How to hold your breath for 5 minutes in 1 month – Freediving training

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I decided to put this guide together as a post course reference/training guide for my students, but it could be used by anyone, as long as they approach the activity with the care and respect that it deserves. If you have not completed a freediving course at all I would not recommend doing any ‘home training’. Freediving is in many ways a very safe sport, but without formal training it can be dangerous.This guide will not contain all of the techniques that we employ in our teaching here at FreediveUK (for lots of reasons) so if you want to get it right and take your freediving to the next level then be sure to join us on one of our courses. We have a great success rate at improving peoples times, many doubling what they could do before.

First things first – Basic freediving safety!

Never dive alone, always dive with an apnea and rescue trained buddy.

Dry training is many times safer than wet training.

Do not hyperventilate (see why here)

Always dive within your limits. Take slow steps and make steady progress.

OK, lets begin

Lets get something straight. There is no easy route to a 4+ minute breath-hold, but in this guide i will take you through some of the basic techniques and a training plan which could take you there. I wish I had a secret breathing technique that could add 75% to your breath-hold, but i dont, and dont believe anyone if they say that they do! Freediving training is about adding small amounts on a regular basis until your body is conditioned to deal with the high c02 and low 02.

This is a six stage process and is finished off with a training table


The first thing to do is see what your  dry breath-hold is right now. You need to see what you can achieve now to understand what you can get to with continued training.

  1. Sit on a comfy chair or lay on a bed.
  2. Breathe calmly and slowly for 2 minutes – No deeper or faster than you would normally.
  3. Take a deep breath in, then exhale everything, then take a really deep breath in… as deep as you can manage.
  4. As you hold your breath, relax and think of other things.
  5. When you cant manage anymore take some deep inhales to recover. Always focus on your inhales and not your exhales when recovering!

How did you do?

We are going to use this time as a prediction of what you will be able to get to in one months time.

1 minute or less = 3 minutes

1:30 minutes (approx) = 4 minutes

2+ minutes  = 5 minutes

You may do better, you may do worse. Some people respond to training better than others, there are no fixed rules that we can use to precisely gauge your potential but after years of instructing people how to hold their breath these numbers are a pretty good guide. But remember, it will involve training… and lots of it. Your overall fitness levels will also affect how quickly you improve. If you are quite unfit yo may find you peak early and will struggle to go beyond that point.


The next thing to work on is your breath-holding technique itself. This can be broken down in to the principle parts… We go in to this in far more detail on courses and in my book.

1: The preparation

There are three main things to focus on during your preparation. Relaxation of the muscles, relaxation of the mind and relaxation of the breath. See the theme? Yep… RELAXATION!

All your muscles need to be inactive, any muscle that is tense will use oxygen.

Your mind must be calm, if you are stressed out, nervous or even scared… you will not do well. Find something that calms your mind.

Your breathing must be relaxed, not forced, not deep, not fast … normal… (by doing this we are also avoiding hyperventilation).

2: The Final breaths

Ill keep this simple. Take 3 breaths….

One 75% inhale

One 100% exhale

One maximum capacity 100% inhale (do not pack)


3: The breath-hold itself

Stop the air escaping at the glottis or the back of the throat, not at the lips.

Never release any air until you intend to breathe again, be it underwater or on the surface. Your exhales will include oxygen, so don’t waste it.

Remember my rule of thirds. Not sure what this is? Read here…

By working within the rule of thirds you will get a gauge of how well you are doing.

Relax your mind and body. Do not think about anything…. OR…. run a mantra through your head.


The next step in your training is to work on the frequency, location and quality of your breath-hold training.

Frequency of breath hold training

Work on  doing c02 tables every other day for the first 2 weeks. Dont know what c02 tables are? Read about them here…

Then for the last two weeks work on 02 tables every day. Dont now what 02 tables are? Read about them here…

The basic idea here is that we are working on reducing the urge to breathe first of all with the c02 tables (as its an increase in c02 that makes us want to breathe). With our c02 tolerances increased we can then start working on the overall time with 02 tables.

Put aside an hour a day if possible for these tables. See the schedule at the foot of the page for more details.


Dry training is 10-20% harder than wet training. It is also a lot safer (you should still do it with a buddy as dry breath-holds can still be dangerous). This increase in difficulty is because the mammalian dive reflex is triggered with facial immersion in water, therefore, when dry we suffer a drop in performance. You can use this to your advantage as if you can do well on dry land, you will do way better in the water. I would try to do at least one wet session a week though as it trains you on technique and trains your body to work in that environment. If in the water ensure you have a  trained buddy with you. Please only do wet sessions if you have done a course, there are countless points on safety and technique which you will learn! If you absolutely cant attend a course then I go over this in detail in my book.

Quality of breath hold training –

Just like any athletic training, the quality should be more important than the quantity. Doing apnea training everyday but hating every minute of it will get you nowhere fast!

Focus on committing properly to the session, get yourself in the right mindset to do it, dont have any distractions.


Aerobic and anaerobic training are both critical to your overall success. Your apnea sessions as detailed above are anaerobic training but they are of a type, they are relaxed and focused on time and not exertion. We want to now incorporate more physical training!

Anaerobic training – 

Anaerobic literally means ‘without air’, so you can see why it may help with your training. When you push your body really hard your breathing rate cant keep up and your muscles are starved of oxygen so they start to burn phosphates and glycogen instead. This kind of workout doesn’t have to be long and protracted. Its about high energy, short intensive bursts and working until your lungs want to burst! I do a standard work out of interval runs and then apnea walks. When training I will do this 3 times a week.



Aerobic training 

This is a little less important than your anaerobic training when it comes to apnea but its still vital. This is when the body is using oxygen as a fuel source more so than glycogen. It ‘has air’.  So by training aerobically you are training your body to be more efficient with oxygen, typically this benefits the early part of a breath-hold. Think about long cycle rides or steady long runs to work on this. Ill do this twice a week.


