From ‘early turning’ at 27m to the 2019 AIDA Depth World Championships within two years
A Demonstration of 7 Key Training Principles
At the end of 2019 I spent a lot of time researching the concepts used by successful athletes in all sports. My primary focus was ‘measurement-based’ sports, like weightlifting, swimming, sprinting, jumping, running, ETC… Just like freediving, there is no opponent, no team to rely on, and no ‘in game’ point-scoring. Success is literally measured with a stopwatch, measuring tape, or scale: Just like Freediving.
What I found was that across the board, there was a general consensus on the ‘principles’ that defined training for these kinds of sports. Of course, I came to the conclusion that if they were consistent and successful with other more established ‘measurement based’ sports, it’s extremely likely that they’d apply to freediving as well.
I just want to be clear about something. Principles are not “rules”. They are not black and white: “If this works in this case, it will work in all cases”.
Principles are a lens through which we can view training. They help us make decisions, and understand why some things work better than others, and where we should focus our energy on decision making about our training.
In my research, I’ve seen slightly different lists of principles, some longer – some shorter, and some different ways of describing them. However, I found that there was a general, agreeable, idea behind all training, and that this ‘single idea’ could be described in different ways using different principles. Some ways of describing the idea are easier to grasp than others.
In my opinion, the best set of principles and description of this idea, is the “Scientific Principles of Strength Training” book and video series by coach Chad Wesley Smith (top 10 powerlifter all time), Dr. Mike Israetel, and Dr. James Hoffmann. In their teachings, they view training through the lens of 7 distinct principles.
What’s great about their approach to teaching these principles is that they introduce them in order from most to least important. This ordered approach to the principles makes applying them much easier. Start with principle 1, then move to principle 2, and so on…
The 7 Scientific Principles of Training:
This list includes 7 principles, that when considered and applied to programming can generate a very comprehensive and useful training plan. Here they are;
Specificity: Training needs to mimic or recreate the conditions of what you’re training for. The better an exercise does this, the more specific it is, the better form of training it is.
Overload: Training needs to generate adequate fatigue, and become more challenging over time in order to drive adaptations. Training that’s not hard enough won’t tell your body and mind that they need to get better.
Fatigue Management: Too much overload can cause overtraining, so we need to strategically implement periods of non-overloading training to ensure that we fully recover and ‘decay’ or ‘get rid of’ fatigue that systematically accumulates over time.
Stimulus, Recovery, Adaptation – SRA curves: A great way to visualize and manage the above 3 principles, SRA helps us see how frequently we should be training. It also shows that fitness, or specific adaptations, are a product of both overloading-stimulus and recovery. In other words, fatigue management & recovery need to be taken just as seriously as the ‘actual’ training itself.
Variation: Our training needs to have a certain degree of variation built in to avoid adaptive-resistance. Do the exact same thing over and over, and your body & mind will get too used to it, and evnetually it will stop working as a training exercise. Variation also helps us maintain beneficial qualities of general health, strength, and endurance, which are potentially neglected by what ever more sport specific training we are doing.
Phase Potentiation: Periodization, training phases, strategic timing of training targeted at different “goals” within a training cycle: In simple words: Base-Training, Specific-Training, Peaking-Training.
Individual Differences: How can you fine-tune your training to be more specific to your individual needs. Things like skill level, strengths & weaknesses, genetics, work capacity, previous sporting experience, ETC… All come into play.
What’s great about this list is that it’s in order of most important, to least important. #2 is useless without #1. #7 is useless without #s; 6,5,4,3,2,& 1.
During the creation of a training plan, you need to make sure it meets the requirements of each principle, in order, before moving on to the next. If by the time you fine-tune to your ‘individual differences’, it’s no-longer specific to your goal.. The training plan is scrapped, and you need to find a way to better incorporate the preceding principles.
To find out more about the scientific principles of training, check out the Juggernaut – Training – Systems video series with coach Chad on their website with the link below:
How I Applied These Principles In My Training.
All good training starts and ends with a goal. Something that will help guide your use of ‘the 7 principles’, or any other list of principles that you choose to use in your training.
My goal: My goal for this training cycle was to achieve 85m CWT, with a maximum allowance of 90m. I like to work with goals, as they help me start setting up my training plan according to the first principle: specificity. It’s much easier to be specific to 85-90m CWT, than it is to be specific to “better in CWT”. A goal answers the questions; How much better? What needs to get better? When to stop my progression? It prepares you to be specific, which is the first step to setting up a principled training plan.
So my training would all be centred around 85m CWT, with an ‘allowed maximum’ of 90m.
Around 80% of my in-water training came from a relatively small bank of highly specific exercises. They would mimic, as closely as possible, the requirements of my goal.
In my case, 85-90m would require;
- A dive time of around 2:35-2:50
- Start Free-fall around 35m with 1.5kg weight and 3mm suit.
- Have to be very comfortable with EQ and water pressure below Residual Volume.
- Be able to descend to 85-90m without any urge to breath or contractions
- Be able to ascend for around 1:15, with good strong technique and psychological composure.
The bulk (80%) of in-water training exercises would meet these specific demands.
Depth Exercises: Each depth session consisted of doing 1 of these exercises.
- Reps of 45m, 50m, or 55m
Done with correct finning, freefall, and mouthfill procedures for 85-90m
- No-Contractions hangs at 45m
Allowed me to practice 85m+ freefall-times, without passing 45m: STA after normal descent into freefall, and repeatable up to 4 times way before I was ready to actually go to 85m.
- Empty-lungs Training (RV) up to 20m
Teaches all skills and adaptations to pressure for long and safe freefalls below RV (~40m)
- 1x target dive CWT (+60m) **Highest possible Specificity, Done only during Peaking**
Peaking-training, building up to my target depths
Pool Exercises: Each pool session consistent of 1 specific exercise and then the **Volume-exercise.
- CO2 table: 1 set = 60m + 4x30m (2-4 breaths recovery): For 3 sets.
The total time per set was about 3:00 & 2:00 were with elevated CO2. Increased swim speed on 4×30 allowed for similar muscular sensations as in CWT: Mild lactic acid build up.
- STA + DYN: 1:30 to 2:00 STA + 60m DYN
The total dive time on these semi-active dives was up to around 2:50: Repeatable, with no contractions or urge to breathe.
- Reps of 60m, 75m, or 90m DYN: **Volume-exercise
These dives simply allowed me to accumulate lots of meters with only very mild hypercapnia and/or hypoxia. Kind of like ‘freedive jogging’. This was my least ‘specific’ exercise that was done on a regular basis.
According to specificity, these simple exercises were tailored to my goal. They, in some way, prepared me for the dive-profile, conditions at depth, dive times, and sensations that I would experience on 85-90m. These ‘main’ or ‘core’ exercises prepared me specifically for my goal.
As a side note: In most cases I had a balance between pool and depth sessions, generally 1:1. Occasionally, if I felt I needed more practice with a skill or procedure in depth, I’d replace a pool session with a deep one.
If you’d like a little more detail on these specific exercises, check out my Facebook post on ‘Specificity’.
A demonstration of Specificity in Freedive Training.—In march I did a live-discussion (Freedive Science Page) on the…
To ensure adequate overload in my training I used an RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) scale to monitor how hard I was training.
A very easy way to rate your training on RPE is to look at how many reps you could have done without failing the exercise or having a significant deterioration in dive quality, and then subtract that number from 10.
- If on the DYN CO2 table: 60m + 4x30m with 3 breaths recovery, I could have theoretically (prediction) done 60m + 6 x 30, that’s 2 reps “more” left in the tank. On the RPE scale that’s 10 – 2: RPE 8. With 2 breaths recovery I might have only had 1 rep left in the tank: RPE would increase to 9.
- During no-contractions hangs at 45m, if I did 2 dives and felt that I had 1 more dive in the tank before fatigue would start to increase the risk of hypoxia or early contractions.. Then this was 10 – 1: RPE 9.
In order to ensure adequate overload during my specific exercises, I mostly trained at an RPE of 7 to 9. RPE 6 wouldn’t have been enough overload to drive adaptations and increase my fitness. On the opposite side of the scale, RPE 10 is too stressful for consistent training, and would lead to psychological issues. Always leave a little in the tank.
So far this system has worked out for me in all cases. Even doing 2x55m CWT. I think I could have done 3-4 good quality reps without having noticeably worse quality dives, or risking DCS. I’ve never tried more than 2, but with my prediction of being able to do 3-4, that gives an RPE of 8-9, still within the proper overloading range.
Finally, another key part of overloading correctly is that training needs to become more challenging over time.
- Near the beginning of my cycle I might have been able to only do 2x50m CWT at RPE 9. At the end of the cycle when my specific fitness was at it’s best, 4x50m CWT was an RPE 9 exercise.
As my fitness increased over the course of the training cycle, I needed to make each exercise gradually more challenging by increasing volume and/or intensity, or decreasing recovery time in order to maintain the target RPE for the exercise. No changes over time would have caused an RPE 8 (good) exercise in month-1 to eventually become RPE 6 (not good) in month-3 and at that point I’d be wasting my time doing it.
Doing highly specific overloading training creates a lot of systematic fatigue. If you let this accumulate for too long then you will eventually become overtrained.
I used a concept called ‘de-load weeks’ on a monthly meso-cycle to manage my fatigue. I simply copy-pasted an extremely common strategy used in strength training programs. Regardless of the exercises I was doing, a month of training would generally look like this from the perspective of RPE;
- Week 1: RPE 7+
- Week 2: RPE 8
- Week 3: RPE 9+
- Week 4: RPE 6- (de-load)
The ‘deload’ week does exactly what it’s called. It “de-loads” fatigue. The way I achieved this was by either decreasing RPE by lowering volume and/or intensity, or increasing recovery times (the opposite of how I made them harder to overload).
