We recently reached out to TacSource Ambassador Max Burch (Royal Australian Navy Clearance Diver for 13 years) to give us some tips on holding your breath longer underwater.
"My name is Max Burch, I've been a Royal Australian Navy Clearance Diver for 13 years, so you can imagine being able to hold my breath underwater is quite important to me. But holding your breath longer should be just as important to you too.
While it's obviously impossible to increase the physical size of your lungs, it is possible to train them to be more efficient in taking in and using oxygen. This allows a person to breath in more air and hold it longer. Increased lung efficiency also leads to a healthier lifestyle because the body can better use the oxygen it takes in.
Most people can hold their breath for somewhere between 30 seconds and up to 2 minutes. Last time I checked I was around 3 minutes 30 seconds mark. However, there can be many factors that will significantly lower your time. Some of these include:
- Water temperature (cold water = decreased time)
- Work rate (higher work rate = decreased time)
- You as an individual (fitness level, lung health and capacity etc)
So how do we hold our breath longer underwater?
First, learn to take a deep, full breath. This involves your belly moving up and down rather than your shoulders and chest. A full deep inhalation usually takes about 20 seconds before you exhale. Here are some good exercises you can do before you jump in the water.
- Hold your breath for one minute, breathing normally for two and then increasing how long you hold your breath by fifteen seconds between each rest - which remains two minutes each time.
- Gradually increase the amount of time you hold your breath in this exercise by fifteen seconds. Don't rush this part. Hold your breath until you start to feel unconformable then rest. Increase your times as you feel safer and more comfortable.
Hot tip: Stay Still! Moving uses oxygen in your blood so try to stay still whole holding your breath. Preserve that o2!
Another good exercise I like is called: pinched lip breathing. To do this, inhale as much as you can through your nose then exhale slowly with lips pursed - so there is only a very small hole for the air to escape. This will make a hissing sound and should take you twice as long as inhaling to exhale.
If you feel ready and adventurous, let's take your exercises to the pool. First, swim a warm-up 400 meters or so. Once you're warm, try this.
- Twenty five meters freestyle, no breathing. Head down all the way. Do ten sets of these with fifteen seconds gap between each set.
- Twenty five meters underwater swimming. If you have fins, use them. Do ten sets and chase each set with twenty five meters nice and slow breathing freestyle.Twenty seconds rest on these ones.
My personal favourite is swapping fins for heavy kettlebells or dumbbells and walking along the bottom of the pool for twenty five meters, tread water for twenty seconds and then repeat for ten sets. You can make this real fun by doing it in teams of two.
So if it's for your job, fitness, getting through the dreaded nappies or lifestyle, increasing your lung capacity and holding your breath longer has many benefits you can implement in your daily lives. Who knows, it may even save your life or the lives of those around you one day."