Eat well (healthily), dont drink caffeine, dont take any artificial stimulants, dont drink alcohol, drink plenty of water. Don’t eat or drink lots just before an apnea session, your stomach lining uses lots of energy and blood to digest food.


Ok, now we need to put all this together. We know we need to do the following to do well….

  1. Proper breath up technique
  2. Proper breath-hold technique
  3. Training tables – c02 and 02 – dry and wet
  4. Aerobic training
  5. Anaerobic training

With that being understood here is  training table with goals for one month, assuming we can do a 2 minute breath-hold already. I have included it as a jpg so you can easily print it out. If you are not so focused on pushing times in such a short time-frame you can use parts of the training plan, cherry pick what you can and cant achieve.  Crucially this table has been tested and i know it works. Despite it being pretty hardcore, it is safe, as long as you are guided by what your body is telling you and are happy to pull back if you feel like you are overstretching yourself. If you have done a freediving course with us then you should understand where that point is and how to identify it.


If you want to learn more about freediving then why not go on one of our freediving courses or continue reading this blog… or even buy my book ‘Underwater foraging – Freediving for food’.

About the author – Ian Donald is an AIDA master freediving instructor and author. He has been freediving since 2001 and has been instructing since 2009. He can often be seen on TV programs about freediving and is often called on to talk as a guest lecturer on the subject.


175 Responses

  1. Thanks you very much for the the information you have provided in this page. I am very much interested in free diving for Spear fishing and i have never read any article before about free dive and i can hold my breath up to 50 seconds. I will start my self training with the help of the instruction provided by you in this article and i hope that i would be able to improve a lot.

    Ahmed Shamoon
    Contact no: ——————-

  2. Thanks, this is a really useful actionable training routine. One question – on the tables that are done ‘wet’, are these basically static breath holds?

    1. Thanks Pete, Yes they refer to static apnea.
      The key with this routine is that you can adjust or extend it over a longer period. Its pretty intense, i designed it for someone training for a freediving competition.

      1. Thanks Ian. That’s what I thought. I’ve been experimenting with my own intensive 4 week training schedules, not for competition purposes, but I normally need to intensively train a month or two before a holiday I know that I’m going to want to freedive on and I normally leave it too late for training over a longer period of time! Similar to yours, my routines involve daily tables and fitness exercises, the main difference being that I don’t have any wet statics. Finding a buddy for this (and a pool that will allow it) has been a challenge. Instead I tend to do my interval training in the pool as opposed to sprint training. Hopefully this has a similar effect of getting the body used to holding your breath in water that you get from the wet statics.

  3. Hi! I appreciate your blog and it helps me on my training for a first time spearfishing trip. I have a question regarding the 02 part of the training table. I cant find what is the break time between the repetitions? Is it two minutes like it was mentioned in your other blog or is it different? Thanks a lot

    1. It very much depends on how you develop your own 02 tables. 2 minutes breathe up with a 1 minute recovery is a good start, but its a personal thing, it can be longer if you want…

      1. I would like to give thumbs up for your table! I completed a one month training in November and I was able to hold my breath for 4.30 min. The training was hard but it did pay off. Thank you Ian for your knowledge!!

      2. I would like to give a big thumbs up for this program. I completed my training in November and I was able to hold my breath for 4.30 min! The training was hard but I would strongly recommend. Ian, many thanks for your shared knowledge!!

      3. Not sure what you mean by “2 minutes breathe up with a 1 minute recovery”, is it 2 minutes or 1 minute in between the increasingly longer holds?

  4. Awesome tutorial thanks so much. Does the start in the apnea goal mean your breath up and that’s how long you have to prepare or is it how long to hold your breath for?

  5. Hi Ian,
    Wanna say thanks for all these very useful info.
    My question is have counted the timing of your apnea walk? i mean how many seconds you walk without breathing. Just wanna motivate myself.

  6. Firstly thanks for a very useful (and approachable) introduction. You might be interested in reading a book called Body By Science ( with regard to aerobic/anaerobic training. It has tons of research backed information about optimum methods for improving both metabolic pathways.

  7. I read your other blog of co2 and o2 tables, but I still don’t understand them. Is there a deeper (dumbed down) way of putting it ?

  8. Thx for all information provided. They are very useful.
    However, I’ve seen a lot people say that before the final breath we need to do deep breathing for about 1 or 2 minutes. But not fast. Calm deep breathing. I think this is not hyperventilation. Or is it?
    They say that hyperventilation is fast deep breathing. But calm deep breathing for one min is not.
    What’s your point of view?
    Thank you in advance.

  9. Thank you for the information.
    Is calm deep breathing considered as hyperventilation too? I thought only fast and deep breathing was.
    Thank you!

    1. Thanks for your comments. Basically any breathing that gives you more air than you need, is hyperventilation. So deep calm breathing is most likely hyperventilation. You would have to breathe very very slowly for it to not be. There is no real point in breathing deeply for 2 minutes, it wont effect your blood oxygen levels all that much. If you tested yourself right now, reading this, you are probably at about 98% o2 saturation, so there isnt much you can do to increase that significantly. Thats why we focus on relaxation instead….
      If you aim for about 6 breaths per minute, you are doing it about right. This is by exhaling for about 6 seconds and inhaling for about 3. Although you can extend this to 8 and 4. The safest way of prep breathing is simply normal breathing, and in fact its often the most relaxing.

  10. Thanks for the write up. Funny I could hold my breath for over two minutes as a teenager (w/o training), now barely 50 seconds!

  11. Thanks. This is really informative since I’ve just started learning the activity. Gotta bookmark and share this to my fellow newbies. 🙂

  12. I don`t realy understand the table notation .

    O2 – 1.30 start – increase in 15 sec increments up to 2:15 means – hold 1.30 and rest ?? them hold 1.45 – and rest ? and the hold will increase in the same way until 2:15???
    CO2 – 1:45 Hold reduce prep from 2 min by 15 sec increments to 30 sec . ( at this i even can`t suppose the table format ) can you exemplify me ?

    i understand , coz in the CO2 the hold is stable and the breath is decreasing .. but i cant figure how ….

