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Help needed with Frenzel

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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Well-Known Member
Mar 4, 2002
Hi guys

I wonder if anyone can help out a complete newbie (or even pre-newbie!). I'm doing a beginning freedive course in a couple of weeks and I'm starting to worry that I won't be able to equalize well enough. When snorkelling (prob down to about 3-4m) I used swallowing, which works fine but I can only do one swallow every few seconds. Will this be enough? I've tried Valsalva while inverted in a pool (only 2m deep, that's the kind of pools we have round here) and Valsalva just doesn't work for me at all. Nothing happens! From what I've read the Frenzel technique is the way to go, but everyone seems to have a different idea on how to do it and I can't get any of them to work. Is there anyone out there who found an easy-to-explain way of doing it?

(I guess they'll cover equalisation on the course, my worry is that the Frenzel looks so difficult, that maybe I need to get in some practice first or I won't get deeper than a couple of metres.)

Also, when coming up from the bottom of the pool (2m) I get a bit of a "reverse block" which clears when I swallow at the surface. I thought reverse block only happened when you've got a cold and the medication wears off. Is reverse block a common problem with freedivers? (scary thought, since you can't hang around for ages at depth until it wears off).

Needless to say I'm really looking forward to the course, I love being underwater, I just don't want my ears to let me down! Hope someone can help or reassure.
Welcome on board.
Others with similar questions have been directed to http://www.deeperblue.net/content/2001/freediving/frenzel/1.shtml
Do a search for equalizing here on the board or frenzel and lots of communication on this subject is available. There is also the talk of using sudafed or other decongestants to help with equalizing trouble.

On the reverse block, I've personally never had trouble with it, but I'm sure you've come to the right place to find answers/suggestions on how to possibly deal with it.

Take care of those ears - I'm the guy who broke an eardrum just a month ago.. there was no pain and no warning.
Last edited by a moderator:
Thanks Fred

I've already done a search on the board here, and on the general net. Most people refer to Eric Cattah's article, which I could follow until the last step (about keeping the palate in neutral while closing the epiglotis etc) when it got, for me, impossible. Other descriptions on the net mostly mention using the throat muscles or the tongue "as a piston" to drive air up the eustacian tubes, but don't explain how this is done. One doctor (who mentioned that the technique was invented to help out dive-bomber pilots in WW2!) said to pinch the nose and make a "guh" noise, which will make the adam's apple rise ... well, not for me it doesn't! There seem to be so many different ways of doing it, I was hoping someone would come up with one that "clicked" with me. What I really want is to watch someone doing it in person, but no one at my local dive shop knows the technique. Oh well ...

Practice more

Hi Bryan,

The frenzel document I wrote should teach you everything you need to know. If you get to the last step and can't do it, then you need to spend more time on the earlier steps. By 'more time', I'm talking about several HOURS going through each step until you can control these muscles at will, by themselves.

I often get people complaining that they can't equalize; in my opinion if they are unwilling to spend 3 or 5 hours learning, then they aren't motivated enough to dive anyway.

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
OK, fair enough ... if hours and hours of work is what it takes, then hours and hours of work it'll have to be ... though I think I wouldn't be human if I hadn't looked for a shortcut first. BTW Eric: sorry for getting your name wrong!

hey bryan,

here's something simple to try. lightly cover your nostrils with your thumb and pointer finger and gently blow air out your nose. do this so you can feel the air escape out over your fingers.

the frenzel technique is describing how to blow air out your nose without using your chest or stomach muscles. if you're going to practice, learn to differentiate between the two.

blowing with the stomach/chest allows you to expel lots of air where as the frenzel lets out only a little bit at a time. this little bit of air is what's above the epiglottis. this is what you're trying to equalize with. keep your tongue flat, at the bottom of your mouth, and forward. i believe the piston action is coming from the larger part of your tongue which you have less dexterity with so try to keep the front part quiet.

for me, i drop my adam's apple and expand my throat, close my epiglottis and then squeeze with my throat and lower tongue while plugging my nose. (if you're having trouble localizing the closure of your epiglottis, try stopping an exhale without closing your mouth. that's the epiglottis that stops it). the trick, like eric states in his article, is getting that thing to close so the air doesn't go back into your lungs when you try to equalize.

hope this helps. and eric, thanks for your enlightenment on the subject. it's definitely changed my diving.

Hi Crispin - I'm doing a weekend course with Howard Jones at the SETT in Gosport. Glad it's not in Portsmouth Harbour!

