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Dynamic Apnea Safety Rules

Safety is vital in Dynamic Apnea. People tend to stretch their limits, as there is no depth involved.

Apart from being a competitive event in itself, dynamic apnea is probably the single most important training for Fixed Weight, other than doing Fixed Weights (FW)training itself. Dynamic is breath-hold with stress as you would have in FW and here you have the opportunity to do hypoxic training, i.e. lactic acid training, to train the specific muscles you would use in FW and to train style and rhythm. Monofinners should be covering 50m (in a 50m pool), in about 25 undulations.

We FREEDIVERS instruct with the maxim ‘A 10% improvement in style equals a 10% improvement in results whereas a 10% improvement in fitness IF it is invested in poor style may not even produce a 1% improvement in results.’

This is particularly true of dynamic, but if we remove equalisation problems from the equasion it also applies to FW and Free Immersion. The recording of dynamic is important and can produce a wealth of information, (i.e. distance, time, number of kick cycles or undulations, recovery time etc.). This is particularly interesting when a heart monitor is employed.

Using the Tables

As the length of pools varies it may be difficult to find an exact number of whole pool lengths to express an ideal 75% of your maximum apnea distance, i.e. if your maximum is 85m and you had at your disposal a 33m pool, you would set Table A with a dive distance of 2 lengths. If you had a 50m pool at your disposal you would set it for 1 length. With a 25m pool, you would probably set it at 2 lengths. Thus your setting could be anywhere from 60-80% of your maximum. If your setting is closer to the bottom range of distance in order to make the exercise more challenging you would immediately reduce the ‘rest times’.

Your safety diver (partner) should be ready to meet you during the last stressed 25% of the exercise. Here we are basically talking about a 50m pool scenario. In Table A, he should be recording not only the length of time it would take to do each length but also the number of kick cycles as well as being ready to intervene in the case of Shallow Water Blackout (SWB).

The objectives of dynamic apnea are to increase apnea times in movement and to improve style and hydro-dynamicism.

TABLE A – with Equipment

This exercise is applicable to dynamic apnea with or without fins. For monofinners who are using dynamic as a training exercise for Fixed Weights, try doing this table with arms extended in front using the same undulations you would use for monofinning.

Establish your maximum dynamic apnea distance and set Table A to about 50-60% of this. The number of lengths is constant and the interval systematically decreases as with our Static Table A. Here obviously if the maximum distance is 50m and you had a 25m pool you might set your repetitive distance for this on 1 length(i.e. 25m) and follow the following Table.

For a 50m Maximum Dynamic


Objective 1: To increase the number of dives using the minimum rest time (0:50) so that you would do the Table up to number 6 at 1:10 rest and then the next two with only 0:50 seconds in-between. When this becomes easy you would do the Table up to Step 5 @ 1:20 and the last three with only 0:50 in between. Finally up to Step 4 @ 1:30 and then ALL the rest with only 0:50 in between. Then move to Obj.2. The time scale for this is entirely at the discrepancy of the diver and might be changed over a period of a few weeks. He might also relate the rest period to a given number of breaths rather than a time.

Objective 2: To decrease the rest time by 10 seconds throughout. The first ventilation period would be 1:50 and the last would be 0:40 seconds.

NB: The above ratios (in seconds), of change are relevant only to the above example. In much more advanced stages of breath-hold dynamic using Table A, you might be able to achieve a decrease in the rest time from between 15 – 20 seconds, (one or two breaths.) Approach this with caution and a good partner observing.

TABLE B – with Equipment

Take 2 full breaths on the surface, in movement, dive for example, 4 — 6 kick cycles. Surface, and while still moving take 2 more breaths before diving again. Keep this up for 40 minutes without increasing the number of kick cycles per dive under water. For monofinners, read undulations for kick-cycles.

TABLE C – APNEA Sprints or surface Swim sprints

Option 1 – In a 25m pool:

Fin or swim 5 sets of 25m lengths at maximum speed, with a minute and a half recovery between each length.

Option 2 – In a 33m pool:

Fin or swim 5 sets of 33m lengths at maximum speed, with a minute and a half recovery between each length.