    Thanks very much

  13. if you stop training after the month of training will your breath hold decrease if so do you have to continue this routing to maintain your breath hold.


  14. Hi Ian,

    how long is prep in the O2 tables (light blue and orange sections) of your training table – it’s 2 min, between each hold, right?

    Thanks & all the best

  15. i would like to learn how to hold my breath for more then 4 min. also i would like to train to swim with a mono fin

    thank you,

    kind regards


  16. Hi Ian,
    Big fan here.
    Im following this training but im not sure about if the aerobic and anaerobic exercises im doing are apropriate. For aerobic short im doing 5km, mid 8km and long 10km. For anaerobic im doing running intervals of 30 secs fast/1m45 slow 9 reps (mid) and 45 secs fast/1m45 slow 14 reps (long)
    Would you adjust any of these exercises?
    Also, any plans to come to azores? We have amazing spots here 🙂

    1. Hi Rodolfo, sounds like you are on the right path! Id say those exercises are about right, as long as they are working for you. Always remember what you are working towards and make sure that you are training aerobic or anaerobic response where needed and not the other way around. I often see people training too hard and working anaerobically when they are trying to train aerobically!
      We have talked about the Azores for the last 4 years… so yes. one day for sure!

  17. Hi Ian

    This is fantastic I can do nearly 4 minutes now. What would you recommend me to do to stay in (breathing) shape? Should I continue to do these exercises, how frequent and what combination? I love doing them because it help on my stressful life as well.

    You should really consider to upload a guide on sustaining the good shape.

    Thanks for sharing!

  18. I would really like to start this training I’m going to start it in 16 days I can now averagely hold my breath for 1:30 to around 2 minutes my goal is 4:30 to 5:00 minutes I will wright back after the training

    I found this article a little to late and had to adapt the 1 month schedule down to 3 weeks while working every single day (literally no days off). I found this just when I was looking for some training to prepare for my AIDA 3 and 4 star courses. I modified the training with the goal of only getting comfortably passed 4 minutes. My prior PB was 3:36 and that was 3 years ago with no training since. In my AIDA 3 I pulled off a magical 4:30 hold. Feeling quite accomplished I moved onto AIDA 4 and on the day of static holds, I just wasn’t feeling it. I made up my mind to tough it out and do my best to ignore my body trying to tell me to breathe again. So it was a completely unbelievable miracle that I performed a 5:31 static!
    So I just want to tell everyone reading this to go for it. I had to adapt it to my schedule and needs and you can too.
    To the writer, you’re a freakin’ legend man!

  20. Hey I’m a 12 year old can do 1 minute breath holds dry relaxed I’ve also got proper equipment how long will it take me to learn or can I even do it

    1. Please be very very careful. Obviously i cant stop you, but Id suggest finding someone you can train with. Do you have an instructor that you can call and speak to?

  21. Been working the CO2 tables for almost two weeks almost every day and I went from 2:15 to 4:33 last night! Getting more comfortable holding through the contractions. After a few days of practice I was able to hold through some decent size contractions to 3:30. Kept practicing CO2 and last night tried for another PB. Held through contractions starting around 2:30 pretty light, by the time I got to the mid/late 3s they were quite strong. Certainly hope I can push the contractions back farther or get them less strong to make things more pleasant. Hopefully I’m not pushing too hard on the PBs, but my progress on the C02 schedule follows pretty closely with the 4 week plan.

  22. Hi Ian,
    Is it okay for kids (10-13 yr olds) to do this? I’m in a squad for swimming and freediving seems really fun. My goal is 3 mins at the moment but I’m not really sure if I should start this training yet cuz I heard C02 can be poisonous…

  23. I’ve followed the routine for 3 weeks now, but I feel like I physically can’t hold my breath, because my throat feels tired and sometimes lets little bits of air out. Am I doing something wrong or do I just need to rest?

      1. I have the same problem. I haven’t even started the training yet, but while I’m trying to see what’s my current dry breath-hold, my throat starts hurting by the end of the first minute (if I take a deep breath). Is there any specific train for the glottis? because this really holds me back

  24. Hi Ian, thank you for this program, it’s very useful for me. My result about four minutes! And I would like, how train dinamic apnea?

  25. Hey Ian Donald question how long can you hold your breath for and how long did it take you to get there

    1. 7:30….. about 2 years of regular training. My static breath hold is probably back down to about 5:30 these days, i dont spend much time ‘training’ anymore, just enjoying diving and teaching.

  26. Do the apnea walks help increase your breath hold right now my goal is 2:00 minutes so that I can start this training

  27. Thanks for the information shared in above article. Question should we need to do exercise such as runing etc…

  28. Wonderful article and training regime. My question is after one does the month of 2 weeks CO2 tables and 2 weeks of O2 tables with weekly apnea walks etc. Then after that month, what is a weekly or monthly training to maintain and increase that. Do you continue to alternate 2 weeks of each table or do you start doing the both tables on each training day. What is a lifetime practice like to continue to progress?

    Also, regarding the anaerobic training, do you do that at a different time of day than the tables training? Like morning tables and afternoon/evening anaerobic? If you do in one session, which do you do first and how much of a rest between the two?

    I guess the answers I would like would be for someone who is looking for serious gains and doing full time practice. And in that regard, can or would you do more than just the 8 breaths per table? If so, how much?


    1. Do you continue to alternate 2 weeks of each table or do you start doing the both tables on each training day. What is a lifetime practice like to continue to progress?

      No, i would suggest down scaling the c02 tables and increasing the 02 tables frequency.

      Also, regarding the anaerobic training, do you do that at a different time of day than the tables training? Like morning tables and afternoon/evening anaerobic?

