What do we know about buoyancy? In general and buoyancy for freediving? You normally learn it on your Freediving course, but lets refresh it here.
Google tells us that buoyancy is the upward force applied by a fluid on an object when the object is put in or submerged in the fluid. In a more simple way for freedivers, it means “sink or float or stay on the same depth.”
Why does it have any meaning for us as freedivers? If you are not properly buoyant, it will cost you much more energy to cover the same distance. But as freedivers, we want to save energy as much as possible, not to spend it.
There are 3 types of buoyancy: positive, neutral and negative.
If we refer to Google again, we can find out that positive buoyancy occurs when an object is lighter than the fluid it displaces. The object will float because the buoyant force is greater than the object’s weight. Neutral buoyancy occurs when an object’s weight is equal to the fluid it displaces. Negative buoyancy occurs when an object is heavier than the fluid it displaces. The object will sink because its weight is greater than the buoyant force.
In more simple words, if the freediver is positively buoyant at a certain depth – he floats up without any effort. If the freediver is neutrally buoyant – he stays on the same depth and doesn’t move up or down at all. I believe we can compare it to zero gravity feeling. I have never been to space yet, but I guess neutral buoyancy is what we might feel while wondering in the universe. Negative buoyancy is when the freediver just keeps falling down if he relaxes and doesn’t move. This “phenomena” is called freefall and for many freedivers, this is the best and most favorite part of dive.
Buoyancy depends on different factors – personal and external.
A personal factor, which influences the buoyancy, is body composition. Different body tissues have different density – bones and muscles are heavier than fat. Skinny people are usually less buoyant then people who have some body fat.
When we are talking about external factors influencing the buoyancy, first we need to think about the environment. In saltwater freediver more buoyant than in the freshwater due to different water density. So don’t forget to adjust your weights correspondingly, if you change the diving conditions. Otherwise, duck dives in the sea will be a real challenge, if you take the same amount of weights, which you take normally in the lake.
The second important external factor is a wetsuit. Wetsuit does affect buoyancy. The thicker is a wetsuit, the more buoyant it is. And the new wetsuit is more buoyant than the old one. Which means, if you are diving for 2 years in the same wetsuit you may need fewer weights after a certain period of time, then you used when your outfit was a brand new one. Just opposite – if you get yourself a new wetsuit – don’t forget that you may need some extra weights.
What you can do if you are too positively buoyant? You can add weights on your weight belt or neck weight. It is more difficult to adjust the buoyancy if the freediver is “too heavy” in the water. The easiest way is a wetsuit – if you put it on – it will make you more buoyant. But, if for some reason you cannot wear a thicker wetsuit – maybe it would be too hot in it, and then nothing could be done. At least at the moment, freediving gear manufacturers cannot solve the problem of negatively buoyant freedivers. Who knows, maybe soon someone will create rash guards with tiny balloons all around? We’ll see 🙂
And now, let’s discuss how we can check if we have proper buoyancy for open water trainings.
First of all, the freediver needs to be positive buoyant on a surface – when he lies down on a surface he is not sinking. The reason for it – you want to be able to rest before and after the dive – before the dive, you want to relax and take time to prepare, and after the dive, you might be a bit tired and want to recover. If you need to kick to stay on the surface – it is not the most relaxing, right?
Except being positive buoyant on a surface you need to be positive buoyant even after passive exhale. What does it mean “passive exhale”? You do full inhale and then you exhale without any force, passively release a little bit of air. After this manipulation you still need to float on a surface – may be a few centimeters below the surface, but definitely not sinking (even slowly) down.
If the worst-case scenario happens and the freediver loses consciousness on the way up, he will still stay positively buoyant on ascending and the whole rescue procedure will be much easier to do. Because when the freediver loses consciousness, the diaphragm relaxes and goes to the neutral position, which results in a little exhale. So when we do a buoyancy check with a passive exhale on a surface, this is a kind of imitation of air release in case of a blackout.