- If on week 3 I did 4x50m CWT, I might only do 2x45m during the de-load week.
The point is that the most fatiguing week of the month is followed by the least fatiguing week of the month. This ‘break’ allows the body to decay systematic fatigue, and adapt to it in the process. Ideally, you start the next month (week 5) a little bit better overall than you were on week 1. This continues month after month and you become more and more fit in the process.
Done correctly, an RPE 8 exercise should become an RPE 7+ exercise after the deload if done in the same way (Volume, Intensity, Recovery time). An RPE 9 would go down to 8+, and so on. This noticeable decrease in RPE on identical exercises is evidence that you’re successfully adapting to your training thanks to overloading and de-loading, and is what allows you to make your training more challenging over time.
Stimulus, Recovery, Adaptation (SRA)
SRA is a great way to understand how often to train in order to make sure that you’re making small improvements between each session.
The idea is that immediately after a training session you’ll have generated short-term fatigue, and your fitness has been temporarily decreased. This recovers in a surplus over the next 1-3 days depending on how much fatigue you generated: Gains are made. After a while without training the adaptations you produced decay and eventually you settle back-to your original self: Gains are lost. Your goal is to avoid training before you’ve recovered, or after short-term adaptations have decayed. Aim to train again right as you make peak-recovery from your last session.
From experience, I know that I need about 1-2 days off to fully recover from my in-water training sessions (at my level). For this reason I planned on training every 2nd or 3rd day. During the 3rd (RPE 9+) week of the month, I also knew I would surpass my ability to fully recover between sessions, but this ‘functional overreaching’ would quickly be dealt with during the de-load week allowing for maximum adaptation. On average I was able to do 3 to 4 in-water sessions per week, on an every 2nd or 3rd day pattern.
I didn’t ‘plan’ on worrying about SRA more than that.
However, due to the challenges of diving during “corona times”, once I started peaking and doing dives deeper than 60m (which needed a boat/kayak, no-wind, and high-tide) it was impossible to dive every 3 days. More often than not, it was once every 5 to 7 days.
My skills-SRA was beyond the point of decay: Simply, I had too many days off and my EQ and freefall skills were getting worse and out of practice. To compensate for this, I’d add in an empty-lungs session 2-3 days before a deep dive if I had 5 days or more off in between: This happened 3 times. These ‘bonus’ empty-lungs sessions allowed me to avoid ‘under-training’ when needed, by re-stimulating certain key skills as they decayed from lack of practice.
Check out my facebook post(s) on this topic to find out more about how I ‘improvised’ a use for SRA during my peaking-training, and more in general about SRA-Curves. Link to the other post in the in one below:
Under-Training: SRA curves Part 2In April I posted about SRA curves, and how they represent a great way to visualize '…
Variation covers two things. It’s the way you adjust each individual specific-exercise, and it’s also the way you add in ‘accessory training’ and ‘cross training’ to supplement your specific exercises
In my case: RPE and month-to-month difficulty increases across my specific-exercises were handled by varying things like recovery time, number of reps, and intensity. As I got better at an exercise, I could make it harder by adjusting 1 or more of those 3 parameters. The same exercises were ‘varied’ to make them easier or harder as and when I needed.
With your highly specific exercises, variation doesn’t mean having lots of different exercises (I only had 6 outside of peaking). Variation is how they are adjusted to ‘target’ key areas, or achieve the appropriate RPE.
- To introduce new techniques into my diving, I’d do more reps of 45m. To test that the skill was automated, I’d do fewer reps of 55m. I varied the volume and intensity of my CWT reps depending on how I wanted to target my skills development.
The next use of variation dealt with other 20% of in-water training I did, which was made up of ‘accessory-exercises’. These accessory-exercises served the purpose of assisting directly with skills development, or as a way to prevent staleness/ boredom in my training. They were designed according to my weaknesses and skill-building needs. Most accessory work will be tailored to the individual.
- 35m FRC dives were useful when I was making adjustments to freefall position. They offer a much longer FF than RV dives (30m FF), and are repeatable, compared to a single dive to +65m.
- One day I really didn’t want to do the same old pool session I’d been doing for the previous few months.. To mix things up a little, and for a personal challenge, I maxed-out a 16 x 30m DYN in 8:10s at RPE 10.
- Dry STA was used, rarely, when I couldn’t find a buddy or had sore muscles from the gym, and couldn’t perform good quality in-water training.
- 30m DYNs at fast speed were perfect for making technical refinements in my finning.
Something to note is that ‘accessory work’ is only accessory. They supplement your more important specific exercises. This is why they only make up roughly 20% of the time I was in the water. You cannot live on just vitamins and protein powder. You need to eat real food too.
Another important thing to note is that my accessory exercises had there own dedicated in-water sessions. I wouldn’t do a specific exercise and then ‘add’ in accessory work at the end. I’d dedicate an entire session to accessory training when it was needed.
The last use of variation in freediving is ‘cross training’. This is the part of your training that isn’t freediving.
This can include;
- Visualization / Meditation
- Weight training
These ‘cross-training’ modalities should be used to help maintain your health, strength, endurance, and offer a way to compensate for anything that may be lacking because of freediving.
- Freediving doesn’t build strength or endurance. For my health and wellbeing, I would do basic strength and conditioning sessions quite regularly. Things like 5×5 squat, pull-ups, deadlift, tuskish-get ups. Or a very light, recovery pace, 3-5km run to maintain cardiovascular health.
- I’d also use finswimming in the sea as a way to supplement my technique training, as it offers the easiest way to cover up to 1km in a monofin while focusing purely on technical adjustments.
- I don’t personally find regular stretching to be a very useful way to spend my time, as I don’t struggle with aches, pains, or lack of mobility in my joints. However I did incorporate it when I was sick (Typhoid fever from very unlucky food poisoning). I was too ill to dive for 2 weeks, but I could spend 20 mins stretching 1-2x per day to maintain my chest flexibility, and keep my muscles from seizing up. This allowed me to start back very close to where I left off.
Something to take note of is that ‘cross-training’ is primarily used to keep you healthy and fit. There is no ‘special’ or ‘game-changing’ cross-training exercises that are magically going to be responsible for any significant proportion of your results in freediving: Your specific exercises and accessory exercises are almost 100% responsible for that. Cross-training simply keeps you healthy, fit, and well balanced enough to do your specific and accessory training.
In my training, I feel that I used variation to a correct degree.
This principle tells us how and when to apply more or less variation in our training. Near the beginning of a training cycle we can use a lot more variation: Accessory and cross training. Near the end, we want to keep variation to the bare minimum.
My training cycle can be broken into 4 distinct phases;
Between October 2019 and February 2020 I was in the ‘off-season’ (back in Canada & U.K). This included almost no specific apnea training at all. Without going into endless detail, I basically did 4-5 gym sessions per week working on general strength and endurance to prepare my body for deep diving in 2020. I also did 1-2 pool sessions where I mostly focused on having fun, finding good sensations, and making technical improvements across the board. This phase was ‘100% variation’ compared to what I’d do to train for 85-90m CWT. I wasn’t even thinking about CWT at this point.
- Base Training
For the first month back in Dahab: February, I mostly worked on regaining my confidence in depth, building back up to 55m, and really working on my skills and techniques. During this month I spent a little over 50% of my time training in ‘variation’. I did strength and conditioning around 3 days per week, and used lots of in-water accessory exercises to quickly improve my freediving skills before automating everything with highly specific exercises.
- Specific Training
From March to the end of May, most of my in-water time was dedicated to the ‘specific exercises’, really only varying these exercises RPE level according to my fatigue management strategy. ‘Accessory’ work in the water was done very rarely, on an ‘as needed’ basis, and gym/run workouts got cut down to around only 2 days per week. This 3 month phase allowed me to really build ‘specific fitness’ for my goal.
- Peaking Training
At the end of May, I started to increase my depth. Nearly all of my training was dedicated to doing 1x target dives deeper than 60m. In this phase, variation was kept to a bare-minimum. Strength and run workouts were done only at the ‘maintenance level’ so that I didn’t become weak or unhealthy. As I mentioned in the SRA section, I would do occasional RV sessions to recharge my EQ and freefall skills if I had a ridiculous amount of time off between deep dives. I also did some visualization before deep dives, but all of this was only a tiny amount of variation compared to phase 1 & 2, and still significantly less than in phase 3. Most of my training: 1-rep targets, was maximally specific, with almost no variation, to 1-rep max diving. All that varied was where the line was set to.
Due to corona and cancelled competitions I needed to stay pretty flexible with my use of phase potentiation. I actually added 6 weeks into my specific training phase since I had the time. That being said, the concepts used remain pretty much the same for anyone, no matter their goal(s), time frame, or experience level.
The simple rule of thumb:
- As training progresses, it needs to become less varied and more specific to your goal(s).
Also, it’s important to note that ‘off seasons’ are not necessary. Your base-training can be modified to be longer and allow for more cross-training to compensate for no ‘off season’ training. This year, I simply had to work for a few months in Canada and was forced to take an ‘off season’. My next cycle won’t have an off season. I just may take 6 weeks of base-training instead of 4 to allow extra time to rebuild my non-freediving fitness.