      Tables in the morning and exercise in the afternoon/evening, but thats just me.

      And in that regard, can or would you do more than just the 8 breaths per table? If so, how much?

      You can do more, but you wont get any huge gains in my opinion, it will just take a long time to complete.

      Hope that helps

  29. Thanks so much for this information. Reading this and practicing developed my breath hold and I went from holding my breath for 30 seconds to 1.45 seconds in a week. Thank you!!

  30. Ian,
    Just started your training. Dry breathing start was 1:44 so my goal is 5:00.
    Could you please explain Glottis control and stomach contractions. I find my stomach contracting much earlier under water and I’m trying to follow the thirds but I get a little nervous after 3 contractions.

    1. Just take it slowly. Make sure someone is with you who knows what the warning signs are so you can more confidently enter the contraction phase.
      If you are contracting early in the water its going to be anxiety based, so you will need to slowly add time and relax to get past it.
      Glottis control is a slow byproduct of experiencing variations in pressure in the chest.

  31. Hi
    Im 15 years old and can dry hold for three minutes,so i hope i will be able to make at least 5:00 .i just wanted to ask: does low water temperature affect time of holding?

    1. Hi, Good effort, just make sure you stay with your limits and have a buddy watching over you especially for anything in the water.
      Water temp will effect your breath-hold, normally negatively, as your body diverts energy to keeping you warm.

  32. Hi Ian I now can hold my breath for 1:30 but can’t get 2:00 to start the training I trained hard for one and a half weeks and was able to get 1:50 but still can’t get 2:00 how should I train to get 2:00?

  33. Hi,

    Regarding practicing CO2 table, just before “hold” period, should we take a deep breath or just stop breathing and start “hold” period.

  34. Thanks a lot for this amazing article, that’s very helpful!

    One question though, how important is the order of the physical training? I’m a professional boxer, already in good shape (compared to average people), I can add the breath training but I can’t mess with my physical activity schedule, do you think that can have a big impact on security / results ?

    Many thanks

    1. Not too much. I wouldn’t worry about it at least. I work a lot with the Royal Marines and they add apnea wherever they can and it works for them, mostly helping with recovery times.

  35. Hello, thanks for a great post.
    Please confirm, regarding ‘repetitions’ of apnea tables in your program.
    Where 2 repetitions are scheduled on a day; Im assuming you mean at different times of the day.
    Or do you mean repeating a table again immediately after one cycle OF 8 breath holds?


    1. To be honest… either. Some people will say you shouldnt do more than one repetition per day, personally as per my experience, i think its fine and when aiming for rapid gains its needed.
      Whatever fits in to your day better really.

  36. Thank you for this well written and thought of gem about how to achieve that magical 5 min mark. 🙂
    My PB is 4:30, after a few weeks of dry training. It wasn’t structured, just apnea walks, and going for max once per day. I presume that this is the reason why getting my PB was quite painful, and afterwards I kind of took a break.
    Most of the things in freediving is about taking a step back, so that’s where your guide now fits perfectly. 🙂
    Started doing CO2 tables this Monday (1:15 hold), and it was a pleasant experience. By not suffering through it, I could more observe the changes in my body. For exaple: that moment when diaphragm starts tingling, and how the tensions relax when you passively observe them..
    Anyways, I have a question regarding O2 tables:
    – if there are 8 holds per table, then the increments of 30s starting from 1:15, don’t end with 3:45 hold?
    Is it implied that you skip the increase 2 times (with this rate it’s 6 holds)?

    Thanks once more for this guide, enjoying it!

  37. Hi Ian, I have a question about the tables (both CO2 and O2) in your monthly plan. Does the “2 repetitions” mean two sessions per day or repeat every breath hold during the session (e.g. in CO2 table 2 mins breath, then breath hold, then 2 mins breath again, then hold and after that decrease the breathing time)? You recommend doing one table per session. Many thanks for your answer.

  38. Hi,this article really helped me.

    I can hold hold my breath about 3 minutes.It was possible by doing the static table.
    But if I stop doing static table will it decrease my max breath holding capacity in time

  39. Hey! Very good article! My question is when you normally do a Co2 table, do you hold only 50% of the PB or you need to increase to 60%, 80% and so on like you explained in the picture you posted in order to improve apnea?

  40. Hello Ian,

    I downloaded your table and I am a little confused with respect to your table (1 month to 5 minutes) and the columns Apnea session , Apnea type. Apnea goal and Repetitions.

    The “Rest” rows do not align with the Fitness training and Time/Distance columns.

    Am I missing something?

  41. Many thanks Ian for this great article. You mention to stay away from caffeine. Can you please explain why. Also what other good food that can help store O2.

    1. Caffeine increases heartrate, which is the opposite of what we are hoping to achieve. Some people swear by Alkali foodstuffs, personally i think you should just eat a healthy diet.

  42. Thanks for a safe and effective guide. I started with a baseline of 3:00, so I added :30 to the CO2 and O2 tables. After finishing the two weeks of CO2 and two days into the O2, I completely astounded myself with a 5:05 hold, which I truly thought would be impossible. Many thanks!!

  43. I have been working on the CO2/O2 tables alternating between the two every other day (Mon CO2, Tues O2, Wed CO2); is this too often? Even if apply rest days. It’s all dry training except a few breathe holds I dunk my face in a bowl of water. I also exercise daily and eat well and so forth. Any other comments are appreciated. Thanks for the write-up by the way, its been very informative for me as I do my studying on the topic.

  44. Hey there, great post. Just working my way though it just now and I have a question.. Should I re test my max hold and adjust my tables during the month, or do it on a monthly basis? Thanks!