Besides, the freediver should be also positively buoyant the last couple of meters of ascending. Because on the last few meters of ascend freediver passes the riskiest depth, so it would be more reasonable to save little energy and not to kick hard. In this situation, the freediver can slightly relax and save some energy (read oxygen) on the last 5-10 meters due to positive buoyancy, which helps to prevent shallow water blackout.
Neutral buoyancy should be somewhere around 10 meters. At this depth, you don’t sink or float up. How you can check it? You dive to 10 meters. You slightly hold the line – make some kind of loop with your fingers around the line, so you don’t actually touch the line. And you will see if you go down or up. Ideally, you should stay on the same level – this means you have neutral buoyancy at this depth.
The depth of neutral buoyancy depends on how deep the freediver is going to dive and for experienced freedivers depth of neutral buoyancy might be deeper. But if you are a beginner or intermediate level freediver, you need to be neutrally buoyant at 8-10 meters. There is a one really cool warm-up exercise which our students find enjoyable. If you feel comfortable at 10 meters, try to hang there for a while. If you close your eyes, you can imagine yourself an astronaut in the open space out of gravity. This exercise we call hangs. But don’t hang too long – always remember you still have 10 meters to go up to the surface.
And when the freediver passes neutral buoyancy he gets into the impact of negative buoyancy. At the beginning of 12-13 meters, you don’t feel it much, because it is still very light. If you relax for freefall at this depth, you will fall super slow and just waste your oxygen-treasured time. So I wouldn’t recommend you to start freefall shallower than 15 meters.
After your turn on the planned depth, you need to do the way up which is just opposite to the efforts on the way down – first, you need to kick really good and strong to struggle with negative buoyancy. After you pass neutral buoyancy, you get into the positive buoyancy world and can relax a bit. Last 5-6 meters you may just float up fully relaxed without moving or glide a lot between kicks or between pulls, depending on your freediving technique.
To make a conclusion I would like to underline once again the key points of this article – when you check the buoyancy – you check it first on a surface. Even after passive exhale you should be positively buoyant. If you start sinking after passive exhales – remove the weights. Check if you are neutrally buoyant at 8-10 meters. If you sink – remove some weights from your belt.
And the main things – don’t forget to enjoy your freefall and your hangs in space.
Let me start with a question – WHY do we need to do safety for each other on freediving open water sessions?
Despite it rarely happens, we shouldn’t ignore a small chance of shallow water blackout on ascend. For this reason, the safety diver needs to dive and meet the ascending freediver at approximately one-third of the depth and escort him to the surface.
Let’s have a closer look at the most frequent mistakes.
The first “popular” mistake is not to follow the surface interval between the dives. For example, freediver comes up from the deep dive, and instead of taking full recovery as if he gets ready for his next deep-dive, almost immediately he confirms he is ready to do safety.
What is the problem here? – Obviously the freediver hasn’t recovered fully. When the freediver get ready for his own deep dive, he would take long rest after the last dive and never dive just after the recovery breathing. It takes a while to remove extra CO2 from tissues and renew the gas balance in the body. So why would freediver prepare to the deep dive more carefully then to the safety dive? Just perhaps, safety dive to 10-15 meters doesn’t sound like a challenge. And if a safety diver just need to watch and escort the freediver it is not a big deal at all. But imagine the situation when the freediver loses consciousness and the safety diver needs to grab him and bring to the surface and then also do all rescue procedures. You know, all this lifting and supporting unresponsive diver on the surface is a pretty exhausting activity. So make sure you have a rest long enough to be able to perform as safety and rescuer in case you need to. Take your time, no rush in freediving.
The second mistake freedivers usually do is connected to equipment.
Before your own dive, you probably leave a snorkel in the float, to avoid dragging. But when you watch your buddy’s dive from the surface, it is more convenient to have snorkel in the mouth. Of course, you hold the line to know when to start the dive, but sometimes it is not enough – your freediver may forget to pull the line or he pulls too weak. So to look down is a good idea because then you can react faster and not miss your freediver. Which makes snorkel a very useful piece of equipment.