Depending on your level, or schedule it’s possible to adjust the phase-length of each of these 3-4 phases. However, it’s important that they are kept separate, and in order. It’s very unwise to peak, go back to base-training, and then attempt to peak again without a 2nd specific-training phase.
It’s also unwise (and very common) to mix phases together. You shouldn’t be working on your strength and conditioning, doing lots of specific exercises, and attempting PBs all at the same time. There should be a clear distinction between Base, Specific, and Peaking training.
This principle looks at how I’m different from everyone else. It takes into consideration things like strengths and weaknesses, previous experience, genetics.. ETC.
The first 6 principles can be used to create a generic training program for anyone. Of course, we start with a goal, select specific exercises, overload, manage fatigue, SRA, variation, phases.. Then at the individual level we can make small changes to the plan to suit our needs.
In my case, I really needed to work on my finning technique. I don’t have a lot of experience with the monofin, and I also got a new one this year. To work on this personal weakness, I tailored a lot of my accessory training to working on finning and did long finswims in the sea to get the practice in.
I’m also aware that I’m not gifted with the genetics of someone with a particularly high work-capacity. I know that I need to take rest and recovery a little more seriously than some other divers that I know. To compensate for this, I always started my month with an RPE 7 week, where some people could do week 1 & 2 at RPE 8. During the RPE 9 weeks, I’d also completely cut out any cross-training to really ensure proper recovery was possible during the de-load week.
Individual differences doesn’t mean that we all need completely different training with completely different approaches. It looks at how a specific program can be tailored, by using variation and fatigue management strategies, to best target each individual athlete.
To compensate for my differences;
- Variation mostly targeted finning techniques and positions: my personal weakness at the time.
- My fatigue management strategy was tailored around my tendency to reach overtraining after only 3 weeks of ‘hard’ training. I allowed for a minimum-overload week (RPE 7) on top of the de-load week.
- Cross training was built on my personal preferences and needs. I prefer barbell and kettlebell training over bodyweight exercises to work my muscles. I don’t struggle with muscle tightness or mobility issues, so I almost never stretch.
Another aspect of individual differences that I considered is experience level and performance level.
A deeper diver generates more fatigue per training dive that a shallower diver. They also take longer to peak up into “top shape” ready for their last deep dives. These chronological differences in career experience also play a role in deciding how a plan can be slightly adjusted for each diver.
- At the depths I’m diving to now, I can train with 1-2 days off between in-water sessions.
- When I was a shallower diver (training for 50-60) I could dive 2 days on, 1 day off.
This was because my training for 85+ generated more fatigue per session, than training for 50-60m did. This is just the nature of progressing as an athlete: Improvements become harder and more fatiguing to make.
Once my general plan was formulated based on the first 6 principles, I looked at my individual differences to make sure that I wouldn’t do anything that would compromise the effectiveness or quality of my training plan according to my specific needs.
My 85m Dive
On Tuesday July 7th, I achieved my goal of reaching 85m. I’m extremely pleased to say that I did the dive easily, confidently, and with the quality that I was striving to achieve.
All in all, the training cycle went amazingly. I finished without feeling tired, burnt-out, or overtrained. I made loads of corrections and improvements across the board. I essentially removed hypoxia from the picture. I also overcame my occasional struggle with trachea-squeeze in the mid-60s. This cycle, I had zero symptomatic or asymptomatic trachea squeezes.
One of the things I’m most proud of was my consistency during the peaking phase, after finishing my specific training up to 55m.
These were the peaking dives that I did;
- 3x71m (Pre-planned repetitions at around 80% of my goal to fine-tune my nervous system for 1-rep max, 3m less then my PB of 74m).
After building up to 5 new PBs and achieving my goal, I had no early turns during any PB attempt. Not once did a dive feel like it was too difficult or needed to be repeated before moving on.
For me, this consistency throughout the peaking phase was very strong evidence that my training plan and use of the principles was correct. I was fully prepared for 85m, and all I needed to do during peaking-training was ‘unlock’ that preparedness by just doing the depths between 55m and 85m.
In my opinion. The need for multiple repetitions of each new PB depth is a sign that the specific-training phase wasn’t done correctly. If you are trained specifically for your goal, there should be no need to mess around during peaking-training, and each new dive should be done with the best quality possible, on the 1st attempt. If not, and you’re repeating target depths that went poorly, you’re using peaking-training to do the job of specific-training, which isn’t optimal and increases your risk of injury, BO, or early turns.
85m Wasn’t the Limit
Upon reaching 85m I made the decision, partly intuitively, that I was going to stop my progress for this training cycle and leave 90m for another day. Here’s why.
85m was already going to be +11m on my PB this cycle. In freediving, at these depths, 11m is a lot. Considering all the work I put in to get rid of hypoxia, overcome squeeze, and to develop my confidence, I really wanted to end this training cycle on a high note.
I finished with a dive that I know I could do again tomorrow. I finished with a dive that had only positive sensations, air on the bottom to EQ with, and plenty of O2 in the tank at the surface.. I could have continued towards 90m in the coming days, but this depth just intuitively felt like the perfect place to stop, leaving my mind fresh and hungry for more on the next training cycle.
The 2nd reason was more tactical. I’m not playing the short-game of just setting a PB now. My next serious-goal in freediving is the +105m Canadian CWT NR. I believe that the fastest way to get there is to end each training cycle between now and then with the hunger to do more. After having 85m go so perfectly, I didn’t want to take the risk that 90m went badly, leaving me demotivated.
Right now, as I write this I’m already itching to start my next training cycle and I’m hungry for more depth. This is the perfect way to end a cycle, as this motivation will help me put in the time and the work for the next training cycle goal: 95m+. Yes, it’s taking everything I have not to just go and do 88 & 90 this week, but I want that hunger.
I want that motivation to put towards my next cycle. I want that motivation when I’m doing reps of shallow CWT, practicing my mouthfill, doing hard CO2 training, and when I’m squatting 100kg and running 5k in 35+ degrees dry desert heat to rebuild my strength and endurance. That hunger is going to fuel the training that gets me to 105+ sooner and safer than doing 90m tomorrow would.
Now it’s just onwards (downwards) into the next training cycle!!
There are many ways to build a training plan, with many different factors that are going to play a role in defining ‘your’ training plan.
Things like the number of days you can train, what type of training you can do, your buddies, your access to training facilities, your level as a freediver, ETC… are all factors that will play a role in formulating a training plan. There are too many to cover in a single article, and applying what I’m going to talk about in the rest of the article will take some critical thinking on your end.
That being said, there are a few crucial elements that are absolutely required to make any training plan work. No matter what type of freediving you’re interested in, no matter what level of freediver you are, incorporating the basics of a training plan will help you see results and make progress time and time again.
Here are the basics
How long / deep / far you’re diving. (Example; 100m is more intense than 70m..)
How many dives / breath holds you do per session
How closely your training mimics what you’re training for. (Example; 5x50m is less specific, 2x75m is more specific, and 1x95m is most specific, to 1x100m DYN)
Like I said, there are many, many ways to create a training plan. There are many exercises you can chose from, different strategies you can employ, and different approaches to developing your overall fitness.
However, there are some basic fundamental rules regarding these 4 variables that are applicable to any type of training plan. Incorporating these fundamentals into your training plans is crucial to your success and likelihood of making progress, setting new PBs, and avoiding over-training or plateaus.
All training plans must, in some way;
- Increase in Intensity
- Decrease in Volume
- Increase in Specificity
Like I said, there are many strategies, methods, and factors that are involved in deciding exactly how you would or should approach achieving this, but the fact remains that you training plan must somehow meet these requirements.
At the start of your plan, you need a high volume of low intensity & less specific training, and as your plan progresses, you must progressively decrease volume and increase intensity and specificity.
Without some type of strategic approach to doing this, a training plan simply won’t work, or at least it won’t work very well.
Same = Same
What’s the fundamental reason for this? Well if you do the same thing every single training session..
The same unchanged CO2 table. The same depth sessions. The same O2 training. The same strength and conditioning workouts.. Your are setting yourself up to stay the same. The same personal bests. The same competition results.
Doing the same training over and over again, will result in the same performances over and over again.
If your training doesn’t change over time, neither will your results, it’s that simple.
There’s actually a fundamental principle that drives the same = same idea, called adaptive resistance. In a nutshell, the more you expose yourself to the exact same stimulus, the less training effect it will have. You’re body and mind will stop adapting to the training you’re doing.
The most basic, and simple way to avoid adaptive resistance to your training exercises is to apply the principles that I just laid out. As long as there’s some type of steady decrease in volume, increase in intensity, and increase in specificity over the course of your training plan then you’re very likely to avoid adaptive resistance.
Instead, you’ll have built a solid base of skills and general fitness (from the high volume, low specificity training) and slowly build up your personal-best-fitness (from the high intensity, high specificity training).
Same = Same Training In Freediving
One of the first training methods that we learn in freediving are the classic STA tables. The 8 hold CO2 table @ 50% PB, and the 8 hold O2 table up to 80% PB. Almost all freedivers, including myself, have spent some time doing these tables as beginners.
As beginners, these tables work, because we’re beginners. Literally any breath holding will work because we’ve never trained before, just like any running makes a beginner runner faster, and any rock climbing makes a beginner rock climber better.
However, once your reach your ‘natural talent limit’ (graduated from being a beginner), your training needs to change. These tables that we’ve been doing, don’t meet the requirements that we now need our training to meet.
