Freediving Breathing Exercises

by Christina McDonald-Legg


Freediving is diving without an oxygen tank. The human body makes various adaptations to endure high pressure and lack of oxygen while underwater, including a drop in pulse and blood vessel contraction. Freediving is a high risk sport, posing particular health challenges for your heart and lungs. However, training with freediving breathing exercises helps your lungs expand to hold more oxygen so you can stay under water longer. Increase safety by learning freediving technique from a qualified instructor.

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise uses the large muscles of the arms and legs, maximizing the oxygen in your blood and increasing blood flow to your muscles and lungs. Your body’s capillaries, or small blood vessels, expand to deliver more oxygen to your muscles and reduce carbon dioxide and lactic acid build-up. As your body gets used to aerobic exercise, your lung capacity increases for better freediving ability. This increases your depth capacity and the time you are able to hold your breath when underwater. According to the Cleveland Clinic, aerobic activities such as running, walking, dancing and swimming all help improve efficiency of the lungs and heart.

Yoga Breathing

Yoga, particularly the breathing exercises known as Pranayama, increases lung capacity by improving flexibility of the rib cage, back and shoulders so that the lungs can expand fully, according to “Yoga Journal.” A Pranayama practice boosts lung capacity by conditioning the diaphragm to more fully oxygenate the blood. Researchers at Ball State University looked at 287 college students to analyze how twice-a-week hatha yoga affects lung capacity. Their results, published in "Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine," showed that all of the students, including athletes, smokers and asthmatics, demonstrated significant lung capacity improvement by the end of the study.

Frog Breathing and Hyperventilation

Divers mine every oxygen molecule from their breath by manipulating carbon dioxide and lung capacity. An exercise that is basically hyperventilation involves breathing very vigorously and very fast just before a descent, to release the most carbon dioxide possible. A diver might do this while relaxing in "dead man's float" on the surface prior to making the dive. Stretch your lungs by mimicking an amphibious diving machine. Frog breathing packs air into your lungs as you breathe in deeply until you can't inhale any more and then gulp more air into your lungs through your mouth. The exercise expands lung capacity.

Breath Holding

You''l be moving as you hold your breath on the dive so practice on land helps to prepare your body to multitask with limited oxygen. Inhale deeply a few times, then stop breathing and hold your breath for one minute. Walk slowly as far as possible before you take a breath. Walking further each time you do this exercise helps you see and record how your lung capacity is increasing and gives you a goal to reach. An air-exchange exercise energizes lungs and flushes out extra carbon dioxide so it builds up more slowly when you are underwater. Inhale deeply until you cannot breathe in anymore, filling both your upper and lower chest to capacity. Now, exhale fully, contracting your belly and completely emptying your lungs.

Deep Breathing

Perform deep breathing either standing or sitting. The exercise helps increase your lung capacity for freediving by relaxing you and lowering your heart rate to reduce the amount of oxygen your body requires. Place your hands on your stomach, and exhale completely through your mouth. Now, push your hands out with your stomach as you inhale deeply through your nose. Hold your breath for two to five seconds, increasing the length of time with each repetition of this exercise. Slowly and steadily release your breath through your mouth, feeling your hands move back in as your lungs expel their air.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or