see what happens, gradually easing into it and see if i run into trouble. I'll let you all know what happens- if there's any more opinions I'd be glad to hear...
apnea weightlifting


Do you mind elaborating about your new lifiting program?

I have some videos that show Pipin holding his breath for a period of time and then starting to lift for a certain number of reps. I have tried it with apnea push-ups, but never with weights.
What exercises, reps , and breath hold times do you work around?


Another thought

Another thought I had about Skindiver's problem with taking the diet pill was that it probably was ephedrine only, and whenever you take ephedrine you should always take caffeine and aspirin with it, in an approximate 5/5/1 mg caffeine/aspirin/ephedrine ratio (if it's pure ephedrine- if it's the herb ephedra, the ratio is different, and it must be standardized to contain a certain amount of ephedrine). This is more likely the cause of your symptoms Skindiver, since one pill usually isn't enough to cause those kind of symptoms unless you're taking it by itself. The Andro also seems to help take the edge off of the ephedrine stack, making me more "centered", and feeling more "macho" if you will. Anyways, thanks for all the responses
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