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The Frenzel technique… a beginners guide

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Ok… so this will be old news for some, but hopefully good info for most. This is the standard instruction which I give all my students… its a good way to start.

The Frenzel technique is the primary form of equalisation which we, as freedivers, want to use. Its the most efficient and the most powerful technique available to us and it allows us to go very deep with a small amount of effort.
The technique is very simple once you have it mastered, as it will become completely natural to perform.
In very simple terms its all about compressing the airspace held between your Glottis and your lips/nose. By only compressing this area we minimise the amount of air needed for equalisation thereby leaving more air to achieve greater depths.
Broken down in to stages this is how you perform the technique.

Don’t practice this with a fully sealed nose on dry land. Use a half pinch.

  •  Pinch the nose and close the mouth
  • Close off the epiglottis (you know you are doing this if when you breathe out with a wide open mouth, you can stop the air)
  • Seal the mouth further by performing the T-Lock (using the tongue to seal the mouth shut along the gum line just behind and above the teeth). It is the same movement you make when you say the letter T…. hence T-Lock.
  • Use the muscles in the throat, cheeks and the tongue to compress the airspace you have created. You can push the tongue up inside the space, making a K-Lock (the movement you make when you say the letter K).
  • Ensure that the soft palate is open and neutral to allow the air which you are compressing to reach the openings of the sinuses and the Eustation tubes. The soft palate is open when its relaxed. Play with this sensation by feeling it move up and down when you either blow out through pursed lips (up position, not what we want), and when you breath out through your nose with an open mouth (down position, also not what we want). During this process find the neutral point as this is what we need to leave it in whilst diving.
  • Allow the air which you are compressing to fill the air spaces in your ears and sinuses.
  • When you are doing this on dry land (with a half pinched nose) you should hear/feel a puff of air come out of your nose. You should also see your Adams apple area  move up and down a bit (apologies ladies…. ).
  • You will need to re-load your mouth after you descend further, so practice filling your mouth with bits of air, then closing your epiglottis.
  • Practice the whole technique with empty lungs so you know you are not cheating and compressing air directly from the chest.

Things to remember:
All you are doing is compressing the air in the mouth to push it in to the airspaces of the head, don’t over think it. Use every facial muscle in your arsenal and make sure you relax
The soft palate is neutral when its relaxed, so don’t tense up.
Keep the chin tucked in so as not to squash your eustation tubes shut.
Dont practice this with a fully sealed nose on dry land, use a half pinch.


15 responses

  1. Hi there

    I have just start getting into Skin diving now and have had no training as of yet.
    I am just doing some homework first to see what I will need to be able to do this awesome form of diving.
    My question is related to the Fenzel technique. How would this effect an individual with Sinus?
    To add I have also heard that Hyperventilation should never be used, I was taught Hyperventilation in my PADI Dive course.
    I have read about other breathing techniques to prolong a breath hold, by stretching out Lungs and the rib cage.
    Could you please verify all this for me as there is no free dive school or academy where I Live.

    1. Hi!
      Great that you are getting in to freediving.
      All equalisation techniques are a bit more difficult for people with sinus conditions (although not impossible, I have successfully taught many people with this problem ). The frenzel would be physiologically no harder to accomplish than conventional equalisation, although it is technically harder to master. If you can equalise ‘normally’ you will be able to use the frenzel with time. Make sure you keep well hydrated though, sinuses are affected badly by dehydration. You may want to look in to getting a neti pot as well (google it).
      Hyperventilation is probably the single most dangerous thing you can do when freediving (see the blog post on this subject). Breathing should be calm and relaxed before you dive, focusing on lowering heartrate above all else.
      Have a look through the blog entries as I have covered fragmented breathing, which is good lung training. I also go over breathing techniques in the ‘deep freediving’ posts.
      If you cant get to a school, i would suggest that you get a good book. The manual of freediving by Umberto Pelizzarri isone of the best, as it covers everything!
      Two things to remember. Progress slowly and always dive with a buddy. Dive safe!

  2. I have heard of SCUBA divers using the Frenzl technique. Can it be used on the descent as well as on the ascent, or is it like the Valsalva technique, only to be used on the descent?

  3. It’s too hard to complete Frenzel for me in case of UPSIDEDOWN…….Is there any methode to solve this problem?Or just keep practising?
    Thank u very much in advance!

    1. Keep practicing! Its likely that your soft palatte is engaging. Practice finding the neutral position by blowing out of your nose and mouth at the same time.

  4. Hi guys, I’m new to free diving and have only just started training. Because of my job however I am a frequent diver so am used to equalising. My question though is that I am able to equalise without using my hands or wriggling jaw technique etc, but am able to control the muscle within my ear – You can even hear it someone presses their ear against mine. I guess I’m asking if this is normal and if so what is this technique called?

  5. Hey Ian, I purchased one of your books and I’m so glad that I did, “Underwater Foraging”. Its pretty excellent for anyone to be honest. Just what I would need to take my spearfishing to the next level.

    I can dive up to 16 meters with the normal scuba equalization technique while freediving. At present, I am practicing the frenzel technique on land before I go into the water. When I master it or feel comfortable enough, how deep I should be able to go with a breath hold of 2mins on land. My best was 3mins + but I got a bit unfit so it will take a while for me to get there.

    Furthermore, what are some precautions I could take based on your experience for a first timer using the method /technique in the water?

    1. Glad you like the book.
      Its hard to say. 20m for sure, but maybe 25m? Everyone is different and so many things change your performance.
      As far as precautions go, make sure you are not alone and increase your depth gradually, also practicing on land can damage your ears if yo do it too hard so be gentle.

  6. I just have a quick question,
    So when using valsalva when diving should I keep increasing the pressure in my nose until both my ears pop, no matter how intense the pressure seems to get . Or should there be a limit as to how hard I blow (how much pressure is applied).

    1. Yes, kinda. It shouldnt be too hard to equalise them though, the effort to equalise with the valsalva (shallower than 10m) is quite minimal. Try on dry land and get an even and relaxed pop.

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