Q&A #2 - What is the best way to train for a long apnea dives?

Question by Matthias, Austria

''How do I need to train in order to increase my dive time without lowering my safety margins? The various things I do to increase CO2 tolerance (statics, dynamic tables, hypercapnic swimming) allow me to get ever closer to my black out limit without feeling alarming discomfort beforehand.

The untrained person with low CO2 tolerance will surface long before running danger of a black out. If I train myself to stand more CO2 I get closer to this limit. Does CO2 tolerance training also lengthen the time until I will black out, or just make it 'more comfortable' to get there? What's the best way to train for longer dive times as a recreational diver rather than a focused competitor?''


I understand your concern and I can tell you with certainty that if you want, you can become a Freediver with respected performance without challenging your limits.

From my personal experience, I will tell you that in the past, especially during my first steps, I used to believe that to increase my performance I had to confront my limits and sometimes overcome them, with all that is implied, eg . a Samba or a BO.

For the last four years, I have followed a safer approach both in my training program and the goals I set to achieve my performance.

My interaction with skilled individuals(Freediving instructors, old athletes), who provided me with their experiences and knowledge, was of great importance and protected me from the mistakes that excitement and the unknown can cause.

Certainly, your own self is the one mainly responsible of how to decode and filter this information to ensure obtaining a safe diving career.

Personally, so far I had no black out incident during a race since the day I started up until today that I write you this text.

Mainly the untrained individuals (but not exclusively), face the feeling of discomfort resulting from the increase of carbon dioxide with panic and fear which causes them to stop the apnea effort prematurely at the beginning of their diving career.

However, I believe that the workout of exposure to high levels of CO2 helps more to gain a better self-control over that felling. More specifically, it helps one to be able to endure that uncomfortable feeling, which is completely different than the feeling one can experience because of the low concentration of oxygen.

I would say that we experience two types of diaphragm spasms.

The one that can be controlled (CO2) and the uncontrolled one (O2). It is likely that you have experienced the same and you agree with me Matthias.

The biggest benefit I have gained is through hypoxic rather than hypercapnic training and I recommend you to do the same regardless of whether you're a Freediving athlete or not.

A workout near 70 to 80% of maximum effort (with adequate breaks for relaxation) is sufficient and can provide you with a hypoxic benefit, i.e. by increasing the resistance of your body to low oxygen levels.

I would recommend you integrate two training sessions per week with a focus on Hypoxic exposure (Low O2 session) and additionally, one or two workouts of hypercapnic stimulus exposure.

You can switch this routine as you approach the period that you need to have better apnea times, by performing more hypoxic workouts than hypercapnic workouts.

I will help you even more by providing you with some strategies on how to build a small training cycle and reaping maximum benefits from it.



Personally, I start by dividing my preparation period in two large cycles and then in many individual smaller ones of a duration of 3-4 weeks. Let’s assume that you want to be ready physically and achieve some good apnea attempts in three months by now (a qualitative benefit results usually from a cycle of 11 to 12 weeks of preparation).

Then, I plan the training days I can avail within a one week cycle. I suggest no more than five and no less than 3 coaching sessions as the apnea training cycles cause a lot of stress on the nervous system.

''The more stress we receive, the greater the rest period should be between training sessions.''


I would define from the beginning the first (1st), the fifth (5th) and the last (12th) week as a period of relaxed approach/rehabilitation. While the second (2nd), the fourth (4th), the sixth (6th) and the ninth (9th) as weeks of intense training.

The 10th and 11th week, more specifically, 15 days before the last week of the program, should include low training volume and intense short-term stress, allowing sufficient time for stress stimuli to code for effect (apnea increase).

I hope to have helped you with my answer and would be very happy to hear your comments on the above both from you and from other Freedivers!

Until next time, Strong and safe workouts!

Cheers, George

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