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Translating static apnea into dynamic...

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New Member
Jan 30, 2001
Hello everyone. I have a question about the relationship between static apnea and dynamic/freediving. I have a static breathhold of about 4mins 30secs (at home, on the bed), but when I go free-diving, I have trouble staying under water for longer than 1 minute.

I have practically grown up in the sea, so I am very comfortable in that medium. I used to do a lot of swimming so my technique is ok. I use weights so my bouyancy is not a problem. The water is usually warm, if not I wear a wetsuit. I would have thought that with these conditions I would be able to stay under water for about half my static time (ie 2 mins). Am I hugely mistaken?

Is there some sort of correlation between static breath-hold and freediving breath-hold in a reasonably water-fit person? Is there particular training required to extend freedive times? Or is it just a matter of getting used to holding your breath while under water and at pressure? Maybe my mammalian diving instinct works better on land than in the water at the moment! :D

What differences do the rest of you people have between your static and (average) freediving breath-holds?

Thanks in advance!

UW Times

Hi Terry, I can tell you what I do, and what works for me. My static is 5:30, and depth diving(moving) in cold water with a 5mm suit is usually around 2 minutes; in warm water about 3 minutes. To hit my static time of 5:30 takes me about 4 or 5 attempts, each succesively longer. In the water, this is also the case, until I get cold, then the times level out and eventually get shorter as I get colder. I figured out a couple of years ago that if I was to do 3 or 4 "empty lung" dives"to around 20 or 30', that the diving reflex kicks in very quickly, instead of diving for a half hour before the diving reflex kicked in. The diaphragm is pushed very high into the chest, the vital organs also move up during the dive,blood is shifted to the thorax, and therefore the spleen pumps all that extra hemoglobin into your sytem. It seemed to me that this would be the same as diving to 50 metres or so with lungs full, and I think I'm right. Dive negative for between 20 seconds and up to 1 minute, and listen to your heart rate drop substantially. This will also train your body for equalizing at great depths (possibly stretching diaphragm and vitals), which gets difficult for me at 100'. Please let me know if you notice any difference with this technique, I'm curious. cheers, Erik:)
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Hey Eric. Thanks for your reply. Your theory about accelerating the mamallian dive reflex by doing empty breath dives sounds good. I'll try it out, hopefully on Sunday. Just to clarify, do you exhale completly (empty your lungs) then go down, or do you just go the the bottom of a breath then go down?

My static is also done after a few warm-up breath-holds. When you build up, do you do your build-up breath-holds to the limit? I usually do my first to 1min30, then 2.30, then 3.30 then to my limit. I suppose the feeling of lack of air (or too much CO2) triggers the mamallian dive reflex, so I should try hitting my limit on all breath-holds.

Do you do any form of Yoga before diving/holding your breath? Or do you just relax your mind etc? I guess that's a type of Yoga too, but do you use any 'official' yoga techniques, like Umberto Pelizzari? I'm not so into that kind of stuff, I'm just trying different things by myself to find the best routine.

Happy (and long) diving!!

More stuff

Hi Terry, I exhale completely and then dive. be careful with your ears; you will find that very quickly yoiu have no air for equalization. You can do a feet-first descent being this negative, which is safer.
With static, I usually accept 10 or more contractions with each attempt, until the final attempt, where I go until I can't take it, which was around 30 contractions last time.
The yoga is bits and pieces that I've picked up over the years. I do moving patterns and static poses(stretches) every day to keep loose and flexible. It also helps me relax and focus on anything I have to do. I also do some Pranayama, which is breathing exercises that do involve some breath holding. Before a dive, I do statics on land while I'm setting up and getting ready. This helps start the process and gets me in a relaxed state of mind. This involves setting up and getting dressed in a very unhurried manner, etc. I learned some good yoga off a video by Ali Mcgraw, an actress from the 70's. It's very good, and quite advanced. I just can't remember what it was called! There are a lot of good videos out there, and some good teachers, too. Good luck this weekend....I'm going to a lake in the mountains here for training this weekend, should be fun. Take care, Erik
Hey Eric. Thanks for your tips. I tried them the last time I went diving, and I did seem to feel the diving reflex come around much faster after I did a few empty lung dives. But I still couldn't get my swim time above 1min. I kept on feeling uncomfortable at the surface, and i though maybe I had too much weight on. Only when I get back on the boat did I realise my whole body was aching, and I had the flu!

I've had a bit of mild bronchitis since then, so I haven't really been able to do much diving. I think I also need to find somewhere where i can go deeper than 6m. I was in Sipadan a few weeks ago, freediving off the drop off (10m walk into the water, 600m down!), and that was amazing. Couldn't really push too hard though, since I had been scubadiving the days before. Had to control my ascents etc. Still managed to scare a few scuba divers though! That's the problem with perfect freediving sites - I'm usually there to scuba dive!

I'll let you know the next time I get the chance to try out your techniques.

All the best.


Terry, you've got to start leaving those evil regulators at home. Use the force....come away from the dark side! Just kidding. Last year I went on my first vacation without bringing scuba gear. I went to Playa del Carmen in Mexico and just brought my freedive gear. I had a fantastic time....fdove every day, and went out 3 day trips with a small dive boat. I paid snorkellers rate and saw more stuff than the scuba guys did, including bull sharks. The expressions on peoples' faces, including staff, are priceless when they say " this dive site is in 80 to 100' of water, you know", and you say "yes,that'll be fine thank you".
Sorry to hear about your flu; I think it might be the freedive gods punishing you for breathing compressed air.
I went diving in the mountains last weekend.The water is now 13C at the surface in all the lakes, which is comfortable enough for 2 hours of diving in the Picasso suit. I did 3 negative dives at the beginning of each session, and observed my heart rate. It drops to less than 20 beats a minute; one time I thought it had stopped entirely, because it didn't beat for 5 seconds. Right after the negative dives, I was diving to 20 metres(the bottom)for up to 1:45 minutes(total). I was by myself, so I did not push longer times than this. I know about buddies, etc, but there just aren't any where I am. I made sure that I spent at least 3 minutes breathing up between dives, and would ascend as soon as I felt a strong contraction. I also found that just breathing big, deep breaths with a 3 to 4 second hold each time was more beneficial than any forced exhalation techniques. I'm getting better at packing, and find that it really is helping me. I hope you're healthy for your next dive day, cheers, Erik :)
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