And Anderson - thanks very much for the advice. Now that Eric's reply has shamed me into trying harder, I've been back to his article and today I've been practicing until my throat felt sore. And I seem to be getting somewhere - I can close off the epiglotis and move the soft palate up and down at the same time, and I can (sometimes) do the exercise with squeezing the air out of the cheeks and out through the nose. I can also force more air into my lungs by using the tongue, and once, while doing this, I did manage to fill my ears by accident. Needless to say, I haven't managed to do it on purpose yet! But hopefully another couple of days and I'll be there.

Thanks again

Hello Bryan,

Please, keep us informed if you learn to equalize better by reading, trying and practising. It's pretty interesting to see what happens ;)


I can do it now. In fact it only took about another hour of practice after my last post.

I've seen at least one other post from someone who says he can't do the Frenzel thing, so I'm just going to give my observations on the learning process, just in case it might be helpful to anyone else.

As I said, I was following Eric Fattah's article. I got to the point where I could close the windpipe and move the soft palate independently. Being able to do this just 'clicked' after a while of doing the breathing exercises (inhale through mouth then nose then both etc.) After this stage, Eric suggests an exercise where you close off the windpipe, fill the cheeks with air and try to squeeze the air from your cheeks out of your nose - to do this the soft palate must be in the necessary neutral position. I could do this, though I found that the soft palate always started off in the raised position and I had to consciously 'release' it.

I then tried doing the same thing by using the tongue as a piston. However, I found I personally couldn't get this to work. Moving the tongue seemed to screw up the soft palate position. So I tried something else. I reasoned that in the above exercise, if you completely block your nose when squeezing the air out of your cheeks, and you're doing everything else properly, the air must then go up the eustacian tubes. And after a bit of trying, it did, and my ears filled. Hurrah! I kept practising this, and after a while I realised that I wasn't using my cheeks to squeeze the air any more, in fact I hardly had any air in my cheeks at all. To be honest, I'm not really sure what I was using, except it was in the throat, and my adam's apple was moving as I did it.

This cleared up a question that had been puzzling me. I'd read Eric's article before, and other articles (eg by Edmond Kay, which andrson gives a link to in the 'equalisation 101' thread) and I couldn't understand how they seemed to be describing such different techniques when they were all talking about the Frenzel maneuver. Now I understand there are different variations of doing it. Dr Kay mentions 'bobbing the adam's apple' so I assume he's referring to the variation I'm using, whereas Eric and others use the 'tongue piston' technique. I don't know if the version I learned is as effective or as efficient as the tongue one, but it definitely seems good enough to be going on with.

Right, I'm done, you can wake up now!


Aloha Bryan

Glad you figured it out. I'm a little farther down the road I think. The next step for me was learning to do the excercises head down in the water.

"different techniques when they were all talking about the Frenzel maneuver. Now I understand there are different variations of doing it. Dr Kay mentions 'bobbing the adam's apple' so I assume he's referring to the variation I'm using, whereas Eric and others use the 'tongue piston' technique.

I've been using your (throat muscle) method since I worked it out about 20 years ago. Until then, I used the 'yawn muscles' to open the eustachians and held them open. Someone taught me to do that when I was a teen.

A small caution. If you take my advice, you'll learn and stick with the 'tongue as a piston'. I think you'll have to switch at some depth anyway. After I get into a squeeze, about 40 meters, the air has a tendency to go back into the lungs. If I ever get deep enough to require 'water equalization', I think the tongue will work better too.

Success at last!!! ?huh?

I love this site! Thanks to all of you above for your tips. I've been trying EVERYTHING for the last three weeks to the point where my voice is hoarse, my tongue feels swollen and everyone stops and asks me what I'm doing when they see me puffing and grunting and sticking out my jaw all day...oops, caught again! :duh

I was just reading these tips and comments, trying to equalize as usual, when "POP!" the Frenzel technique worked for the first time!

Holy cow! Can I do it again? "POP!" Yahoo!
Basically, I was trying too hard! I just "happens" when I relax my throat and tongue - it's really a rather small motion, isn't it? :head

Question: I can equalize in many ways easily with my head up. But as soon as my head gets beyond horizontal, nothing will work. Mandy has been making fun of me as I try to make my constant ballast descents feet first. Can anyone save my dignity, and suggest what might help with my head down?
head down


I remember that.

>Question: I can equalize in many ways easily with my head up. But as soon as my head gets beyond horizontal, nothing will work.

I could put pressure on my ears while on my back so, I applied a little pressure and rolled over while keeping pressure on. When I got that down pat, I piked down with the pressure still on. After that became easy, I could drop down 12 ft and hold the pressure on. I think Eric mentions somewhere that he holds the pressure on all the time past a certain depth.


I tried Frenzel upside-down in the pool for the first time the other day. It is harder, but I found something that works for me is, while applying pressure, to tilt the head first to one side then the other. This equalises the ears one at a time - the tilting seems to open up the opposite eustachian tube a bit more.

Hope this helps

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