They don’t decrease in volume: Always 8 holds. They only increase in intensity once: From 50% in the CO2 table, to 80% in the O2 table, with no progressive approach to increasing intensity. They aren’t specific to a 1-rep maximum breath hold: 8 hold tables that build up to 80% are no where near specific enough to 1×100% to generate specific PB-level fitness.
A good plan ensures that you avoid this long lasting sameness, and of course this carries over to the dynamic and depth disciplines as well.
Doing the same session, with the same volume, and same intensity week after week, will cause your progression to stop. To see positive change in your performance, your training needs to change overtime as well.
What to do when high intensity low volume training stops working: No more PBs
Well, the most specific training (high intensity low volume) isn’t sustainable forever. You’ll notice that this peak performance quickly becomes harder and harder to maintain, and setting new PBs isn’t really possible anymore (temporarily).
Well what’s happened, is that you’re reached full adaptive resistance to this type of training, and you need to start a new training cycle.
Simply, go back to low intensity high volume training, rework your skills and techniques, rebuild your base apnea fitness, and general athletic fitness and then go through the process of building back towards higher and higher intensity & specificity to achieve peak PB-level fitness once again.
If you start to experience this ‘inability to continue setting PBs’ it’s not because you’re not good enough, or because you’re not trying hard enough. It’s got a lot to with adaptive resistance, the decay of your base-level apnea & general fitness, and even some over-training / burnout.
In my opinion, once this happens you’ll need at least 6-8 weeks away from any kind high-intensity specific training, and really need to do low intensity, less specific training. Just this alone can make a huge difference in your long term progression.
But I want a PB now!!!
We all do 😉
Something that can easily happen is that we try to do everything at once. We try to compress an entire 3-6 months training plan into a few weeks. We try to ‘test’ our PB every few sessions in between high volume CO2 workouts. We try to build skills and techniques while also doing max attempts.
Some diver’s hit a plateau and after a few failed PB attempts, decide to do 1 week of “base-training”, and then try to immediately get back to the PB attempts.
These things don’t work.
The fundamental truth of training is that it takes time, if you’re stuck on a plateau, you need time away from that level of performance to get rid of your adaptive resistance. You need to spend proper time in base-training to replenish your base-fitness and skills. Then you need time to rebuild and exceed your previous level of specific PB-level fitness.
Allow your training to change over time, allow yourself to fully restart training cycles when progress comes to a halt, and remind yourself that you do not need a PB right now.
Find a way to incorporate these things into your training and theres absolutely no reason you won’t make significant and consistent progress for years to come.
Training for any sport can be broken down into 2 distinct phases; GPP and SPP.
These 2 phases play an important role in our training, our ability to perform, and our ability to make long term progress over our entire “career” as amateur or professional athletes.
Without correct structure in the phases, our *fitness will suffer and so will our performance.
* The term ‘fitness’ has 2 definitions;
- The state of being physically fit and healthy
In sports science this is GPP
- Our ability to fulfill a particular task or role
In sports science this is SPP
It’s important that as athletes we do not neglect our GPP or our SPP, as we need both to perform. The important part is the timing with which we approach these two types of fitness.
General Physical Preparation
The general fitness (definition 1) part of training serves a few different purposes.
- It increases our feeling of wellbeing.
- It increases our work capacity: How much training stress we can put ourselves under.
- It corrects any part of our general fitness that may have been neglected during our last SPP phase.
The better our GPP, the more easily we will be able to train and recover from our SPP and with lower risk of overtraining and/or overuse injury.
During this phase you should be looking to do as many forms of exercise as possible, even if they reach far outside of your sport to become as well-rounded of an athlete as possible.
Specific Physical Preparation
The specific fitness (definition 2) part of our training serves 1 very specific purposes
- It increases our sport-specific fitness.
The principle driving the SPP phase is: S.A.I.D (specific adaptation to imposed demand). In simple words, this means that our body will adapt to exactly what we ask it to adapt to. The more specifically we ask it to adapt to our sport during the SPP phase, the better we will perform in our sport.
What you’ll notice is that during the SPP phase, there is a significant decrease in overall training volume, as the intensity and specificity has been increased to match more closely the demands of what we’re training for. Your going to put a lot of ‘1-rep max freediving demands’ on the body & mind, so everything else needs to be reduced to allow recovery and adaptation to that specific demand.
Balancing the two phases
It’s very important that we do not neglect either of these phases in our training. You need to build both areas to be successful, and it’s important to understand when and how to do this. What are the guidelines for building a training plan that meets our GPP and SPP requirements.
We need to start every training cycle with a GPP phase. We need to build our bodies back up to an acceptable level and this means lots of variety in our training. We need to do;
- General Apnea training to maintain our breath-hold
- Cardio training to stay healthy and build our ability to recover from exercise
- Strength training to build any muscles that need building
- Flexibility training to rebalance and loosen the body
- Other sports to improve our athletic aptitudes.
The thing that we must remain aware of is that all this variety is good for our GPP, but it’s bad for our SPP.
You see, the variety in adaptive stimulus found in a well planned GPP is what keeps us healthy and balanced. However, when it comes to performing in a specific sport, we don’t want to be balanced. We want to be finely tuned to the task at hand.
During SPP, we want to drop this variety to the bare minimum. We should look to expose ourselves only to “S.A.I.D” stimulus. Basically, if it’s not part of the sport, it doesn’t belong, in any significant amount, in the SPP phase.
This is because, the ‘more demands’ we put on our body, the more confused it gets about what to adapt to. Your body will literally ask itself; should I get good at running, yoga, rock-climbing or freediving?
If you’re training for freediving (like setting a PB, or a competition), you want you body to understand very clearly that; It should get good at freediving, and this means “cutting the fluff”
Healthy variety or fluff
A common word used for ‘accessory training done at the wrong time is fluff’. During GPP, what we’d call healthy variation, becomes ‘fluff’ during SPP.
Your job during SPP phases is to get rid of as much fluff as possible. Some fluff is good, as it keeps us healthy and motivated, but this fluff should be at the minimum required to achieve those 2 things.
This is where some common mistakes come into a lot of freedive training that I’ve observed during my time freediving in Canada, the U.K, and particularly during my time in Dahab
Many freedivers come to places like Dahab and want to do as much as possible to get fit for their upcoming deep-dive, or competition. They actually end up doing extra fluff.
They begin doing double the yoga, start doing new forms of strength training, go on mountain hikes, go for swims, and snorkeling, add in a morning meditation routine, etc… They train as many things as they can.
I’ve also spoken to countless people doing a ‘popular online coaching program’ which is actually built on fluff: 5-days a week of finswimming training with a snorkel during the last month of training before competition.
These ‘other’ non-freediving forms of training compete directly with your “S.A.I.D” fitness for freediving.
This GPP focus is a potential-limiting mistake that conflicts directly with the fitness a freediver should be trying to cultivate: which is to do a 1-rep maximum performance in their desired discipline(s): Generally speaking for freedivers interested in progressing their apnea performance in either depth, distance, or time.
What to do about it
Well, far from competition or PBs, you need to train GPP. You want to get as globally fit and healthy as possible, and become as well-rounded of an athlete as you can be. Training with high variability and across multiple modalities is great for you, and very underrated in sports performances.
However, as time goes on and you get nearer the time of your competition, PB attempts, or ‘peak season’, you want to reduce variability as much as possible. Cut anything that’s ‘fluff’ to a bare-minimum, and focus on training as ‘specifically’ as possible for your desired outcome.
Of course, these are just guidelines, and the process should be thought of like a smooth transition into a freefall. You shouldn’t just suddenly stop finning at freefall depth. A smooth freefall is a transition between hard finning off the surface to gradually softer and more spaced out fining until you can sink at the correct speed.
There’s not really an abrupt line between GPP and SPP where a sudden switch is made. Depending on your individual circumstance, you might need to make different adjustments over time, but the concept remains the same.
At the end of your GPP phase, you need to gradually reduce training volume, gradually increase specificity (if it’s not your sport, it’s not specific), and gradually increase intensity nearer to your goal.
The point is to let your body ‘adapt to the imposed demand of freediving’, by limiting the amount of imposed non-freediving demands.
Don’t force it to choose between “freediving, hiking, strength-training, Cardio, yoga, pranayama, or anything else. Give your body 1 option: Getting good at freediving, by training as specifically as possible.
In my opinion… No, it should not.
Every so often, especially around large competitions covered by ‘Diveye’, this discussion takes place, with many voices on either side of the fence.
When reviewing ‘Diveye’ footage it’s very clear as to why it’s such a hot topic. For example, some athletes receive red-cards for taking 16 seconds to say “I’m ok” despite clearly being 100% ok from the moment they surfaced. Some received white-cards despite having massive LMCs and barely being able to get their noseclip off. Some athletes fumble with their noseclips turing a minor-LMC into a full-blown Blackout. Others emerge fresh, take 3 big recovery breaths are clearly with-it, but say “I’m good” because english is their 4th language and get red-carded.
These are examples of the same issue. Some white-card-deserving divers get reds, and some penalty-deserving divers get whites.
An uphill battle to remove the SP
Where I think most of the anti-SPers go wrong is by saying “the SP is too hard and too stressful”. As someone who would like to see the SP removed from the rules, even I can’t get behind this idea.
Trained properly, the SP is very easy and the people who support keeping it know this. It isn’t too stressful, 15 seconds is a very long time, and it isn’t causing LMCs and BOs. Complaining about it in this regard isn’t going to have it changed, so what will?
I think that providing a better alternative to the SP is the only way to begin to have it removed. We need new rules that promote safer and more controlled freediving performances. We need rules that allow the diver to do nothing but breath upon reaching the surface, and that penalise divers for becoming uncontrollably hypoxic in the first place.