The same story is with the fins. If you train without fins, you still need them for safety. Even if your no fins technique is brilliant, lifting a blacked-out freediver to the surface is not a piece of cake. You have to swim really fast, which will be impossible to do without fins. And use proper freediving fins for safety – scuba fins or monofin are unacceptable, you can use them only for your own dives.
The third mistake is to miss the moment when to start the dive.
How do you know when to start your dive as a safety? – When we are talking about a beginner freediver who dives to 15-20-30 meters, the easiest way to check when you need to start the safety dive is do the following: you lie on the surface and hold the line when your freediver reaches the target depth, he grabs the line for a turn and pulls it (which is a part of turning technique). You feel this pull and it means your freediver started the ascend. This is a signal for you to start your dive.
For deep freedivers it’s a bit different story since they know precisely how long the dive lasts and at what exact depth you need to meet them.
Mistake number four – not to watch freediver till his full recovery.
I guess this is the most ordinary mistake. Freediver comes up and after he just finishes recovery breathing, you stop paying attention to him and do your own staff. It’s a huge mistake. Full recovery is not the same as the end of recovery breathing. Recovery breathing is a certain amount of active inhales and passive exhales and may last only 5-15 seconds. But full recovery takes more time. You cannot be sure your freediver is ok 5 seconds after he breaks the surface and shows Ok. Some freedivers have a habit to show OK as soon as they can. And it could happen that the freediver has LMC even after he did recovery breathing. So if you are not continuing watching freediver carefully for a while, you may miss the moment when he requires some support.
Let’s finalize and try to set up 4 main rules for safety in the open water:
follow surface interval timing for your safety dives same as for your deep dives
check/put on your gear before you confirm you are available for safety dive
start the safety dive in time
Watch freediver till he fully recovers, not till the end of recovery breathing.
It’s hard to underestimate the role of safety buddy in any freediving discipline.
At first glance safety skill for STA seems to be very easy – you just need to carefully watch your buddy and be ready to provide assistance if it is necessary.
However, safety for static apnea is a unique experience in freediving: only in static safety buddy can talk to freediver during the breath-hold – give comments, support, and motivate. In this case, the safety buddy in static apnea acts as the coach.
So don’t ignore the requirement to train with a safety buddy – it’s not just about following the RULE No.1 in freediving, which you learned on your Freediving course – never freedive alone, but it is also very convenient to have someone, who can tell you “Hold it. Don’t give up. 5 seconds left!”
Except that your safety buddy should be a freediver, who knows how to do rescue in case of LMC or blackout, it would be also good if he is familiar with how to do CPR. Nobody wants to use this skill, but you never know what can happen.
Moreover, it’s always a good idea to refresh rescue skills from time to time – maybe once in a week or once a month – in this case, you can be sure that you remember all steps and can do them even if you are stressed out.
And when I say that you need to watch your buddy, I mean watch carefully, paying all your attention to the freediver who holds the breath. When your freediver does relaxation breathing you can relax, but as soon as he holds the breath – all your attention goes on freediver till he comes up and finish recovery breathing. You need to make sure your freediver is fully recovered. You must control the situation even after your freediver showed you OK sign and a little bit after that. Don’t look around or don’t check your phone when you do safety, as you can skip the moment when freediver blacks out.
I agree, that sometimes it is not the most exciting job, especially if your freediver does long tables or a set of long breath holds. But this is a part of the game and as we say “if you like to sledge, must like to push your sledge up the hill”.
The last aspect of safety – your position towards freediver.
What do we do in Crystal Freediving for our pool training sessions – if someone does the maximum attempt or the near-maximum – 70-80%, or trying to set up the personal best, safety buddy stays in the pool next to freediver. In this case, there are many more chances for some emergency and the quick reaction of a safety buddy really matters.
If we are training easy breath-holds – 50-60% of the maximum, then it is acceptable for safety buddy to stay out of the water on a side of the pool. Still, hand-distance to freediver is a “must”. Although during easy static apnea training the emergency case is hard to happen, still it doesn’t mean you can have a sit on a sunbed and drink coffee while your freediver is holding the breath. You never know how it goes so should be close to your buddy.
