Tag Archives: cross training

Training for freediving with the Moxy muscle oxygen monitor

This post goes with a webinar that I gave on data collected with the Moxy Muscle oxygen monitor. In the webinar I test some specific exercises and try to speculate on myoglobin desaturation and training to increase myoglobin stores.

I want to use this post to give some extra thought to some keypoints, and to make the webinar a bit more understandable. But first, keep these things in mind:

  • The Moxy measures oxygen in the muscles. I put it on my left Vastus Lateralis (quadriceps).
  • The Moxy gives you one number for total SmO2 (muscle oxygen). This number is a weighted average of myoglobin and hemoglobin.
  • Everything I tested only relates to me and my (left) quad. The numbers will be different for you. The squats that work for me may not work for you. The apnea walks that don’t work for me may work for you.
  • On all the graphs in the presentation, the x axis = time in seconds. The left y axis is for heart rate, muscle oxygen and SaO2. The right y axis pertains to Thb and is a measure of blood flow to the muscles.

Ok now you can watch:

I used the Moxy to test a series of exercises. What do these exercises actually do?

Apnea walks

For example, the apnea walks that I described here actually did not train my muscles to perform under hypoxia at all. The body has a fantastic set of feedback mechanisms in place to make sure that oxygen is delivered where it is needed, and without the vasoconstriction and blood shift during a dive that oxygen will go right into your muscles. Apnea walks debunked. Sorry everyone.

It didn’t matter whether I did them on an exhale or inhale.  I think that apnea walks on an inhale probably don’t work for anyone. On an exhale, they may work for some people, but I doubt it.

What about holding your breath until contractions and then starting exercise? Same thing. The muscles actually never get hypoxic. In fact, even doing this with a more strenuous exercise like a wall sit the muscles never dipped below ~35 %.

Doing a wall sit or even one-leg stand with breath did not help either. You can do a wall sit until failure, but there will be plenty of oxygen in your quads. It’s not a lack of oxygen that causes your muscles to fail, it’s the accumulation of waste.

RV squats

The only exercise that I found effective was a set of isometric squats with short recovery intervals, done after a forceful exhale. Using these squats and tinkering with the variables (length of recovery, initial static, and squat) I was able to consistently let SmO2 dip below 10%.

Now before you all start doing a 150 kg squat on breath hold, remember that if you do this with too much resistance you might simply be training for fast twitch muscle. If I focus on slow twitch muscle I try to stick to no higher than 30% of my personal max resistance.

How do you know this works? Are you increasing myoglobin in the muscles?

I don’t know if this works. But here is my rationale. In order to get the body to generate hemoglobin (red blood cells) you need to desaturate the blood of oxygen. This is why being at altitude increases your red blood cell count. The body will automatically create more red blood cells once it realizes it does not have enough of them to efficiently bring oxygen to where it is needed.

Along the same lines of logic, we need to desaturate myoglobin of oxygen in order to tell the body to create more of it. This happens naturally on some deeper or longer dives thanks to vasoconstriction and blood shift, but is hard to achieve when cross training.

I can’t promise you that by lowering SmO2 you will cause more myoglobin to be generated. I do think it is a sound hypothesis. Keep SaO2 high, and decrease SmO2. This is what naturally happens in our bodies during a dive, and one of the things to aim for during cross training.

The in-water method of training for myoglobin is called the Foundational Training and described in Eric Fattah’s book Holistic Freediving.

Free webinar: Training with a MOXY muscle oxygen sensor

The MOXY is a muscle oxygen sensor that can measure the saturation of hemoglobin and myoglobin of for example your quads.

Do you think your apnea walks are effective?

They might be. You can practice apnea walking with an oximeter, but it is hard to know exactly what is going on in the muscles. For some training you don’t need the oxygen in the muscles to drop, and for other training it needs to drop as much as possible.

Now, the guesswork is over.

Using a MOXY muscle oxygen sensor it is possible to measure the oxygen content in the muscles. You can strap the MOXY to your quad, biceps, or any other muscle to gauge the level of oxygen during exercise.

MOXY oxygen monitor.
The MOXY can be used to measure the oxygen levels in your muscles during exercise. Image taken from here

I have tested a set of exercises, including apnea walking, apnea squats, and bicycle interval training using the MOXY and will be sharing my results during a free webinar. The webinar will start at 12 noon CST, Tuesday December 12th, and run until about 12.45. There will be ample time for questions.

