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How deep a breath hold?

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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paul oz

New Member
Oct 10, 2004
Hi Everyone!

Im an elite cyclist who is interested in starting freediving (well, snorkelling....which im keen to stay down longer for) - but im not sure how 'deep' to breathe in for breath holds?

Ive read many threads on breathing techniques etc on here, and can manage 1.45 from a couple of days practicing - but if i take a full lungfull of air i cant hold onto it for more than 25 secs!!??
If i just take 1/2 a lung full i last much longer until i have to breathe out, but then im fine for another 20 secs after i breathe out. this right? Or do i just need to practice holding on to a full lung of air?
My lung capacity is 6.8 litres, and resting pulse 32 which i hope would help how long i can last for?

Also - just to make sure; Is there any danger that practicing breath holding regulary could affect my racing on the bike?

Many thanks,
Hi oz

when holding your breath for static apnea you should fill 70-80% of your lungs!

while freediving you should fill 100% of your lungs!
hi again

Practicing breath hold correctly will NOT by any means harm your cycling skill but might even improve them!!!
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Hi Paul and welcome to DB,

It's obvious that you must be in great shape so what I'm thinking is the issue with flexiblity in your chest. Maybe you just need to practice acclimitizing your lungs to holding a full breath. Most freedivers do lung streching excersizes on a regular basis. When you cycle hard for training what's your breathing like? Short quick breaths? How much do you fill your lungs?

You might be much more relaxed with a half breath than feeling uncomfortable with bursting lungs - that might account for your results. The trick in freediving is to relax as much as possible, and when in movement only use those muscles necessary for propulsion.

Being in the UK you have a great group of freedivers and instructors - see the Saltfree thread or contact samdive on this forum.

By the way, there is ongoing research by freedivers into FRC (Functional Residual Capacity) freediving which means diving on a passive exhale. So it's not always necessary to dive on a full breath!

In any case, inform yourself well - use the search function, and if you feel you'ld like to get into it more take a freediving course - there are a lot of safety factors involved and you'll find you'll improve very quickly.

If you want to reach your max in static, you will need to learn to hold 130% of a full breath (full breath + packing); you should never exhale and then hold some more -- although it is easier that way in the beginning.
Hey Eric I've heard yogies can do really nice exhale statics ;)

Love, peace and water!

when holding your breath for static apnea you should fill 70-80% of your lungs!


when practising statics and stretching regularly, especially also before statics, you will be able to hold in more air comfortably. so you maintain relaxed. take a few full inhales at the beginning of your breathing/statics session and take a few full inhales after an hour of breathing/stretching/breath-holding. the difference should be very noticable.

i haven´t heard of anyone who does longer statics with less than full inhale (except for beginners).

We are savages!!!

Yes, and a Yogi wouldn't be having any trouble trying to do a 10min breathhold... Alas nobody is a Yogi here. ;)

To kill another romanticism, I have yet to meet somebody that is not using "brute-force" breathhold methods in the freediving community, as opposed to heightened awareness/synchronicity techniques (yogi/spiritual).

The value of this recognition is important I believe to drop any psychological barriers out there. Just through physical properties of our bodies and physical training, most of us can achieve close results to the top breathholders. Of course if you have a mental barrier, this needs to be overcome, just the same as it does in running, cycling, weightlifting, etc...

That said maybe another way to emphasize my point would be to say that the top breathholders are almost certainly as yogic as the top competitive swimmers. ;)
Thanks for your advice guys!

The stretching thing makes a lot of sense. When i try and hold a really deep lung full it feels very tight, becoming almost painful quite quickly in the middle of my chest.
I do a small amount of breathing excercises for cycling using a resistance inhaler which add strength, but probably also limit flexability thinking about it.
Even flat out no athlete uses 100% of their lung capacity - you cant get the air in and out fast enough if you do that! Because of this i suppose you develop a powerful shorter breath - so the stretch of a full lungful might take me a while to get used to. But yeah, i can see how this could help on the bike if i can get on top of it.
I'll give it a go for a few weeks and report back!
I have some pretty good lab data regarding oxgygen transport and respiritory rates from my peak form earlier this season - so i'll get the same tests done again next spring for a comparison.

The mental thing is a factor fer sure. I'm used to hard training and suffering (and enjoy it....) But im not sure from reading these threads that the theory im used to of getting to the point of pain and holding it there, then repeating it, is a good idea??
hi paul!

be careful not to hyperventilate! take slow and deep breath
about 5 seconds inhaling and 5 seconds exhaling!!!

good luck!
Gradually build things up Paul, try withstand the temptation of training VERY hard. As you know from cycling it's not the 100% effort that helps to improve. It's much better to do several 90% trainings, and save the energy for recovery and build up.
I recomment to take at least one resting day after a training.

Breathholds are much more stressing your body and heart, and whares you much more down than you initially feel.
Statics can be OVERtrained, and you may devellop a mental blockade. Recovery from that may take a full year, and I know people who have quit statics because of that.

I personally try for a max only once or twice a month, if I feel like it.

In training I focus on learning, and visualising, and no breathhold is dull, there is so much to learn, just openup you sences, feelings and thoughts.

Have a nice training, and many discoveries,

Love, peace and water!