In my opinion, freediver’s results depend a lot on safety buddy – if you can trust your buddy, if you are sure that he is attentive enough and will not confuse anything, and will proceed as you agreed, then you can relax much better. And, as you know, relaxation is the main key to success in freediving.
Freedivers are blessed to require very little equipment to enjoy the underwater world. We only need fins, mask, and snorkel. But, do we really need a snorkel for freediving? Let’s find it out
For safety reasons, you have to remove a snorkel from your mouth during any breath-hold. But what about providing safety to your freediving buddy or while relaxation breathing before the breath-hold?
Let’s start with static apnea. Two options for relaxation breathing before STA. Some freedivers use a snorkel if they prefer to prepare with a face down in the water (it also helps to trigger Mammalian Dive Reflex, but create extra “Dead Space”). Other freedivers do relaxation breathing with the face out of the water either leaning on a pool wall or lying on the back on the surface. A safety buddy normally don’t use a snorkel either, since it is not necessary to put his face in the water
The other pool discipline is dynamic apnea, where a freediver swims horizontally underwater and safety buddy follows him on the surface. Most of the time relaxation breathing is done without a mask and snorkel and mask can be put on only right before the breath-hold. Though, same as with the static apnea some people feel more relaxed with a face in the water to get ready. In this case, before the swim, it makes sense to unclip the snorkel and leave it on the side of the pool, to prevent unnecessary dragging. Safety buddy in this discipline has to wear the snorkel, to be able to constantly watching freediver from the surface, ready to provide assistance as quickly as possible.
Now let’s have a look what do we have with diving in the sea.
If you dive in calm water, you can prepare for a dive without a snorkel, lying on your back. However, in case if the sea is a bit choppy, then it would be not the best position for relaxation breathing. You can imagine – you lay on the surface, do your final deep breath and when almost ready to go, some water can accidentally get over your face. So in this case it would be easier to do relaxation breathing through a snorkel face down in the water. Personally I prefer to leave snorkel on a float and not to have it clipped to my mask underwater.
A safety buddy usually has a snorkel, to be able to watch a freediver during his descend and in some cases watch how diver is coming up. Besides, safety buddy doesn’t dive that deep, and snorkel dragging is not a big problem for him. Some Freedivers keep it attached to the mask; others hold it in a hand or put it under the weight belt.
A bit different story is with recreational freediving when freedivers explore the local reef and enjoy the marine life, combining together snorkeling and freediving. They dive pretty shallowly and while they swim on the surface they look for something interesting underwater. Does it make sense to wear a snorkel? It does! And how to deal with a snorkel during your dive? You have several options – leave snorkel on the float, pass it to your buddy, hold it in the hand during the whole dive or just keep it clipped to the mask, – whatever you find more convenient.
Quite often I start a beginner Freediving course by asking my students whether they think freediving is a dangerous activity or not. Some say yes, it is dangerous, some say not, it is absolutely safe.
The truth is somewhere in the middle.
If you follow safety rules, Freediving is safe and enjoyable water-based activity. But if you break these rules, then Freediving becomes a Russian roulette, without guarantee of a happy end.
And one of such rules is – don’t do hyperventilation before a breath hold!
But first of all, what is hyperventilation?
In a simple way – Hyperventilation is over-breathing – when you breathe more than you need to. Normally the rate and depth of your breathing depend on a current metabolic activity (mainly on how much CO2 you produce). More CO2 you produce – deeper or faster you breathe.
For example, when you are sleeping, you are not producing that much CO2 and your breath is shallow and quite. But in contrast, if you are running then you produce much more CO2 and this dramatically affects your breathing rate and depth.
Back to Freediving. Remember, how breath-hold looks like? Relaxations breathing, breath-hold itself, and recovery breathing after.
Relaxation breathing can vary among freedivers, and we like to experiment with it. And some freedivers intentionally or unintentionally can do hyperventilation instead of relaxation breathing.
Why someone would do it intentionally? Is it an attempt to bring more O2? Unlikely, since the vast majority of O2 in your body is already connected with hemoglobin and this is not going to be affected by manipulation with breathing.