  45. Hey there 😀 This is fantastic information! I used to be quite out of shape. I started boxing to improve my health. I had never really tried to hold my breathe before and was at about 40 seconds (pitiful I know). However, after 6 months of hard boxing training… haha, I know it sounds sexy… but really it’s mostly pushups, skipping rope and punching a speed bag. After my training, I tried to hold my breath just for kids. I was completely shocked when a minute went by and I was feeling totally fine. I held my breath for about 3:30 and was totally amazed as I had not been training for this. I’m going to try your techniques! Thanks so much for your advice!

  46. I’ve read from other sites that a technique known as packing can help more air get in the lungs, and thus can help you hold your breath longer. Is this true, and if so do you recommend it? Is there a reason either way? Thanks!

    1. No, i wouldnt recommend it. Its not really to increase times, but to marginally increase depth, when those dives are over 40m.
      It puts you at serious risk of lung over inflation and rupture.

  47. Thank you for all of the detailed information and guidelines you provided here.

    I am not currently practicing freediving and so was wandering what your opinion would be on this question: what does general non-diving related fitness, and health in general for that matter, stand to gain from breath holding training ?

    Also, from what I read up to here I understand you don’t find any significant benefits with hyperventilation prior to breath holding. I vaguely remember seeing the freedivers in the movie “the deep blue” hyper ventilate before their big dives… if so is hyperventilation used to be popular in the past for freediving then fell out of grace – and if so why ?

    On the subject of hyperventilation – are you familiar with the Wim Hoff Method ? Would love to hear your take on that !

    thanks !

    1. I am not currently practicing freediving and so was wandering what your opinion would be on this question: what does general non-diving related fitness, and health in general for that matter, stand to gain from breath holding training ?

      It is being used more in high level athletics, so a fair bit. Red blood cell count for a start and better anaerobic respiration.

      Also, from what I read up to here I understand you don’t find any significant benefits with hyperventilation prior to breath holding. I vaguely remember seeing the freedivers in the movie “the deep blue” hyper ventilate before their big dives… if so is hyperventilation used to be popular in the past for freediving then fell out of grace – and if so why ?

      It was before we realised exactly what it did to the body, or at least before science came to freediving. At face value it makes dives easier, but actually it reduces times and risks blackout significantly.

      Wim hoff is something i could talk about for ages. As could many of my instructors. Personally i believe the breathing element to be very dangerous. The cold water stuff i dont have problem with, but when you teach people to hyperventilate and then show off your abilities to freedive, you are asking for fatalities.

      1. Will this help make me faster at running (Mile, 3200, 5k)? If so do you know if high level runners ever train apnea?

  48. Great post Ian ,
    I have been practicing for a week and already seen a huge gain. My initial max breath hold was 2:20 but after practicing CO2 tables and apnea walks for a week I increased my max breath hold to 3:30 . Yesterday I have tried Co2 table with 1:40 hold and that was easy so after the 4th round I started to exhale and do the 1:40 with empty lungs . In the 8th round I just pushed a little to see where I will feel the strong urge and I did a 2:30 min breath hold.

    So the question is shall I stick to 1:40 holds or shall I increase them as I managed to complete these rounds without any trouble and any real urge to breathe?

  49. Freediving is extremely interesting to me and it would be my dream to swim around underwater for minutes. I’ve been casually seeing how long I can hold my breath for maybe a couple months because it seemed cool to me and I can now hold it for about 1:30. I am a 16-year-old male, 5’10 125 but I’m not very active. I feel like my heart rate
    is too high and it’s affecting my time. I can’t find my heart rate because I can’t feel my pulse for some reason. I get nervous/excited before I hold my breath. What’s a good way to lower heart rate? Meditation? Also, I know this is pretty much like the core of freediving but I absolutely hate the feeling of CO2 buildup which sucks. What’s a good way to reduce/tolerate it? Also, I don’t know which third I get. I feel like after about 30 seconds, It starts to get uncomfortable. I held my breath for 2:00 minutes once and I and don’t know if I had any contractions or not. I feel like you’d know when you get them. Thanks.

    1. Just take it super slow. There is no rush to get better. Its best to train easily and ‘underperform’ for a while than to start hating it as it ‘hurts’ too much! Theres no denying it, c02 sucks, but we have to learn to deal with it. Imagine if you started to train for a marathon and on day 1 you ran for 15 miles, you would be a mess and probably never run again. So….. Do the equivalent of easy runs around the block for a bit, build up your tolerance without realising it… then one day you will be doing 2 minutes without even realising it!

  50. I’m able to hold my breathe 1-2 minutes when dry training but only upto 45 seconds when I’m wet training can anyone explain this drop for me?

    1. It’s most likely just nerves. With a buddy who knows what they are doing you will be able to push through that feeling and at least equal if not surpass your dry time.

  51. Right now I can only hold my breath while swimming hard for about 20 to 30 seconds. One reason I don’t think this guide will work for me because you have to be calm to be able to hold your breath for a long time but that is extremely hard to do when sprinting.

    1. It won’t hurt. Yes it’s true, we do aim for relaxation in order to improve times but there is a reason I coach Royal marines, surfers and top athletes… Apnea helps performance!

  52. I would like to increase my FRC breath hold time (apnea after the exhale). Could your training plan be applied the same way or would you adjust anything?

    Thank you!

    1. It can, kinda… Frc training has its risks and I would be out of line to try to guide you via a comment on a blog post. Do you have an instructor near you who can guide your training?
      Remember frc are not completely empty lungs. Be careful and keep having fun.

  53. Great post, thanks a lot! I’m AIDA3* freediver and I got to your website and this post because I was looking for a way my diaphragm contractions to start later (they often start about 0:45, I got 3:02 on my first AIDA2* training and since then my total max in pool is 3:09). I find DYN much more enjoyable. I’ve been out of practise the last years, just going for 5-6 trainings a year and I have a pool competition in a month. It’s just about participating, but I’d like to push myself a bit. I thought I give the tables a try. I was wondering if you think would be wrong to make dry CO2 every day not every other day and/or to make paralel CO2 and O2 tables? Like today I did both. For some reasons I won’t be able to get in the pool more than 2-4 times until the competition.