**Speaking as someone with a very automated SP, my last LMC (2 years ago in the pool) lasted 11 seconds, and I still made my SP without any issues in only 8 seconds. If it was a competition dive I would have been white-carded and awarded full points. Personally, I disagree with this.**
A well-trained SP doesn’t discourage divers from exceeding their limits, it simply allows a margin with which they can exceed them and still receive full points. More strict rules are the only way to adequately discourage reckless diving in competitions, protect the public image of the sport and most importantly, the health of the athletes.
Potential new rules for ‘surfacing’.
In my opinion, this is where we (athletes, judges, and organisers against the SP) can make the most difference. We cannot just complain about the current rules and hope they get changed. Instead we should provide better ones that will improve the sport, provide better safety for the athletes, and further discourage irresponsible diving.
Improved rules regarding surfacing, and fitness to compete;
- To validate a dive, an athlete must maintain dry airways (no dip) for 30s after surfacing.
- To validate a dive, an athlete must be able to exit the competition zone under their own power within 1:00 of surfacing.
- A judge may only present a card (white, yellow, red) after the first 30s.
- (Depth only) A judge may ask for a tag after the first 30s. The athlete must be able to clearly present the tag to the judges.
- A Blackout results in an immediate disqualification of the dive: Red card
- An LMC with a dip (airway rule 1.a) results in a red card
- An undeniable-LMC (unanimous decision – both judges agree) in which the airways remain dry (airway rule 1.a) results in a 5-point penalty: Yellow card.
- A questionable-LMC (split decision – judges don’t agree) results in a white card.
- An athlete may not protest the judges’ decision regarding BO and LMC.
- Fitness to dive (hypoxia)
- An athlete who suffers an LMC (rule 3.b, 3.c) must be examined and approved by the competition medic the day-of (before) their next dive. The medic may deny fitness to dive, with no protest.
- An athlete who suffers a mild-surface-blackout (was not retrieved by safeties) is disqualified from the remainder of the competition.
- An athlete who suffers an underwater-blackout (was retrieved by safeties) or was unconscious for more than 30 seconds receives a 90-day ban from competition. After the 90-day ban, the diver must receive a medical exam to reinstate eligibility to compete.
**In MMA fighting for example, fighters who suffer a knockout cannot compete for 90 days or until cleared by a medic. Deep and serious blackouts should have similar consequences for the health and safety of the diver**
Better than a Surface Protocol
I think simple rule changes along these lines can make judging more fair, and more objective. I also think that increasing the penalty for hypoxic-events (BO & LMC) is the only real way to ensure that athletes do their best to emerge clean from a dive, and perform dives that are within their current capabilities.
By removing the SP, it is impossible for athletes to blame hypoxia on a procedure. An athlete is either diving within their capabilities, or they aren’t. There is no grey zone between a clean dive with a double OK: Red, or a big LMC with a successful SP: White.
Maintaining dry airways for 30s is a very clear and definitive way of judging a dive, and it also gives plenty of time for the athlete to recovery. A blackout is a very clear and definitive way of disqualifying a dive. A diver who cannot remove themselves from the competition zone has very clearly gone too far.
In the case of an LMC, the benefit of the doubt is in the athletes’ favour. If only 1 of the 2 judges calls an LMC, the athlete gets the white-card, provided the airways remained dry.
5-point penalties for definitive LMCs (both judges agree) will ensure athletes do their best to surface well within their limits. We (freedivers) all know what an LMC is, and what it isn’t. Both judges could easily agree on 2 small shakes being an LMC and this would mean divers doing their utmost to surface strong and stable.
A ban system for blackouts would again discourage overstepping the limits. The aim is to make clean and strong dives the utmost priority for the athlete. Failing to do so would end their competition immediately, and potentially restrict their ability to participate in future competitions until medically cleared.
For the sake of our sport, and our athletes.
The point here isn’t to be harsh. It’s to ensure the health and safety of the athletes.
Without naming names, there are a few elite freedivers (who I could name and give examples to AIDA rule makers) in recent history who seem to be showing signs of “damage” from frequent BOs and LMCs. Their ability to make a clean dive in a competition seems to be quickly deteriorating and the level that they can perform at is decreasing over time, not increasing as you’d expect.
I liken this to having a “cracked chin” in boxing.
**I’ve given a lot of examples from professional fighting because it’s a sport that also deals with brain trauma.. In fighting (mma, boxing…) a fighter who gets KOd often becomes more and more likely to get KOed in the future. Controlled bans, and medical exams following these bans help fighters recover properly after being KOed, and help protect their “chin”.**
The freedivers I have in mind seem to have ‘cracked chins’. They are getting more and more likely to BO, and I would be very inclined to say that this has to do with their recent history of having multiple BOs in a short time frame; the same competition, or a few months apart. This idea isn’t ‘out of the blue’ either.
Freedive physiologist Frederic Lemaitre has put a lot of effort into understanding the long a short term effects of hypoxic exposure, LMC and Blackouts. His research shows that having multiple BOs and/or LMCs in quick succession is bad for a freediver’s brain. He talks about it during his freedive Cafe Podcast.
In my opinion, the rules need to reflect the objective and subjective evidence that hypoxic incidents are bad for us. They are bad for the health of the athletes, and they are bad for the image of our sport.
We cannot afford to have freedivers having multiple BOs or LMCs per competition. We cannot afford having the public watch former and current world record holders blacking out every single time they compete. We cannot afford to have the public see a massive LMC still be counted as a white card.
We need freedivers surfacing clean, putting all of their attention on recovery breathing, being rewarded for diving within their limits, and penalized for going past them.
I also think that judging could be more fair. 2 equal dives, 1 with LMC and 1 without, should not result in the same points. Anything less than a perfectly clean dive should be penalised. Under the current SP rules, ‘messy’ dives can still be rewarded full points, which in my view goes against the spirit of the sport.
For the future of competitive freediving we want the new generations of athletes (I consider myself still in this group) to see world records and national records set by divers doing exactly what we were all taught on day-1. To only dive within our capabilities.
The Surface Protocol is outdated and quite frankly, useless. It’s not doing us any favours and I would like to see it go.
It’s time for better rules that promote safety-first. Rules that allow the diver to do absolutely nothing but breath upon surfacing. Rules that penalize exceeding our limits, and that protect the diver’s health when they do.
If AIDA want safer competitions, AIDA need to consider these kinds of changes.
If AIDA wants simplicity and fairness for their athletes, they need to consider these kinds of changes.
A friend of mine recently asked me how she should be warming up for target deep dives. She’s relatively new into the sport and is currently a ~35m diver, diving in very particular conditions: A very cold Canadian quarry with a steep 1-shot thermocline at around 10m.
The last time I was diving at that location, the water changed from around 18-degrees to 4-degrees in the space between 9 and 10m.
Like I said.. A very steep thermocline. My advice to her was to either;
Do 1 no-contractions hang shallower than the thermocline and stay in the warmer water – Or – Take 3-5:00 extra relaxation time at the surface and skip the warm-up.
Thinking beyond just this one example, my advice would be very similar to almost any diver, in any location, at any level.
Of course, in warm water there’s no need to ‘avoid’ thermoclines during your warm-ups, and before someone gets on my case about “not warming-up is an advanced technique for advanced freedivers”… Yes, for most divers, 1-2 warm-up dives is probably a better idea than just going for your target on dive number one.
However, the principles of my advice will remain the same for almost everyone. We need to think about what warm-ups can do for us, and what they can’t. Taking that into account will help all of us come up with our best warm-up procedure.
What warm-ups can’t do
I think the best place to start is with what warm-ups can’t do and maybe dispel some myths about the effects of warm-up dives.
To the best of my ability, I cannot find any objective or subjective evidence that doing warm-up dives will improve our dive response. I cannot find evidence that warming up improves our blood shift, or that blood shift is cumulative. I cannot find any real evidence that warming up improves the “spleen effect”…
Basically, I firmly believe, (and haven’t seen evidence to change my mind) that warm up divesm do not improve our physical ability to perform a deep dive (or a DYN/STA for that matter). They don’t increase our physical ability to hold our breath, and they do not physically protect our lungs from barotrauma.
They do not “kick in” your dive response as we are often taught to believe.
If done correctly, a perfect warm-up will have a neutral effect on our physical abilities. Take a warm up too far and this will become a negative effect.
So what are they even good for?
What warm-ups can do
Despite the “fact” (I use that term lightly FYI) that they do not improve our physical ability, I do believe that they can be extremely beneficial for our mental ability.
For most freedivers, a good dive can be an extremely relaxing thing. Hanging at neutral buoyancy feels great and can quickly slow down our internal rhythm, kind of like a condensed meditation. For many of us it’s really hard to fully let go of the general thoughts that consume our normal everyday lives. A warm up dive can be the catalyst to let go.
A warm-up or two can easily get us into the perfect state of relaxed-yet-focused that we need to be in just before anything ‘big’. This ideal mental state is what extends our breatholds and reduces physical tension protecting us from injury and blackout.
Some of us (no-warm-up divers) can achieve this state before our first dive, and some of us can’t. Warm-ups are for those who can’t, which isn’t something to be ashamed of or particularly concerned about. If you need warm-ups, do them. Just make sure to do them right.
Getting it right
For me, getting the warm up right means maximizing what it can do, and forgetting about the things that it can’t do.