The answer is, someone does hyperventilation in an attempt to decrease the level of CO2 in the blood. And why do so? Remember that if you hold your breath long enough, you start feeling the urge to breathe? So, this urge to breathe is connected with the level of CO2. Since then there is a desire to lower the level of CO2 and by doing so delay the urge to breathe
And what about unintentional hyperventilation? It can happen with a freediver who thinks that only fast breathing is hyperventilation. For example, you can hear such advice as “exhale as twice longer as inhale”. This is indeed a mild version of hyperventilation
But why hyperventilation is not a good idea for Freedivers?
1. HR will go up. If you do deep and fast breathing your heart rate will inevitably increase. And the heart is the muscle that requires O2. The more it works, the more O2 it consumes.
2. Lower CO2. Think about your urge to breathe as an alarm clock. When you have it, consider it as a signal that you might come close to your hypoxic limit. If you remove too much CO2 by hyperventilation than you can come too close to your hypoxic limit and have a Black Out.
3. Also, when you remove too much CO2, it will increase the blood pH level, making it alkaline. It will lead to cerebral vasoconstriction (constriction of the blood vessels in your brain) and as a result – less blood, less O2 is going to be delivered to the brain.
4. Hyperventilation suppresses the Bohr Effect. The presence of CO2 makes an easier O2 release from hemoglobin. If CO2 goes down, this mechanism is not working that good anymore.
Bottom line – hyperventilation should be avoided by beginner and intermediate freedivers by all means! It doesn’t give you any benefits but put under unnecessary risk.
Before we start to compare neck weight vs the weight belt, let’s make sure everybody understands why we need additional weights.
In the swimming pool, when a Freediver swims underwater, he needs to be at 1-2 meters deep and not to sink or float up. As the majority of people are positively buoyant (float up) at such depth, they need to put some extra weights on to be neutrally buoyant (stay on the same depth without floating up or sinking). This is even more important if you use a wetsuit.
Buoyancy is a personal feature and two freedivers with similar weight and height may have different buoyancy and need a different amount of weights.
If the amount of weights influences the buoyancy in general, then the location of weights impacts the streamline position. And a good streamline position helps a lot in conserving oxygen.
If all your weights stay around hips, then, after a freediver makes deep inhale and starts swim underwater, the chest area will be more buoyant (float up) and legs are less buoyant (sink).
I am not saying that the weight belt is not practical in freediving – you can see that many freedivers, especially beginners, prefer to use it, instead of the neck weight.
First of all, it is more convenient to wear weights on hips rather than on a neck, especially if its 3-4 kilos heavy. It takes a while to get used to a neck weight and be comfortable with it.
The second reason, weight belts are more popular in freediving centers as they are more multi-functional and durable, so high chances that you get it if you rent equipment from the Freediving center.
And the third reason – it’s not so long time ago freediving brands started to manufacture neck weights. Before, if you want to have a neck weight – you have to make it by yourself.
But what are the advantages of the neck weight?
The first one – you can adjust its weight more precisely.
Weights for the weight belt have a fixed amount of grams – 500, 800, 1000, etc. For example, in our school, we use 800 and 1200 grams. In contrast, you can make your neck weight to match your buoyancy much more precisely.
The second advantage – location of the neck weight improves body position and provides more streamlined (horizontal).
Nowadays you have a choice – you can either buy a branded neck weight or make it by yourself as in old good times. All you need for the handmade option is a bicycle tire, some filling, pair of clips, and insulation tape.
This is the cheapest solution and you can use it both for a pool and for the ocean.
But if the water temperature in your pool varies and sometimes you need to wear the wetsuit and sometimes you don’t, then you need to adjust the amount of the weights as well. This is pretty difficult to do with a handmade neck weight. What you can do in this case – make several neck weights, which would fit every wetsuit you have.
Or you can buy the adjustable neck weight.
Lobster at the moment is probably the most popular brand in a freediving market. They created a very comfortable and good looking weight system, which spreads the weight not just around the neck, but also along the spine. The only minus of Lobster neck weight – it is not convenient for depth diving, despite the manufacturer still recommends it.