Register for the free webinar now!

Hope to see you there.

Holistic Freediving by Eric Fattah

About Eric

If you have not heard of Eric Fattah but are interested in the history of competitive freediving, now is the time. In 1998 Eric invented fluid goggles, not realizing that Roland Specker had invented similar goggles in France but never marketed them. In 2001 Eric set the first world record with a monofin in constant weight (- 82 m). He dove to -80.5 m in Vancouver without a wetsuit in waters that are approximately 5 °C (41 Fahrenheit) below the thermocline. Eric dove FRC (Functional Residual Volume: diving on an exhale) for four full years, in an attempt to counter decompression sickness and registers his deepest FRC dive at Vertical Blue to 71.9 m. His experience with decompression sickness led him to implement the first experimental decompression sickness algorithm for freediving in his Liquivision dive computers.

Eric is a world class diver who has invented many techniques, and coached well known freedivers such as Branko Petrovic and William Trubridge. He wrote ‘Holistic Freediving’ in 2012, a book designed for freedivers who want to do targeted exercise to increase their CO2 tolerance, low O2 tolerance, diving reflex, and have specialized (cross-)training programs. The book is phenomenal and contains so many novel approaches to freediving that it is well worth the price tag (US$ 95).

Holistic Freediving by Eric Fattah
Eric Fattah

Holistic Freediving

One part of Eric’s phasic training that you will learn about in Holistic Freediving is ‘foundational training’. This training allows you to become better able to withstand hypercapnia and hypoxia. Even better, it will do so without pushing you to the limit and requiring many days of recovery. Forget max attempts until you have laid the foundation. You will be better able to cope with the deep dives, without having lost many training days because you needed to recover. The cross-trainings described in this book are also novel and very effective. No more Wonka tables or simple static tables. Some of Eric’s dry static tables are done with the help of pure O2 and an oximeter. Other tables incorporate exhale statics and hyperventilation. They are intense, but extremely effective. Within three weeks of doing one cycle of static trainings weekly I managed to do a 3 min 45 breathhold on an exhale. My personal best before that? One minute forty seconds.

The price of the product [95 USD] is proportional to the lifetime of secrets it contains and the extraordinary tribulations I went through to discover them – Eric Fattah

Holistic Freediving by Eric Fattah sample

Mouthfill equalization by Eric Fattah

Ask Eric for a copy below:

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Freediving training during the winter

Daylight savings in British Columbia starts in early November. The days are now too short to get out in the ocean in the late afternoon. The angle of incidence of the light ensures that most light is reflected off the water surface, rather than penetrating to the depths. The water temperature has steadily dropped over the past few months. As if those two things are not bad enough, the weather does not usually cooperate with diving plans either.

Winter is a wonderful season to repair gear, but you also want to stay in condition. Pool training is a great way to do this. If you have a thick wetsuit, you can still do an ocean dive if the weather cooperates. You will unfortunately be limited to midday because there is so little light in winter.

Cross training for freediving

If you don’t manage to do any wet training you can stay in condition during the winter time with cross training exercises. For me personally, static performance does not appear to decrease much even if I don’t practice it. My CO2 tolerance drops dramatically however, and this is also the limiting factor on my ocean dives. One of my favourite cross training exercises is about 30 minutes on the upright bike. The first 10 minutes I crank up my heart rate to about 100. After that I do a series of breathholds while cycling slowly keeping my power output steady. It’s great for CO2 training. Make sure to do a cooldown exercise for your legs afterwards. (They will accumulate a lot of lactic acid and hence get sore and tired edit 11/11: the idea that lactic acid is responsible for muscle soreness is a persistent myth, see the links submitted by Cesar L. in the comments below). If you have an oximeter or if the bike has a heart rate monitor, keep an eye on it and log your stats. I don’t suggest you do this on an actual bike outside, biking in traffic and holding your breath is not a good idea for obvious reasons.

Freediving training in winter
A spinning bike in the gym. Another good machine to use is the upright bike, which has a backrest

Adjust your diving style

Diving in winter time is different from summertime dives. The sun will not warm you up during your breatheups anymore, so that you will get cold even at the surface. If you want to do 3 min breatheups in total stillness you won’t be diving for very long, even in a 6 mm+ suit. With a more active style of diving your muscles will generate more heat but you won’t dive as long or deep.

Freediving training in winter
No wetsuit required here

I sure do miss the tropics sometimes. What do you do to keep in shape in winter?

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