As mentioned, all a warm-up serves to do is help us achieve a correct mental state. We are using breath-holds to lull us into a sleepy, calm, and focused mindset – Ready for our deepest dives. To achieve this, we want to do the most comfortable and enjoyable warm-up dives possible.
In simple terms: Shallow hangs, without pushing (no contractions). Simply enjoy your dive(s). A comfortable 1:00 warm-up is far more useful than a 2:00 one that you need to push for. A gentle 10m hang is better than an exhale dive to 25m that unnecessarily stresses the lung tissues.
Warm-up dives need to be easy and calming. Every tiny bit of effort whether it’s mental, physical, or technical, takes away from the effectiveness of a warm-up. Unless they are as easy as possible, they are potentially doing more harm than good.
What to avoid
I think the first and most obvious thing to avoid is becoming hypoxic, even mildly, during your warm-ups. To do a big dive we rely heavily on O2 that’s stored in our blood and tissues and becoming hypoxic, even just a little, means that we’ve eaten into those stores which don’t recover immediately.
I recently safetied a small depth competition, and there was 1 hypoxic ‘event’ in the whole comp: An LMC that luckly didn’t require assistance. The diver in question, surfaced from their last warm-up dive (nearly 20:00 before the dive) with blue-lips. Even 20:00 isn’t enough time to fully recover from a hypoxic warm-up.
Secondly, I would avoid any lung compression. Warm-ups do not decrease our risk of squeezing, but they can increase it. Doing FRC or RV (any of the various degrees of exhale diving) is, in my opinion, very risky. All it does is put unnecessary stress on the lungs, without any benefit to our bloodshift or alveolar flexibilty.
A warm up dive should never take you below your residual volume. This means <30m on inhale, and <10m on FRC (if you decide FRC warm ups is the way to go for you). My deepest dive to-date with warm up was an 80m VWT dive, and my warm up for that was an inhale hang at 12m.
Thirdly, we need to avoid any significant nitrogen exposure. The last competition I participated in was the ‘Dahab-Apnea Spring Comp’. During the briefing a ~70m diver asked for a 50m warm up line. Doing such a deep (speaking in %%) dive right before a competition dive is pretty crazy.
This can only be detrimental to physical performance and serves no value at all. I could go on about increased squeeze or BO risk, but the obvious one here is DCS. Of course, it’s probably not going to be a problem doing 50 & 75 in a single ‘session’, but due to the 0-benefit nature of doing a 50m warm-up dive (don’t forget mild hypoxia, and lung compression problems), I can’t see the nitrogen exposure as a risk worth taking.
Finally, just don’t complicate things for yourself. I’ve seen divers who descend to 10m, exhale some air, and then continue to 15 to hang. I’ve seen divers who do a 15m dive for exactly 150% of their target dive time, and then a 20m for exactly 200% of their target dive time. Some hang until first contraction and then wait 00:30 before coming up. The arguments for doing these things are usually; increased bloodshift, better dive response, decrease risk of squeeze, less this, more that… ETC
With all due respect, these arguments are wrong. These kinds of warm-ups are doing nothing for the body, and are very far from ‘as relaxing as possible’ rendering them less effective than they can be.
The only measurement that matters in a warm up is: How good it felt.
How do I know I’ve gotten it right?
Well to be honest.. You never really do (but it doesn’t actually matter).
This is in my opinion the single most advantageous part of doing no-warm up dives. You really can’t f*** it up. 10-15:00 of lying on the surface with your eyes closed is really-really simple. Not much can go wrong here.
However, for those of you who do warm up..
Your body knows what to do, and it’s the weeks of training that lead to the dive you’re about to do that will decide whether or not you’re capable of doing it. 1-3 warm-up dives aren’t going to magically increase your preparedness for a deep-dive, but like I’ve pointed out, they can ruin it.
I guess the easiest way to say it is that you can’t not do enough. Your warm-ups can’t be too short, too shallow, and they for sure can’t be too easy. As long as they make you feel relaxed and focused, then you’ve done as much as you possibly can: You’ve done the perfect warm-up.
At the end of it all the success of a dive lies in the hands of your training, not in your warm-up.
Just a quick note about the featured image: Not only is this probably my favourite photo of me freediving, It’s actually the last time I’ve ever warmed up for a proper deep dive. It was a ~2:15 dive to 15m before a 67m CWT-b personal best.
Almost all decent freedivers and respectable coaches will perform some type of exhale diving as part of their depth training programs. Depending on who you ask, you’ll get different answers regarding how often to engage in exhale training, how much you should exhale, where you should practice it, and what it’s actually good for.
Like anything, there are extremists on both sides.. Some will say that exhale diving is useless and unnecessarily dangerous, and some think is the only way to dive.
My exhale diving story started with an ‘exhale extremist’: Sebastien Murat. Seb’s opinion is that, based on the fact that the deepest diving mammals; sperm whales, widdel seals, and Cuvier’s beaked whales all dive on exhale, so should we. He advocated that a passive exhale, we call this lung volume ‘FRC’, is the ‘only’ way for humans to safely dive to depth. Personally, I thought this was crazy… but also really cool.
Here’s a video of Seb explaining the ‘physiology’ and ‘theory’ (use these terms lightly) behind why he thinks exhale diving is the best;
This fascination eventually, after a few years of experimentation, turned into a (temporary) full-time switch to FRC diving. I wanted to see how far I could take it (I’ve achieved 50m bi-fins on FRC.. so not too bad) if I only dove on exhale for a while. I also theorised that: If I ever want to switch back to inhale, no problem. It might take some getting used to, but at the very least my equalization will be significantly improved from all the exhale practice right??? Well, sort of.
After my exhale-only period, the switch back wasn’t so simple. Up to 50m everything went very well. It was easy to equalize, my confidence was through the roof, and the dives were extremely easy. So I tried 60m.. and ultimately suffered a trachea squeeze. You see, exhale diving ‘full time’ makes some things easy, and some things very hard. Fighting buoyancy, which you never have to do on exhale, is one of those hard things.. 60m became a temporary limit for me, and I needed to start over, re-learning to descend without getting tense. 3 months later I ended my season at 70m.
This was over a year ago, and after comparing my training then, my training from before the exhale-only period, my latest training period where I only included 2 exhale sessions, and not to mention countless conversations with other freedivers about their exhale training, I’ve finally formulated my opinion.
You should be exhale diving as much as you need to… (Well that’s confusing)
Most coaches and athletes will have their own opinions about how to program your exhale training into your cycles, and what exactly it trains, but at the end of the day it really depends on what you’re struggling to train effectively with normal inhale diving. Exhale training has its benefits in these cases. It’s very hard to do multiple deep dives in a session to train equalization, but you can do countless full exhale dives to 15m and get the exact same technical benefits, for example. Of course, there are pros and cons to everything, so you need to take the time to make the right decision for you.
Making these decisions depends on what you need to work on in your diving and whether or not exhale training can help achieve it. So what does exhale actually train? Well, there are three main things; equalization, hypoxic tolerance, and chest pressure. Let’s break them down.
Exhale training is a great way to train your ‘deep equalization’ because the main variable that affects EQ at depth is your final lung volume. Starting your dive with a lower lung volume means that you’ll reach these minimum lung volumes at significantly shallower depths. Shallower dives means more dives per session and overall more time spent training your equalization.
Where a 70m diver might only be able to do 1x70 in a single session, they could do 5-10 30m FRC dives. In both cases, lung volume at depth is going to be very similar, and therefore they could accumulate much more EQ practice this way.
The main possible cons of exhale EQ practice is that it always seems to be easier (relative/equivalent depth) to equalize on exhale. It’s a generally more relaxed ‘mode’ of diving, and most divers struggle to apply the same techniqnical quality on their full lung dives. Exhale can supplement your full-lung EQ training, but it cannot replace it.
Another benefit of performing breath-holds on exhale is that you can become hypoxic much quicker, and with greater ease. A diver might need to do 5:00 inhale statics to reach the same level of hypoxia they could with 1:30 on full exhales to RV. Mentally, these shorter holds are much easier to achieve and more reps per session can be done, allowing the diver to accumulate more overall exposure to hypoxia.
Using exhale in depth can have a positive psychological effect on breath hold as well. I personally noticed that after doing regular 1:30 dives to 15m on RV, suddenly 3:00 recreational dives on inhale became very easy. Having much bigger lungs at depth possibly tricks the body into feeling safer, and urge to breath can almost disappear entirely.
Possible cons of exhale hypoxia training are that you can become accustomed to the shorter dive times. Mentally, becoming hypoxic on a 1:30 static is very easy, but get ‘too’ used to this and +3:00 might feel like a long time, despite having more available O2. Another theoretical con of this kind of training was brought up by Eric Fattah during his exhale-only days. He theorized that your body adapts to the lung volume you use more regularly, though a mechanism called the ‘oxyhemoglobin dissociation curve’ by changing your 2,3-DPG levels. Noticing a pattern with the cons of exhale training yet?
If you are a freediver who struggles with the feeling of chest pressure, or have possibly had issues with squeezing, exhale training can offer a way to deal with this as well. Just the same as equalizion, lower starting lung volumes mean reaching minimum lung volumes at shallower depths. This allows for more time spent with lower-than-RV lung volumes, therefore more time for your body to adapt.
The possible cons of this is that you can easily over stress your lung tissues. Stretching works by slightly damaging tissues allowing them to heal stronger. Doing too many dives below your residual volume means that you might suffer from accumulative-squeezes, damage gathered over multiple low lung volume dives. With inhale, we cannot do as many dives to such low lung volumes on the same session, as the depth required to do so is too great for many repetitions.