Snorkeling is the most popular and enjoyable water activity. Many people even without good swimming skills are signing up for snorkeling tours to explore the unknown underwater world. It is believed to be the safest water activity as well.
But with a few steps you can make it even safer!
When you go snorkeling with a tour, usually the guide is responsible for the safety, constantly keeping an eye on all of the people he brought to the spot. Moreover, he is always ready to provide necessary assistance in case of need.
Because in the open water, even if you are a confident swimmer, you are not 100% safe. In the case of dizziness or some bad feeling if you are on land – you can take care of yourself without any side assistance. However, in the water, where you cannot even stand, in case of a problem, you need someone to help you.
Besides, let’s be honest, it’s much more fun to snorkel with friends.
SAFETY RULE # 1 – When you are in the water, someone should be watching you.
The next aspect I would like to highlight is importance of to be visible in the sea.
When you swim, face down, fully focused on the beauty of the coral reef with your black snorkel next to your dark-haired head, how do you think the passing boats would know you are there?
Even if you are snorkeling in the area with a little boat traffic, there is still a chance for bad luck, when there will be the only one boat driving by and it potentially can hit you.
There is a very easy way you can protect yourself – be bright!
Bright neon color snorkel, bright red, yellow, or pink, whatever color except blue and black, rash guard or t-shirt will increase your chances to be spotted by a captain from far away!
Moreover, if you plan to snorkel in the area with heavy boat traffic, it is much better to have some kind of floating device. They are usually also bright red, yellow or orange. Or, if you don’t have any, – then even your bright color dry bag filled with air and sealed can work well.
SAFETY RULE # 2 – be visible in the sea.
The 3d rule will be about your buoyancy in the water.
Someone after finishing scuba or freediving courses learned that weight belt is a helpful device for maintaining the buoyancy underwater. Well, yes, it is much easier to dive down with a few extra kilos around your waist. However, it is much more difficult to float on a surface with those extra kilos. In scuba you had a buoyancy jacket to compensate the weight on a surface, right? In freediving you have to be positively buoyant on a surface even after the passive exhale, don’t you? So leave the weight belt alone – you do not need it for snorkeling, as you don’t want to struggle with the negative buoyancy on the surface.
SAFETY RULE #3 – be positive on the surface
Further rules go mostly for advanced snorkelers as they deal about some freediving while snorkeling, but because it is a tiny step from beginner snorkeler to the advanced, no matter how good you are now, I would recommend you to finish this article.
No wonder that after a while during the snorkeling you want to have a closer look at some cute underwater habitats. You make a deep big breath on a surface and you dive.
Do you know what you might forget to do?
You might forget to remove the snorkel from your mouth before the dive. This is a typical mistake even for scuba professionals. Or maybe, it’s just because they feel more relaxed underwater with something in their mouths…who knows.
Why would you need to remove the snorkel before the dive if you can easily blow into it to clean after ascend?
you don’t want to waste time and energy for it
it might be potentially dangerous
There is a chance of inhaling water from the tube.
If you ever decide to take a freediving course, your instructor will explain to you in detail, why diving with a snorkel in the mouth could be dangerous.
Imagine yourself swimming up from your dive, you are already a bit out of breath, but still ok, you blow to clean your snorkel, and you fail to clean all the water from it, so you still have water in… and now you are totally out of breath. Doesn’t sound good, right?
SAFETY RULE #4 – always removes the snorkel before a dive
And the last rule – don’t exhale underwater.
If you have seen in the videos that some experienced freedivers exhale just before they break the surface – don’t repeat this. This is really the advanced technique and if you are not the same level of experience as someone diving to at least 80 meters, please, don’t repeat it.
Exhaling underwater has no benefits, but it can lead to unconsciousness or to damage of your lungs.
SAFETY RULE #5 – don’t exhale underwater
And before I finish I would like to make sure that when you start some freediving while you are snorkeling, you remember to equalize your ears.
