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

The variables;

  1. Intensity:
    How long / deep / far you’re diving. (Example; 100m is more intense than 70m..)
  2. Volume:
    How many dives / breath holds you do per session
  3. Specificity:
    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;

  1. Increase in Intensity
  2. Decrease in Volume
  3. 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.

Adaptive Resistance

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.