TABLE D ‘Departs’ – Swimming

Complete a series of 8 x 50m lengths departing every 1:15 (for example). This rest interval can be reduced in stages by a few seconds when the exercise becomes too comfortable.

Equivalent swim training exercises for hypoxic, lactic acid and interval training abound and can be found through local swim clubs. These all help boost aerobic and anaerobic fitness.

TABLE E ‘Hypoxic Pyramid’ — Swimming

For instance, swim 400m Freestyle in the following fashion:

50m breathing every 4 strokes then 50m breathing every 6 strokes, then 50m every 8, every 10, every 10 again and reducing down in the same way as you increased the number of strokes down to every 4 strokes over 50m.


The ‘Dry’ exercise involves 4 repetitions.

Sitting cross-legged on the ground ventilate for 1 minute, hold breath for 30 seconds then get up and walk until you can no longer hold your breath. Mark where you stopped the walk. Return to the start position and begin the exercise again as before. The second repetition should exceed the first in distance. Allow yourself a comfortable recovery time between each repetition. The exercise is NOT intended as interval training.

The third and fourth repetitions are similar and involve ventilating for 2 minutes, breath-hold for a minute and walking until you can no longer hold your breath. The fourth repetition should have the longest breath-hold time and the furthest walk of the entire series.

(Refer to the Dry Walk Log).

This is a superb exercise for Fixed Weight. It will teach you a lot about intensity and rhythm. Very often walking a little faster does not necessarily mean you will walk for a shorter time. The most important objective of this exercise is of course ‘distance walked’. When we ask for the LOG to be measured in double paces we mean walking back to your departure point using a normal stride length and counting every time the left foot comes down as one double pace. The other thing it demonstrates is the degree of your breath-hold reflex, which is directly related to fitness level breath-hold training level and age and might go something like this:

  1. At the end of the ventilation phase — say 88 bpm.
  2. After 1:00 Static Breath-hold – 72 bpm.
  3. At the end of the walk — 42bpm.
  4. 30 seconds after the resumption of breathing — 95bpm.

If your pulse is higher or lower than this it is no cause for alarm. This is merely an attempt at illustrating the general pattern to be expected.


As this is an extremely stressful exercise where the last repetition demands 10% effort there is a risk of blackout! Therefore the recommendation is to perform this exercise on ‘soft’ ground, i.e. sand or grass. If it must be performed on a hard surface a partner who walks with you and is ready to support you should you fall is necessary. The partner can also help to fill in the recording form, which is of great value. Should you find yourself getting tunnel vision or losing the line in the walk, stop immediately. The recovery position here is bent forward at the waist with the hands on the knees.


In both Static and Dynamic we have omitted any mention of Advanced exercises and in particular ’empty lung’ techniques because we feel that a very good basis in the Beginner and Intermediate techniques is necessary before these are attempted. This is for several reasons, the first of course, being safety, the second is because of the need for physiological development and that your system needs time to adapt, and the third is that a freediver needs time to learn his particular body and its reactions.

Freediving is a dangerous activity if UNSUPERVISED.

We recommend training is done best within the context of a Freediving club where experienced people and a qualified instructor are present at all times.

The authors accept NO RESPONSIBILITY for injury or death due to carrying out any of the exercises published here. The purpose of the articles is to be informative and is NOT designed to replace qualified instruction.

For a long time we have withheld publishing training information as we believe that if misunderstood it could lead to accidents over which we have no control. However as the situation today is that there is a lot of unsupervised, ill-informed and dangerous individual practice going on we hope that these articles will be instrumental in showing people new to freediving and others wanting to train more efficiently, the dangers, how to prevent them, and how to set up a safer practice.

The information herein is copyright to FREEDIVERS and is part of our course structure and handbook. FREEDIVERS, Maria-Teresa and Aharon Solomons are both AIDA ***Instructor ‘Trainers’ Apnea Academy Academy Instructors (Umberto Pelizzari) and IAFD Master Instructor Trainers.

For further information contact: and see

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Stephan Whelan
Stephan Whelan
Stephan is the Founder of His passion for the underwater world started at 8 years old with a try-dive in a hotel pool on holiday that soon formulated into a lifelong love affair with the oceans. In 1996 he set up and has grown the site to be the most popular diving website and community in the world.