Freediving equalization is quite a complicated thing. And some people need time to master it. When you take a freediving course a big part of the course is dedicated to this topic. But if for some reason you prefer to skip the freediving course, at least remember – you do not continue to descend if you have an uncomfortable feeling, or especially pain, in your ears or forehead or anywhere else. Diving with pain may cause eardrum rapture. It will heal after a while as our bodies are perfectly designed for self-renovations, still, you prefer not to damage yourself. Right? To learn more about equalization check our video about it.
Static Apnea (STA) usually the first thing any Freediver learns. Whether it happens on a freediving course (learn about Freediving course) or while lying in a bed.
STA is the easiest way to learn all the steps – relaxation breathing, relaxation during breath-hold, recovery breathing. You even don’t need that much equipment – mask if you do it in the water, or nothing if do it “dry”.
Sounds like a perfect combination, right?
STA also helps to gain confidence before moving to more advanced Freediving disciplines such as Dynamic Apnea (DYN) or even depth disciplines.
However, if your main goal is to get ready to dive in the ocean, then, there is a better option.
But first, a little bit of theory. When you dive in the Ocean, there is no such feeling as extreme fullness in the lungs (which you have when you do a full inhale before normal STA). During the descent, your lungs get compressed quite quickly, due to the increase of ambient pressure. As a result, the volume of any gas (including air in your lungs) will decrease accordingly.
How can we simulate it on land?
The answer – empty lungs STA. Start with relaxation breathing as usual, but before breath-hold, instead of full inhale, you do full exhale. After that do the same as with full lungs breath-hold – be as much relaxed as possible.
Since your goal is not absolute time, but rather relaxation (get comfortable with the feeling of “smaller” lungs) – you don’t need to push yourself (at least no need to do it often).
Just be relaxed before contractions start and during the first few.
I personally like to do empty lungs STA in the form of O2 table.
If you have never done such training before here is an example (this is how we do it for the first time with our Advanced Freediver students)
And keep in mind, if you are planning to do this training in the water, ALWAYS train with another Freediver, who knows how to do safety (video how to do Safety) and knows Rescue procedure (video how to do Rescue).
There are many debates whether CO2 tables are useful or useless for Freedivers. And in a reality, as always, truth is somewhere in the middle.
We practicing CO2 tables, classical and modified on our Advanced Freediver and following courses.
STA breath hold
First, what is a STA CO2 table.
Take 50% from your current maximum STA and repeat it 6-8 times, every time decreasing rest time. If you current max, let’s say 2 minutes, this is how classical CO2 table would look like for you
Before you start doing this type of training or critique it, lets ask the main question – what is your goal in this kind of training? Have a longer breath hold?
Now let’s have a look what happens during this table.
First, a Freediver who do this table, practicing relaxation breathing. Seven times from 2.00 to 0.30 practicing important skill. Calm down your mind and relax your muscles. Don’t underestimate this skill
Next the Freediver trains how stay relax while holding your breath. And this is obviously crucial skill for all levels and especially for beginners. Don’t try to be tough and “handle” contractions, learn how to hold your breath longer without them!
Probably first 4-5 attempts going to be quite easy and you won’t experience any urge to breath symptoms – beautiful, coming out from your comfort zone in not your priority at this moment.
And might be on the last 1-2 the Freediver going to have 1 or 2 contractions. Don’t hold your breath longer. In addition to previous goals, for these two attempts we also train how to stay relax during these first couple of contractions
If you don’t have any – on the next training increase each breath holds by 5 seconds
My conclusion – if you are beginner or intermediate Freediver and trying to build a foundation – this classical STA CO2 table is a legit way of training!
But then why a lot of experienced Freedivers critique it? Because it is a waste of training time for THEM! They already mastered how to do relaxation breathing or how to stay relaxed and not to panic during first contractions. They passed this step. Now they have different goals
And yes, classical CO2 table is not the most effective way to train tolerance to a high level of CO2. But if your STA is less then 4 minutes, do you really need to train it? Or your priority to learn basics, which is relaxation, not suffering?
Don’t blindly copy the way how champions are train, when you a beginner!