Stretching for Freediving Performance
Ever since the days of Jaques Mayol, top level freedivers have recognised that the right kind of stretching is critical for optimum freediving performance. You’ll be hard pushed now to find anyone in the top flight for any country who doesn’t have a regular yoga practise, lung or sport-stretching routine. For many novice and intermediate freedivers, however, it’s often difficult to know where to start, or to find a collection of exercises that works for you on a daily basis, so here at freedive-earth we’ve put together a series of videos that brings together some of the most relevant stretching exercises that we’ve collected over the years. The first one’s at the bottom of the page.
Sport Stretching for Freediving
The kinds of stretches that your PE teacher used to get you to do in school.
These stretches isolate specific muscle groups and help to prepare your body for physical exercise, as well as developing flexibility over time. Studies show that stretching before any kind of physical exertion helps to improve your performance and reduce injury if done correctly:
Tips for Sport Stretching
Don’t stretch too deeply just before a session that requires intense physical exertion (like a gym session for example) - overstretching the muscles can reduce the power they deliver when you need them. Try dynamic stretches like yoga asanas instead. Always concentrate on your form. It’s not about how close you get to your toes, but rather the specific muscles that you lengthen to get you there. Pay attention to how it feels. Don’t over-stretch, focus on the muscle groups you’re working on and try to ‘find the edge’ between a good stretch and painful overstretching and hold it there. Don’t kid yourself that you can check out your newsfeed while you’re stretching! (unless you’re tuning in to Freedive-Earth of course!) Work with your breath. Try deepening the stretch on each exhale, using the inhale to adjust your form (e.g. making sure your back is straight during a forward fold.)
Yoga for Freediving
So much has already been written about yoga that it’s pretty much impossible to add to it in this short space here, but let’s just say that yoga is very big, and very important for freediving. At a basic level, using the positions or ‘asanas’, offers freedivers a great all-round dynamic stretch for all the muscle groups of the body. Beyond this, yoga works with the breath, either linking it to physical movement as in Hatha, Vinyasa and Kundalini yogas, or on its own, as in Pranayama. Unlike some other forms of stretching, Yoga also has a spiritual and psychological dimension.
Tips for using Yoga to improve your Freediving
Experiment with different types. Hatha is quite slow and offers a deeper stretch, Vinyasa is more dynamic. Kundalini exercises offer a workout for the respiratory muscles and can help you to feel more energised, Pranayama can help you to improve your breathing technique, relaxation and breath-hold ability. Focus on the breath. Yoga is not just stretching. Amongst other things, it’s about becoming more aware of how the breath affects the body, and the body the breath. Practise regularly, practise on your own. You’ll get the most out of your yoga practise by doing a few classes a week and a lot more by yourself.
Lung Stretching for Freediving
Lung stretches help a freediver’s body to better withstand the pressure at depth and, over time, will allow us to take a better lungful of air. Exercises are focused on reducing Residual Volume (RV) and increasing Total Lung Capacity (TLC) which effectively means that the lungs can reach a smaller size whilst still providing air for equalization.
Many of the exercises originate from Pranayama and Kundalini forms of yoga, and have been used by Yogis for millennia to improve their overall health and wellbeing. Stay tuned for more freedive-earth videos on lung-stretching in the very near future.
Tips for Using Lung Stretching to improve your Freediving
Decide on your target for the training period you’re in. If you’re doing lots of pool diving, inhale stretches that help you to pack more air might be more beneficial to you than exhale stretches. If you’re doing depth, the reverse is definitely true. That said, include both types of lung stretching in your daily routine. Both have their benefits for depth and distance. Don’t overdo it. Start slowly, build up the number of repetitions you do of each exercise. Don’t try to hold the stretch for too long as fatigue and injury will be the likely result. Above all else, stretch regularly . Try to find a time in your day (e.g. get up 10 or 15 minutes earlier) and just devote that time to stretching. Take some time to work out what works for you, and prioritise the things that best support the kind of training you’re doing in the water. Don’t obsess about what you include, and what you leave out. Just devoting some time to yourself in each day will give you benefits you never imagined.