A second issue is sensation. Exhale generally results in a descent that is extremely easy and relaxed, with almost no buoyancy to overcome. Again, getting ‘too’ used to this, needing to fin against inhale-buoyancy can produce lots of tension, actually increasing your risk of squeezing.
That’s the very distinct issue with exhale training…
Do it, and you will get good at it. In all three cases, you can start to “over” adapt to exhale, and actually lose performance on inhale. This means that exhale training cannot replace inhale training, only supplement it.
Like I said, we need to do as much exhale training as you need. I think we should all include some exhale training, but be very careful to weigh out the benefits and negatives.
Weighing the Pros & Cons
How much, and what type, of exhale training you should be doing depends on your personal circumstances.
A freediver who is limited to a 30m training ground will benefit more from exhale practice that a freediver who has 100m regularly available to them. The principle is simple. If you want to get good at deep inhale diving, you need to be doing deep inhale diving.
However, if you cannot do much ‘deep’ inhale training (you’re mostly limited to 30m for example) then adding in more and more exhale training will give you the benefits that you need to make the most of your next trip to deeper waters. Preparing with frequent, but not exclusive, exhale training can accelerate the process of getting back to near PB depths, meaning you’ll ‘waste’ (use that term lightly) less time on your next 3-week diving holiday to the Red Sea or the Philippines.
Generally speaking: The more often you can dive deep, the less often you need to supplement with exhale training.
Consider these things when designing your next training program;
Are you struggling with hypoxia or chest pressure?
Are you trying to learn a new equalization technique?
Are you limited to depths that are significantly shallower (<25%) than your PB?
If the answers are no, no, no, then there’s no need to do very much exhale training. Of course it’s good to do some and keep your skills sharp and your workouts fresh, but it’s not very high up on the list of important things to do.
However, if the answers are yes’s, then by all means.. Do your exhale training, it will benefit your diving a lot.
As my own coach, I know exactly what I need to be doing every single day, and every single training session to continue progressing as a freediver.
Objectively it’s very simple and mathematical to me. I know that I need to dedicate a certain percentage of my available time to skills and technical work, I know how often I need to be doing competition ‘style’ deep dives, and I know exactly when I need to be hitting what depths during my training to reach my target performances when they really count: in competition.
If I had to identify my “specialty” in freediving, it’s just that. Seeing the bigger picture and plotting training sessions over time to get the most out of them when it really counts: in competition or at the end of a depth season.
When I think about a training cycle it’s all in percentages. How much general vs specific training should we be doing? At what rate of ‘perceived’ exertion? How much volume of training do we need within 25% of our true max, and how much within 15%? How many sessions need to be performance-biased and how many need to be skill-biased?
For me these are the keys to effective training, like an easy formula to follow. Unless someone has ridiculous physical talents, a perfect mouthfill or amazing monofin technique can only get them so far. Burning out the body and training with the wrong ‘timing’ will always lead to performances that aren’t reflective of their true potential. We all need to do the right work, but only if it’s done in the right way.
So I should be golden right?
Well, I often waste biggest strength. I find it very, very easy to deviate from the plan. “I know that I should be training my EQ today, but doing a deep dive instead will be more fun”. “I know that I only need to hit 65m 2-3 weeks out from this upcoming competition, but I feel really strong in the water and 65m will have a relatively low ‘Rate of Perceived Exertion’”.
These are the battles, between coach and athlete, that go on inside my head. This one in particular is exactly what happened on Sunday. You see, it’s really easy for me to tell someone I’m coaching to do the ‘right thing’. I’m objective to it and base these decisions on what the diver needs, not what they want.
But when it comes to coaching myself, subjectivity can creep in. “You’ll be the first person to hit 65m in this quarry”. “All your friends are here to see it”. “The dive will be easy”.
So on Sunday, despite knowing that I had been in the water all day Saturday teaching and still fitting in 2 training dives for myself. Despite knowing that I’ve been playing with using ‘constant-pressure’ mouthfill again and the technique wasn’t automated yet. Despite knowing that it was too early in my training cycle to be at 65m. Despite knowing that the correct training would have been 5x40m with a shallow mouthfill… I did 65m.
My focus was lacking, my mind was distracted by what I should have been doing. My equalization was extremely sloppy. Barely holding onto the mess of air in my mouth, the lack of general body awareness, and the fact that the margin for error in ‘cold’ water is extremely small all added up to a single contraction at around 55-60m on the way down.
I came away from it all very lucky. Easy recovery, 99% SaO2 measured from the finger 5:00 and 20:00 minutes after the dive, but of course there’s a consequence to every mistake.
15:00 after the dive, I noticed the faintest taste of iron. Far from anything to be concerned about, but the damage was done. A single speck of red marked the end of my session, but my vitals we’re good, 99% O2 on the finger, and a 47 BPM ‘standing’ heart rate, so fully recovered and relatively unscathed.
Honestly, it was a generous warning sign from my body. It got my attention before anything truly detrimental to my training happened.
Now, I still have a world championships to train for but it’s time to head back to plan A. No more ego-dives, no more deviation from the correct progression, minimum/maximum-depth-timing needs to be respected perfectly, and skill-set comes first.
That’s how I would coach any of you and that’s how I need to coach myself, although that’s proving very difficult.
Luckily for me, my girlfriend Sarah has offered to help keep me on track. I’ll come up with the plans, and she’ll make sure I stick to them. For now that’s the next level of help that I need to train smart, safe, and stay healthy for September, eventually I’ll outgrow that as well.
I’ve realized more and more this year that to be successful in freediving we all need a good coach. At a certain point our own ability to manage our training cycles, our egos, the highs and lows we face as athletes, our ability to listen to ourselves when it really counts, and the overall subjectivity that gets in the way of ‘The Plan’ all fall behind where they need to be.
Like I said. Any good coach will be able to analyse someone’s training and tell them what to do and when to do it. To a coach it doesn’t matter if a diver doesn’t want to practice their finning technique before adding 5m to a PB. What matters is that they need to.
But to tell themselves the same things, just isn’t so simple.
In my case, listening to my coaching-self is very challenging. So next year’s training budget will include some key periods with a coach. Someone I can trust with knowing what I need and who can help me stick to it. If you want to make serious improvements in your own freediving, I suggest that you do the same thing.
We all need help to grow.
Finning is one of the most important parts of our freediving.
Better finning means shorter dive times, less energy spent entering your freefall, less CO2 build-up, less lactic acid, better body position, more relaxation, and the list goes on.
Plus. it can make all of the normal challenges we face easier to deal with; less urge to breath, less hypoxia, easier equalization, and more overall enjoyment of the sport.
In short, improving our finning technique is a very easy way to drastically enhance our overall freediving performance.
I call it, ‘big-win training’. It’s not very hard to improve our technique, but when we do it makes a big-positive impact to all aspects of our diving. This article is about bi-finning specifically, but the ‘big win’ value applies to all disciplines. Improving mono-fin, no-fins, and free-immersion technique(s) isn’t very demanding, but the rewards are great. The same can even be said about correct posture in static. It’s easy to work on, and the benefits are big.
The best part is, it doesn’t take years to develop decent finning technique.
Depending on the problem, a good coach can fix most major issues within a pretty short time frame with good cues, video analysis, and proper skill-oriented finning exercises. That alone can add many meters and seconds to our potential.
If it’s simply a muscular issue that’s preventing proper technique, any squat-type exercises in the gym can quickly develop the strength and stamina needed to use and maintain correct form during a dive.
3 mistakes to watch out for
Something that I’ve noticed is that most instructors & coaches, (myself included, until recently), use the wrong ‘cues’ to teach proper finning technique for freediving. You’ll often hear;
“Don’t bend your knee”,
“Fin from the hip”, and
“Use an amplitude similar to walking”.
The thing is, while these phrases are of sound logic, with the aim of helping students avoid bicycle kicking and to promote a slow and relaxed kick, they are unfortunately wrong.
To fin correctly, we need to bend our knees. Cueing ‘fin from the hip’ promotes energy-wasting hip roll, and anywhere near your walking amplitude is wayyyyyy to wide for your bi fins to work properly.
I’ll explain why over the next few sections, but this is the first thing to take in is that, These common cues are wrong.
How your fins work & why it matters
Understanding a little about how fins work can really help us zone in on how best to use them. Fins are “flexible foils” and using fins to move is called “oscillating flexible foil propulsion”. If you’re interested, here’s a video illustrating just that:
A simple way to describe this mechanic is: Freediving fins work (best) by bending in one direction, and then quickly bending back equally in the other direction. This creates backward-traveling vortices directly behind the fin, creating forward thrust.. It makes you go forward.
Sources of inefficiency in oscillating flexible foil propulsion (finning in this case) are when the blades don’t bend symmetrically, or when the blades stall-out. Symmetrical bending is simple enough. The front-kick needs to be equal, in distance and power to the back kick to produce the most efficient forward propulsion, but what is stalling-out?
A flexible foil starts to stall when it stops bending in direction and is still being pushed through the water. This doesn’t create forward propulsion, it creates forces that are perpendicular to your direction of movement.
In simple terms, doing DYN and finning too wide means the widest part of the kicks just propel the diver towards the bottom of the pool or to the surface, not where they want to go. Any energy not put towards the ‘direction of travel’ is a big waste.
The second type of stall is when the blades move through the water at an angle or with a twisting motion. To maximize efficiency, the blades need to be as straight as possible. Any type of tilting to the side is once again, a big waste of energy.