Last edited:

Hi Paul

I still remember the words of Pipin a long time refering to ciclying

he says If They know what they can do if they only practice freediving - because they have good lung capaticy-
"Resistencia" ect ect

so you are ready for it friend

also the freediving is more anaerobic so do not worry IT will help you more with your ciclying

I'll not read all those posts above... I'll just give my experiences and suggestions:

Breath calmly, as deep as it feels comfortable for you... Then exhale very slowly, then inhale about 70-80% as everyone seas and hold breath. Now... JUST CLICK CLOCK BUTTON, AND DONT LOOK TO IT! forget IT! Forget about your hold breath, think about something that calms you, and totaly distracts attention from breath hold... Then, when first contractions (need to breath) starts, just try to ignore them, stay calm, and ignore that as long as possible (not too long btw :p), then, if you've done all correctly, you can check the clock...
And be surprised!

Your resting heartrate is wonderful, i think you could get over 3 mins (without too much trainings)... But anyways, it's only this noob's (mine) opinion.

BTW, i'm only 15 and I also like running... So, until i discovered freediving, i couldnt run even a kilometre! (OMG) My breathing was so bad... And when i did some freediving, apnea excersices, i noticed that my breathing went to very good point, now i think that i'm excellent at it! So what i wanted to say, that freediving will improve your cycling... Just give it some time!

Hi paul,

I am also a cyclist. I am on a jr. cycling team I am 16.
Well any way cycling could effect your free diving skills just a little.... Because when you are cycling you teach your boady to run with pleanty of oxygen and when you are freediving it does the exact opposite, it teaches your boady to work with very little oxygen. I hope that makes some sence.

I do a fair amount of bike races my self and I am reasonable heathy my reasting heart rate is 50bpm and I can hold my breath for over 4 mins....a big part of it is realy breaking the mental barriors.

good luck,


Hi David-- part of the runer tryning berfore the competition is to train some anaerobic erxesise this will help them at the end of the race I do not know about cyclist training but I think they shoud do some anareobic training too not sure
"Even flat out no athlete uses 100% of their lung capacity"
Thanks for the explanation. Way back when I raced Cat 1/2 my Vc was 5.2. Now with my shorter training and ripe old age, it is up a half liter. Makes sense, now that I think about it, because I'm using 120% of capacity.

"The mental thing is a factor fer sure. I'm used to hard training and suffering (and enjoy it....) But im not sure from reading these threads that the theory im used to of getting to the point of pain and holding it there, then repeating it, is a good idea??"
All the rules you've learned about training still apply. You still use all three types of power. There has even been a little talk about using caffeine right before an event like we used to do. Classroom and a hands-on coaching is just as important. None of the dive training will adversely affect your bike riding in the long term, but don't enter a spearfishing meet the day after a 160K race like I once tried. Had a lousy day.
Thanks for your help!
Its getting more and more interesting......

Im not sure how breath holds/apnea could improve my bike racing though? Does anyone have any reasoning for this theory?
Maybe chest/lung flexabilty as mentioned previously may help as it could improve mucsular efficiency.

The type of racing i mainly compete in is time trialling - where the idea is to hold it right on the limit of anerobic/aerobic. Or more precisely perhaps just over the aerobic limit at a pace that i can sustain for 10, 25 or 50 miles. So basically flat out, at least for 10 miles, and only 2bpm lower for 25 miles (average normally in the region of 194 bpm, maybe over 200 if really hot), and in a right mess breathing thru my ears for the last mile or 2!

Obviously any increase in efficiecy anywhere could be vital - but from the tests ive done i dont know if theres much left in the bag, after 13 years steady improvement?

I'll let you all know how i get on anyway - and change will not go unoticed!

Paul Oz,

I think the most significant help that breathholding trains one for, across most disciplines, is the change in gas tolerances. Most significantly the effect of a higher CO2 tolerance, allowing one to breath less frequently. In most sports you can hear the trainers encouraging the athelete to breathe deeply and pace their breathing as much as possible. This becomes significantly easier when your CO2 tolerance is developed.

What benefit is this possibly?
It could allow:

- you to utilize less oxygen towards muscle contractions for rapid breathing.
- your heart rate to decrease.
- more efficient gas exchange in the lungs.
- more relaxed state of mind.

My theory at least.


Forgot to mention:

At the AIDA 2004 World Championship science talks, Andrew P. Blaber, PH. D., shared that in their studies they had found freedivers have the trained ability to exhale CO2 more effectively, and significantly so, than the non-freediver control group. This ability would certainly compliment the things I stated above and be another means of efficient gas exchange.

On top of these things, I didn't mention that most freedivers learn to breath with the diaphragm, which also aids efficiency of breathing.


Hmmm, why do i remembered article in newspaper about cyclists... That they're in need of oxygen, when going up-hill, or in the end of track?
Anyways, if it's true, then i'm 100% that freediving WILL improve your cycling skills.
Because, when i do walking apnea, after long one, i feel the same stress and pain in my legs, as i would feel after very hard and long excercises...
So anyways, if cyclists are in need of oxygen badly sometimes, then after some freediving your body will be more tolerant for such things.

THAT'S only MINE opinion.
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