    1. Hi. First of all, your times are good. Your early contractions can in some people be a sign of a good dive response so don’t assume it’s a bad thing. I have an instructor who is very capable and gets strong contractions quite early. The best thing you can do for them is to ensure you have a soft and flexible diaphragm. Yoga and pranayama.
      I’d avoid over training and doubling up on tables, it won’t help much if at all.
      C02 tables are great as they improve comfort and confidence and in my opinion generally offer greater overall gains than 02 tables. So if you don’t have a lot of time, focus on those. Remember dry apnea training can be incorporated if you can’t get to the pool to do those c02 tables, leaving you the pool sessions to concentrate in the performance aspect within the static itself, as a successful competition athlete is not always the best apneist, just the one who performs best on the day ‘under the spotlight’. Best of luck!

  54. Very nice, but you need to mention not to exhale unless you’re going to take a breath in the initial test hold steps. Most won’t know not to do this until they read it in a paragraph later on… Kind of dangerous.

  55. Great info! Without boring you with all the whys; I am trying to increase my hanging-out time both horizontally and vertical at the bottom . 8-10 ft. Pool depth. I was told in order to sink as fast as possible: to purge all the O2 out on my way down. I do that and sink like a rock. So it works great; but my ability to stay under is a third of my dry training time. If I don’t release the oxygen, and hold it in I can’t stink and stay down like I want to. I am also having to fight to stay down at the bottom instead of being still. I’d appreciate any advice or tips.

  56. awesome write-up.

    i started with standard O2 and CO2 tables and moved on to a constant table. basically, take half your personal best hold time and do N number of sets (8) with a 1 minute breathe-up time. you may skip a hold time if unable to complete but the remaining time gets added to your following breathe-up.

    this has worked so nicely for me that i threw together a beta android app for managing the tables.

    it’s free for anyone that would like to also try these tables:

    let’s get up those PBs!

  57. Hi I’ve been doing the five minute breathhold training and have accomplished the 4.30 sec breathhold dry.
    The next step is to reach the 4.45 stage but have not been successful.

    Although I do regular pool (wet) training, all the 5 minute training breathholds are dry. This is because I have no dive buddy and secondly have no apparatus to measure my time under water.

    I’m 62 years old and have considerable free diving experience , and would very much like to reach the 5 minute breathhold.

    Do you think it’s possible to do this under dry conditions or should I just be happy that I attained 4.30 seconds ?

    Thanking you
    Jeff Bles

  58. Con todo respeto pienso que deben actualizar sus entrenamientos en seco. Entrenar a pulmón lleno en seco aumenta peligrosamente la presión arterial durante una apnea, en especial después de 2 a 3 minutos. Hoy en día es aconsejable entrenar apneas en seco pero sólo después de una inspiración pasiva o respiración pasiva.

    Diego Saavedra
    Instructor Apnea Academy

  59. i am a 12 year old boy with asthma and can hold my breath for a minute on dry land could i be able to hold my breath for the three minutes it says or would i be diffrent.

    1. I’d suggest that you have a look in your area to see if there are any freediving clubs, schools or instructors that you can see personally before you push it further.
      Do you have someone you can practice with? Maybe work on your breath holding with a parent/guardian? You will be surprised to see what you can do with the right guidance.

  60. Hi! This guide is FANTASTIC, thank you so much for your time and help!!! I managed to reach 4 minutes hold in 3 weeks, my initial hold time being 2 minutes!

    I was wondering few things tho, and don’t bother answering if you don’t have time!

    When I exhale completely 100% before taking my last breath, I feel my head going a bit numb for a few seconds. So I was wondering if maybe I was exhaling too deep and if that could be dangerous underwater as maybe I am exhaling also too much co2?

    Also while holding my breath my throat occasionally starts doing weird subtle noises letting a tiny bit of air slip out, which makes me lose focus. I was just wondering if that was normal.

    Very last question, and sorry if this is too long! What would you recommend eating before going on a dive and how long before the dive does it have to be?

    I wish you a great day and summer holidays!

    1. When I exhale completely 100% before taking my last breath, I feel my head going a bit numb for a few seconds. So I was wondering if maybe I was exhaling too deep and if that could be dangerous underwater as maybe I am exhaling also too much co2?

      You may be over breathing a bit, or it could be that you are exhaling with too much force. TRy a few subtle variations of the process to see if anything changes. Sometimes it’s just that you are upright whilst practicing, try it laying down, that often helps (its a blood pressure thing).

      Also while holding my breath my throat occasionally starts doing weird subtle noises letting a tiny bit of air slip out, which makes me lose focus. I was just wondering if that was normal.

      Its just an untrained glottis, letting slip now and again. It will get stronger with time.

      Very last question, and sorry if this is too long! What would you recommend eating before going on a dive and how long before the dive does it have to be?

      Nothing heavy mainly and no caffeine. ITs best to avoid meats and dairy as they are harder to digest, other than that just keep it light and slow release.

      Dive safe!

  61. Hi! Your content is amazing, thank you for taking the time to write it!

    I am confused on one thing tho! Say my max breath-hold is 3 minutes. For the course of the next month, should I train on the same exact tables designed on my max hold of 3 minutes or should I update the tables say if after the first 2 weeks my best time has reached 4 minutes?

    And are there any side effects in training more on one table (say CO2) over another table (say O2)?

    Have a nice day!

    1. I assume you are talking about c02 tables?
      You can update the table to reflect your improving breath hold times or keep them as is. C02 tables work best when they stay within your limits and dont push it too hard imo.

      Best not to train more than 1 table per day, more to avoid overtraining.

  62. Any wet training I do will commonly be at the recreational pool with friends and family who aren’t really interested in freediving training. I dont push anywhere near my limits and always tell them when I’m about to go under water to swim laps so they make sure i’m still moving. Is there a guide to how to be a safety buddy or Simple rules I could give them to recognize a blackout? I’d like to do a little more serious practice in the water but have always been worried about tasking uninterested untrained volunteers.