Using the ideal fin-mechanics happens by improving and using technique to achieve them.
The three common phrases used for teaching finning, work against this goal. While they successfully cue against “horrible’ technique, they only improve it slightly to just ‘bad’ technique, which in my opinion just isn’t right.
A word on body mechanics
Whether we like it or not, our bodies aren’t designed for swimming or finning.
Unlike a dolphin or a fish whose body from head to tail is made up of vertebrae which can flex equally in both directions, we have legs.
We evolved as land animals. This means a ‘push’ bias, or being much stronger in extension than in flexion. Our glutes (hips), quads (knee), and calves (ankle) are much bigger & stronger than their opposite muscles; hip-flexors, hamstrings, and shins. Also, the corresponding joints have a greater range of motion in the ‘pull’ direction than in the ‘push’ one. All of this is great for standing, walking, and lifting things up.. but not great for finning.
We need to use our ‘poor’ anatomy as best as we can for finning, and this means taking advantage of our limited range of motion in the ‘push’ direction, and using our strongest muscles to move our fins.
For the back kick, this means mostly hip and ankle extension using the glutes and calves, and for the front kick, mostly knee extension using the quadriceps. That’s the best we can do with what we have available to us.
The problem with “Don’t bend your knee”, “Fin from the hip”, and “Use an amplitude similar to walking” is that they magnify our imbalances, not protect against them. This means using our fins inefficiently and using up our limited O2 stores at an unnecessarily fast rate.
Now, let’s take a look at each of the common finning methods taught in more detail.
Don’t bend your knee
Reality check: It isn’t possible to fin forward and back equally, without using knee bend.
Remember, our leg joints aren’t designed to bend symmetrically. If we don’t bend the knee, we’re asking our hips to do something they aren’t designed for: push (back kick) and pull (front kick) with equal force.
Not bending the knee means that we would have to accept a combination of 3 things.
- Our shoulders will twist, pushed forward by our stronger back kicks.
- We need to take power off the back kicks by letting our ankles collapse, meaning less efficiency and less symmetry.
- We need to hold a lot of tension in the core to maintain stability, meaning more discomfort during our dives.
This video (starting at 6:30) is a great example of a no-knee bend kick. Thanks to the very slow frequency of finning we can clearly see the tendency to have shoulder rotation, and the ‘hand-paddling’ to remove some ‘roll’.
Fin from the hip
The second cue works closely with the first. In order to get students to avoid the knee-bend, instructors will often say to fin with the hip.
What this does is promote ‘hip roll’, along a similar radius to a soccer kick. Why, because the hip flexors are too weak to do this movement alone, we need to help them out by twisting our bodies without abdominals.
The problem here is that at the widest part of the kicks, our femurs will be angled with the hip, and therefore the fin(s) will also be angled in the water. To be efficient, flexible foils need to move straight back and forth along an axis, not in semi-circles around a radius, which is what happens with hip-roll.
The problems here once again lie in creating tension and of course, inefficient use of the fin.
Here’s a great video illustrating leading with the hip, which causes lots of body twisting, and very clear ankle bend. Remember, any rotational force isn’t propulsive force, and any non-propulsive force is a waste.
A walking amplitude
Proper amplitude ties everything together. It prevents; our fins from stalling, rotational forces, bicycle kicking, and uneven power biases.
Correct amplitude is what allows us to use knee-extension to our advantage in the front kick, and stay within the power-range of our muscles on the back kick.
Amplitude is key, and most get it wrong.
Think small. We almost all fin too wide.
It’s the way we normally create power on land. How do you jump higher? Bigger extension. How do you run faster? Longer strides. But fins are fins, and to work properly, bigger isn’t better.
Once the fin stops bending, it needs to switch directions immediately, and this requires a pretty small amplitude. Anything more than 2/3s of our walking stride is probably too much. Yes there are going to be exceptions, but too wide is too wide. Tall divers probably need longer fins or a smaller amplitude. Their long stride can easily stall-out their fins, where a short diver could get away with ‘bigger’ strides. Objectively, both sized divers would have roughly the same distance between the front and back kick.
Alexey has the tendency to fin too wide. What’s great about this video is that his amplitude gradually increases over around 4-6 kick-cycles and then he resets and repeats. This makes the problems of ‘width’ easier to too, as there’s a distinct loss of balance as his finning gets wider and wider.
Recommendations for Perfect finning
Any or all of the three problems mentioned above waste energy and oxygen by creating imbalances between the front and back kicks in our finning cycle.
We can either twist inefficiently though the water, push ourselves into the line/floor, or allow our ankles to bend and collapse and compensate for this uneven front-back power bais. One way or another, these problems will cost meters in your performance and make our diving feel harder than it has to.
We can to avoid them by cueing, teaching, and training the correct movements;
- Power the front kick with knee extension.
- Keep your toes pointed for the back kick.
- Use a small amplitude.
Once the ability to perform a front and back kick is mastered, all that’s left to play with is amplitude. This is easy to coach and can quickly lead divers down the path to proper finning technique.
A great example of proper form is Alenka Artnik’s 85m CWT-b dive.
She has the best bi-finning that I can find online.
Notice how she fins with a small amplitude, drives the front kick with knee-extension, and supplies near-perfectly even power forward and backward. Even with arms-up, she hardly rotates at all while finning and has no ankle bend.
So there you have it
A good coach and help you analyse and improve your finning, but only if they understand how to do it properly themselves.
We need to bend our knees.
We cannot fin from our hips.
Big, near walking amplitudes are bad.
Keep those things in mind and try to avoid these common mistakes in your own training.
My advice would be to try and copy Alenka’s finning and over time, make the small modifications that are needed to suit your body type and equipment.
Fin stiffness, leg length, weighting, strength, stamina… can all play a role in the ideal finning for you. Find that ideal finning, it won’t necessarily take a long time to achieve.
Remember, finning is a big-win technique. Train is as much as possible and you will not regret it.
Need any help with your finning?
A ‘Video Analysis’ from my shop might be the right choice for you.
Send me a video of your diving. I will take a look and identify the changes and improvements that you can make. You’ll receive; an explanation of what needs to be improved on, why it might be affecting you, and a few key exercises to help fix they particular issues.
Video Analysis | Training Top-up
From ‘early turning’ at 27m to the 2019 AIDA Depth World Championships within two years
In March, I received the exciting news that I was accepted by my AIDA-national to represent Canada in this year’s depth World Championships.
This will be my first time attending a ‘high-profile’ competition and honestly, I almost can’t believe that it happened so soon.
Just over two years ago, I was a ‘struggling freediver’. Although I enjoyed the sport, it really didn’t come easily to me at all. I always had the goal of “one day” going to the World Championships, but based on my first 3 years of training (up until 2 years ago) it didn’t seem likely.
I spent my first 3 seasons of freediving, ‘early turning’ at 27m on CWT, 24m FIM, and never doing CNF. But.. armed with a passion for the sport, and a willingness to do what it took to get better, I never gave up on honing my skills.
I then started working as an instructor, and put a lot of time and effort into learning how to improve as a freediver and teaching others how to do the same. Once I broke through the pattern of; poor quality training followed by poor quality application of training, things changed quickly.
Qualifying for the AIDA World Championships
As of 2018, I ranked-in with official competition results of; 61m, 52m, and 35m in CWT, FIM, and CNF. The improvement in my freediving alone has made me super happy, but qualifying in all 3 depth disciplines in the AIDA World Championships is a crazy-big cherry on top!
I’m very proud of it, yet very humble knowing what it’s going to take before I can contend with the elite. Still, the journey ahead isn’t daunting. I am proof to myself, and hopefully to you too, that no matter how rough the start is, it’s always possible to achieve great things. A lack of natural talent isn’t what will hold you, me, or anyone back. All we need is good quality training, and the persistence to stick with it.
Put in the right work, and the results will come.
This competition represents all of the work that I’ve put into the sport for the 5-and-a-bit years I’ve been practising. My plan is to enjoy every second of it. For me, that means performing with the perfect balance of quality and quantity, with the aim of showing confidence, control, and technical mastery, applied to the depths that I can dive to.
In other words; three white cards, on dives that I can be proud of.
The right training plan and mindset for success
This training season is going to be a technical one. Having recently made the switch from training by-fins to the monofin in my favourite discipline, CWT, I have lots of work to put into smoothing out my technique.
The same goes for FIM and CNF. I’ve neglected these two disciplines for most of my freediving career, but with the World Championships on the horizon, I now have the best reason to give them a little extra, and much needed, attention.
For now, I’m just going to put in the work. I’m going to do everything that I can to show up to the World Championships in September well-prepared and confident in my abilities, with a formula of smart training and dedication.
Most of all, I’m excited to compete with the world’s best freedivers, and I feel privileged that I can represent Canada in such a high profile event. In all honesty, I just can’t wait for it.
How you can help
Competitive freediving is like any other sport in that there are high costs associated with training properly, buying equipment, travel to and from locations as well as other essentials.
On this site, I sell training plans and programs, as well as provide free advice and inspiration through my blog and on my Facebook page. If you’ve read my information and it’s helping you, perhaps you’ll consider buying a plan to help me fund my competitive training?
Alternatively, I’ve set up a Go-Sponsor me page, where you can pledge your support and donate whatever you like to my World Championships fund.
All the money I receive will go directly towards progressing my knowledge and expertise as a competitive freediver in order to provide you with further freediving insights and resources, along with expert coaching to my clients.
Want help overcoming your freediving struggle?
Want help overcoming your freediving struggle?
Copyright Nathan Viniski 2019