FREEDIVE TRAINING WHEN AWAY FROM THE WATER
If you’re a Freediver who does not live in the tropics, it’s highly likely you may not be able to dive year-round. Or maybe, your current day to day lifestyle doesn’t allow you get out into ocean as much as you’d like. Nonetheless, if you’re an avid Freediver you’re always looking at different ways to make your dives more comfortable. Part of that would entail maximizing your use of your time on land. Freediver and author, Dr. Jaap Verbaas tackles cross training for apnea diving and spearfishing in his book Longer and Deeper. This book is a first of its kind. Most books on Freedive training involve pool work, breathing exercises, and yoga techniques. As one who has an extensive background in performance exercises in the tactical environment, Longer and Deeper bridges the gap on physical fitness exercises one can do away from the water which have direct correlation to performance in the water.
Longer and Deeper is divided into four parts: Cross training, How it Works, the Exercises, and Scheduling Workouts. This is not a book designed for those who are just getting into Freediving; rather, geared towards the intermediate or advanced apnea divers which have some familiarity with physical fitness. However, Verbaas does briefly go over the effects of stress on the body, heart rate, the mammalian dive reflex, O2, Co2 and diet.
“…if you want to get better at freediving, you should be freediving. There is no ideal substitute. However, some things are very difficult to train safely in open water, and open water is subject to conditions…Many divers want to keep in shape even if they are not able to go into the water.” To add to this quote, I would mention the challenges/logistics of having a dive buddy and one’s proximity to diveable water.
If one has a background in weightlifting and/or physical performance you’ll likely find Verbaas’ coverage on training the Adenosine Tri-Phosphate -Creatine Phosphate (ATP-CP) energy systems, range of motion exercises, lactic training, intercoastal stretching, hypoxic squats, and scheduling workouts, the most beneficial.
Now, Dr. Jaap Verbaas gets very technical when it comes to explaining the body’s use of ATP-CP and how it applies to freediving. “There are two high energy phosphates available in our muscle cells: 1) ATP, which is the molecule that your muscle cells use in order to contract and 2) CP, the molecule that “recharges” ATP.” He delves further into how much ATP the body can store and how that applies to muscle contraction. Also, how ATP along with CP is the first molecule used in muscle contraction without producing CO2; thus, hypothetically, you could kick down the first 30 feet without producing CO2. Even mentally knowing your body isn’t producing chest burning CO2 during the first 10-15 seconds is priceless. Exercises training the ATP-CP system include the deadlift, squat, and sprints, all within certain time and distance protocol.
As other people get older (😊), range of motion becomes even more important. One should strive for more efficient movement/utilization of muscles while on land as well as Freediving. Working on one’s range of motion is a part of making that happen. As every Freediver knows, movement burns oxygen. Better make it count. Verbaas demonstrates exercises which open your hips, loosen your ankles and shoulders, as well as knees.
Stretching our intercostals muscles are a very important part of having comfortable dive. As stated by Verbaas, “The intercoastal muscles are probably the most important muscles to stretch for deep Freedivers. They are the muscles that separate the ribs and expand the upper chest. These are the muscles that you want to loosen because they allow your lungs to become bigger as well as smaller.” Beyond stretches to increase intercostal flexibility, this book also included serratus strengthening exercises. This was a learning point for me.
Most Freedivers are familiar with apnea walks as well dry static tables, which are good tools for building CO2 tolerance. Another tool to add to your kit is Apnea Squats. These body weight squats, “train the leg muscles to perform while severely hypoxic …”. This exercise requires an oximeter if you want to properly manage your oxygen saturation levels (SaO2). At its most basic execution, one does their breath up, exhales to residual volume, holds breath, and squats with legs at about 55 degrees. The safest way to execute this exercise is by squatting over a chair and sitting down during recovery. I’ve incorporated this challenging exercise into my workout schedule and have not been disappointed.
If you don’t plan and schedule your land training for Freediving, it’s just not going to happen. I was able to easily incorporate into my regular weight training, four targeted workouts which were detailed in this book. One workout was focused on exercises training the ATP-CP system, another on the lactic system, a third day focused on breathing exercises, and lastly hypoxic and CO2 tolerance days. Most skill related sets took no more than 30 minutes and could be standalone training days.
Longer and Deeper is a book every Freediver should have on their shelf. I found myself dog earing many pages and underlining new information. Not everyone has the luxury of having one on one coaching or being near optimal diving waters; thus, we have look at alternate ways to improve our performance. Dr. Jaap Verbaas brings value to the wider Freediving community through his examination of cross-training for Freediving and Spearfishing.
For more freedive training/resource material see blog post here!