    1. It’s tricky. if this is your only option then there are a few things to look out for.
      Firstly make sure your buddy is following you, in the water, and is able to dive down to get you if they see anything unusual.
      The basic things to look for are…
      1: Air escaping the divers airways
      2: Unusual movements. This can be twitching, spasms, panicked movements, arms and legs contracting inwards….. or anything else!
      3: Movement stopping

      The best thing, of course, is to get them to do a course!

  63. Hi Ian! Lat year I did your training for one month and I managed to reach 4 minutes of breath hold!

    It was pretty cool. Unfortunately once I stopped I lost all of my gains, and now I want to train again and do it even better, as I wasn’t doing any of the aerobic or anaerobic training last year.

    only thing I am confused about now is, in the CO2 tolerance table, when you say “by 15 secs increments up to 30s”, does it mean that after the breath hold following the pause of 45s we have to stop as we reached 30s, or does it mean we have to then breath for 30s and do one last hold? I hope my question makes sense!

  64. Hey Ian,
    Seems like I’m not the only one who caught the freediving bug while in quarantine! I’ve been using some combination of your program, set departures (c/o one of Adam Stern’s youtube videos), and apnea walks on and off for a month or two now. Even though I’ve restarted once or twice and the last week of training because of swimmer’s ear, I’m proud to say i hit a new dry static PB of 4:17 yesterday, and I’m only on the second saturday of your program! I’m lucky to have swimming pool (and live somewhere warm enough to use it) where I’m quarantining so i’ve also tried to teach myself a bit of no-fin kicking/stroke and equalizing (the best I can in 2m at the deep end) but I’m really eager to find a dive buddy, get certified, and go deep!

    So, firstly I wanted to thank you, as your site was one of the first and most useful I came across when I started down the rabbit hole that is my new apnea addiction! Secondly, I wanted to see if you had the time to check out the video I recorded of that PB and give me some tips. Finally, I was wondering if you had any other exercises, strokes, or anything else I could have fun with in the pool, without needing a dive buddy? And I guess one follow-up question, is there any condition in which it’s safe or recommended to practice with weight *without* a dive buddy?

    Thanks so much,

  65. Hi Ian, thanks for the advices.
    I’m 16 years old and my current record is 4 minutes in dry(I ‘ve never tried in wet) and I would like to know if is it dangerous for me keep practicing and tranining until 5 or even 6 minutes.

  66. I actually works! It is way easier than I thought it would be. I am a swimmer, so it really comes in handy. Thank you!

  67. Hey!

    Great resource, Thank you!

    I started wimhof breathing techniques and was impressed with my breath hold times. This intrigued me and I then wondered how freedivers train, and I’m glad I checked it out before diving! Didn’t realise hyperventilating before diving was a bad thing.

    Anyway, I wanted to ask, do you think its possible to do the free diving training alongside the wimhof breathing techniques? Or do you think it would it be too much?

    Let’s say I do wimhof everyday in the morning (4 sets of 30 deep breaths followed by breath holds of 1.30,2,2.30 and 3 minutes), and the free diving stuff in the afternoon?

    And you mention that even when dry training you should have a partner with you, would you advise against training at all if this isn’t possible?

    Thanks in advance,


  68. Hey!

    Great resource, Thank you!

    I started wimhof breathing techniques and was impressed with my breath hold times. This intrigued me and I then wondered how freedivers train, and I’m glad I checked it out before diving! Didn’t realise hyperventilating before diving was a bad thing.

    Anyway, I wanted to ask, do you think its possible to do the free diving training alongside the wimhof breathing techniques? Or do you think it would it be too much?

    Let’s say I do wimhof everyday in the morning (4 sets of 30 deep breaths followed by breath holds of 1.30,2,2.30 and 3 minutes), and the free diving stuff in the afternoon?

    And you mention that even when dry training you should have a partner with you, would you advise against training at all if this isn’t possible?

    Also, is there a better version of the jpeg, it’s so blurry it’s hard to understand.

    Thanks in advance,


  69. Ian, wanted to say a big thank you for making this information available. Three weeks in, have altered the tables only slightly to suit where I’m at with breath holds, and have just now done a personal best of 4.30.

    Again, many thanks! 🙂

  70. What’s your understanding, according to that training plan, of Short, Mild and Long aerobic and anaerobic training?

  71. Wow Ian, this is great! I got into breath work because I somehow developed reactive airways disease and i began to chronically suffer from nasal congestion and allergic reactions.This past year I often wondered if I had COVID because my respiratory duress took on a whole new level of difficulty. Most of the past year I have suffered from shortness of breath, not really knowing why. So I initially turned to Thich Nhat Hahn and meditation to calm my nervous system. I learned that he is all about breathing,, probably why he is still alive at 94 or 95! I eventually was able to start jogging very slowly, but the wildfires and hazardous air here for two weeks set my recovery back significantly. I then began practicing Sudarshan Kriya Sky Breathwork, doing the long exhales and breath holding also while I went on dog walks. I didn’t realize there was a name for that,..apnea training! My increasing interest in pranayama and healing my lungs caused my bells to go off in a good way when my daughter was doing an assignment which required watching a video that included indigenous free divers. I immediately knew ,, at some time when I am able and when the pandemic is passed, I would love to be in the ocean,, someplace beautiful, and I would love to freedive. Not for any end other than to be there and to continue to go deep into my healing, myself and the beauty of this beloved Earth and her ocean. As I was about to get ready for bed I read something about the Breath Health Test. (The duration of you ability to hold your breath is a measure of your health). So I gave that breath holding a try and was able to hold my breath for about 50 seconds. Then I googled BHT and low and behold your page came up! Whoa! Free diving! So naturally I eagerly devoured the generous guidelines on this page. I then timed my breath hold again, emphasizing your technique…. 3 breaths, 75% inhale, 100% exhale, 100% inhale. Hold. And above all else I closed my eyes and focused on being as relaxed as possible. Without excessively straining or struggling I just stayed relaxed and stopped the hold when I felt like I was going to start to spaz and struggle. I was shocked when I opened my eyes to take a breath and saw the timer at 1:28 seconds!! So wow! Within 10 minutes and with less struggle, your coaching expanded my breath hold from 50 seconds to 1:28 seconds. Thank you so much! I don’t know when I will be in a position to free dive, but you have added a much appreciated routine to my health regiment. I’m not shooting for a 5 minute or even a 3 minute breath hold, but I am shocked that I even have the ability right now to hold for as long as I did, and I credit your brief tutorial here. Thank you , Thank you , thank you. May we one day meet, I feel like an unlikely and wonderful journey has unfolded for me here and you are yet another synchronistic nudge pulling deeper onto my path thank you.

  72. Great website. I have been doing Wim Hof breathing for a couple months and can hold my breath on an exhale for 2 -2 .5 minutes, but would like to get into free driving. During my Wim Hof holds I usually plug my nose with fingers to help reduce my drive to inhale. For the dry sessions you mention here do you advise using a diving mask that would be used during the wet sessions?

  73. Hey mate,

    I am desirous and in training to become a rescue swimmer for the coast guard. I would consider myself to be a pretty fit individual as I am also a track and field distance runner for a D1 university. I know that becoming a rescue swimmer will require me to hold my breath underwater for long periods of time, especially in order to complete certain drills and training. This summer I am in the pool everyday, but I am also wanting to work on swimming underwater and holding my breath obviously. My question is, is this training suitable for someone like me? I am not quite familiar with “free diving” but I would appreciate all of the advice and help that I can get on being able to hold my breath underwater for longer.

    please let me know! Cheers mate

  74. Can you describe the proper breath holding technique?

    Btw really liked this and I’ve improved from 40 seconds to 1,5 minutes.

  75. Hello! Thanks so much for this very helpful and detailed guide. I was just wondering how often I should test my maximum hold and then adjust the tables accordingly?

    Many thanks ????

  76. Thanks for the info. I downloaded android “Freediving Trainer”, it has co2, o2, best time, and Square breathing(haven’t explored that) Best time will build custom tables for you. You had some apps listed in a comment on the tables page but only one loaded. I got 2:34 dry. Pretty happy about that. previously I was up to 2 minutes in the water, in the time before covid. I’ll keep practicing through winter. I would love to get to 5 minutes.

  77. Hi I’m trying your time test for the first time starting right now.
    So this istn tooo hard. Man. Watn ro beath rlll bad niw Dannnnnnnnngggggggggg

  78. Hello Ian
    Fascinating materials. I need to work out details for me and pass it to my son who is fond of diving.
    3 questions:
    1- What is the minimal age to do this program (under any adult supervision) ?
    2- Let’s say, I can achieve 4 min from 1 min 30 s. Redoing the program over with higher targets, will it bring you to the 5 min ?
    3 – Let’s say, I can achieve 4 min from 1 min 30 s. If I do nothing further and stop training, how long will it take to lose any benefits and achieved targets ? How to maintain the 4 min ?

    Thanks in advance

  79. Hey Ian, I know this post is old, but hopefully you will see my question.

    I am trying to create a schedule for doing dry-land training (currently been stuck at a 2:50-3:00 breath hold for awhile now). Your schedule and information is helpful, but I am not sure if I need to adjust it, taking into account that I am diving 2-3 times a week right now. Should I still be trying to fit in Apnea sessions on days that I dive?

  80. hey mate, just wanted to say thank you for sharing your knowledge and training schedules. I have been working on the schedule and I am up to the 3:30 holds. Today I decided to keep going on my last breath when I reached the 3:30 mark and I managed to get to 5 minutes! A goal I have had for a while now, so thankyou. I will keep going with the program and see what I am capable of by the end.

  81. I started this routine without any prior training, being able to hold my breath for 2min 15 sec.
    first 2 weeks( the CO2 period) was very easy for me(especially the morning exercises). What I dicovered on my own, it helps to do 2-3 warming breathholds before jumping into routine.
    the contractions(urge to breathe) was delayed from about 1min 15sec to 1min 45sec near the end of the CO2 training.
    then comes the not so good part.
    I stppod on the second week of O2 training at 4 min breathhold. I was able to hit everymark, but I began to dislike the training, my urge to breath came back to 1 min 15sec and at that point I couldn’t see the point of moving forward. I didnt entered into this just to set some static PB record in bed.
    At this point I started a different way of training which brought my urge to breathe to 1min 55sec(CO2 tables untill you have contractions).

  82. Dear Ian,
    thanks for the very detailed guide! How do you combine aerobic/anaerobic workouts along with breath hold training? I’ve got the feeling that they may impact each other in a negative way if done too shortly following each other. Given the breath hold training is done every other day as suggested, does it mean you are using the days in-between for workouts? Just want to make sure get it right as overtraining may negatively impact both type of training ?
    thanks! Sebastian

    1. You will be able to.
      Within that time frame it’s just a mind game.
      Maybe find a really tangible distraction.
      Then work on co2 tolerance.

  83. I have a question, I’ve been doing the training for 2.5 weeks now, the first 2 weeks were alright even tho i felt like the last couple days were pretty hard. Now I got to the O2 tables and i gotta say its really hard, my best before the training was 2:30, I’m at day 3 of the O2 tables and did a 3:00 but it was REALLY difficult, I dont know if I should continue pushing myself even tho I think I’m almost at my limit, or if I should step back and make the breath hold times shorter

  84. Hi Ian

    This was very helpful. I went from 1:06 to 3:05 during the program. What is the next step though? Do I restart the CO2 tables using my new longest hold?

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