Stretching for Freediving

Stretching for Freediving

Instructor course handout

Ghabi Sleiman

The more flexible and relaxed your body is, the easier it will move in the water. Stretching will help you improve your flexibility, as a result you will be more relaxed in the water.

Stretching is a very personal thing, and many freedivers have a specific routine they perform before and after a freediving session.

Stretching is one of the most important aspects of freediving. It will reduce the chance of lung squeeze, and it will also make freediving more comfortable. Good overall flexibility is ideal, but in freediving the emphasis is on the diaphragm and thoracic cage.

Before you begin stretching, it is important that you are warm and comfortable. Take it gently, and insure to listen to your body. Everybody is different, and stretching should benefit the body, not cause further problem. Warm up your muscles first, and stretch until you feel mild discomfort not pain. Never force a stretch, and stretch at least 2 to 3 times per week.

Stretches for aiding equalization

Stretching the area around the Eustachian tube helps with equalization.

  • Sit or stand with your feet hip distance apart. Drop your head, resting your chin on the chest. as you inhale turn your head to the right as you are looking to the right shoulder. As you exhale return your head to the center. Do the same exercise to the left side, and repeat three times to each side.

  • Sit or stand with your feet hip distance apart. Look straight ahead, as you inhale turn your head to the right shoulder. As you exhale, return it to the center. Do the same exercise to the left side, and repeat three times to each side.

  • Sit or stand with your feet hip distance apart. Look straight ahead, as you inhale drop your right ear towards the right shoulder. Let go of any tension you find. When you sense no more tension, raise your right arm and put it on your left ear. Just allow the extra weight of your arm to pull your head down a bit further. Stay for 5 to 7 relaxed breaths in this position, then release the hand and let go of the ear first and slowly raise your head back to the center. Repeat to the other side, and repeat this exercise three times.

  • Allow your right ear to drop back to the right shoulder. Slowly roll your head to the middle until your chin faces the chest, then roll your head until it reaches the left shoulder. Now reverse the direction until you reach the right side where you started. Repeat for three times.

  • Sit or stand with your feet hip distance apart. Drop your head until your chin faces your chest. As you inhale return your head back as far as it is comfortable, and as you exhale bring the head forward until the chin faces the chest. Repeat for three times

Stretches for shoulders and rib cage flexibility

Flexibility in the rib cage helps the body adapt to pressure at depth. The deeper you dive, the smaller the volume of air in your lungs become, and the more the rib cage compresses.

Without adequate flexibility this can feel very uncomfortable and can lead to lung barotrauma.

  • Sit or stand with your feet hip distance apart. Interlock your fingers, and raise you arms above your head. stay for 5 to 7 relaxed breaths in this position.

  • Sit or stand with the feet hip distance apart. Extend your arms behind your back, and interlock your fingers. Stay for 5 to 7 relaxed breaths in this position.

  • Sit or stand with your feet hip distance apart. Raise your left arm straight up in the air, and bend your upper body to the right side. Breath deeply, and stay in this stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat to the other side.

  • Place your hand on your ankle and arch you chest forward letting the shoulders drop back, opening the chest as you breath in, then let the shoulders come forward and arch your back the opposite direction. Inhale as you come forward, and exhale as you go back.

  • Place your hands on your knees and rotate your chest, arching forward as you breath in and then continue the rotation breathing out as you start to round your back. Continue with these circles allowing the chest push forward and open up with the shoulders back on the forward rotation, and letting the shoulders come forward with the back rounded on the backward movement. Inhale as you come forward, exhale as you go back.

  • Place you hands on your shoulders. Twist to the left as you breath in and to the right as you breath out.

  • Grab your right knee with your left hand. The right arm should be above the head. Inhale and keep breathing here. Breath from your right side, and with each exhale sink a bit more. Do it on both sides.

Stretches for the lower body

Stretching the hips and the legs helps with finning and preventing cramps

  • Standing near a wall for support, lift up your right leg. Bend your knee and bring your foot toward your buttox. Stretch by pulling on your foot. Hold your foot with your right hand and breathe deeply for 30 seconds. Repeat with your left leg.

  • While standing, lift your left leg a few inches off the floor in front of you and draw circles with your toes. Three times clockwise and three times anticlockwise. Repeat with your right foot.

  • Keep the leg straight, bend over your hips, and reach down toward the floor. Go as far as you can without bending your knees. Keep there for 30 seconds, and breathe normally.

  • Lay on the floor with the knees bent and lift the right leg up, grabbing it at the calf, ankle or wherever you can reach. Flex the foot and gently pull the leg towards you to feel a stretch in the hamstrings. Switch sides.

  • Sit on the floor with your torso straight and tall. Bring the feet together in front of your knees, bent and out to the sides, and grab into both feet. Keeping the back straight gently pull forward until you feel a gentle stretch in your inner thighs.

  • Bring the left knee in front of you, resting it on the floor between your hands. Straighten the right leg out behind you, and if you can bend forward and rest the forearm on the floor. Switch sides.

  • Stand in front of the wall, put your hands on it, and extend your right leg back, foot pointing forward. Stretch your calf by trying to rest your right foot flat on the ground, hold for several seconds and change sides.

  • Sit down on the floor, rotate your upper body to your right, grab your right leg at the knee while it is slightly bent, foot across your left leg. Stretch by pushing on your right leg with your left elbow to rotate your upper body further. Switch sides.

  • Sit down on the floor, bend your left leg and extend your right leg. stretch by tilting your upper body towards the right leg. Bring your arms toward your ankles. Switch sides after holding several second.

Full Lung Stretching

Lung stretches help a freedivers body to handle the pressure at depth better, and over time it will help to take a better lungful of air. Exercises are focused on decreasing residual volume and increasing total lung capacity.

  • Breathe in fully (2 section breath) and hold your breath as you reach the arms above the head. Interlock your fingers, and try to keep your arms straight. Keep the position until you feel the urge to breathe.

  • Static Stretch with arms above head, lean your body from side to side. This will help to stretch your intercostal muscles. Keep the position until you feel the urge to breathe.

  • Breathe in fully (2 section breath), And hold your breath. Put your hands behind your back, and lift your chest up. Keep the position until you feel the urge to breathe.

  • Breathe in fully and hold. Lean your body to the left side using your left hand to steady or support yourself on the ground. Your right hand should be straight and reaching over your head to the left side. Do it on both sides, two times each.

  • Breath in full and hold. Twist to the left, and hold here. Put your left hand on your knee, release when you feel the urge to breath. Do it on both sides.

Empty Lung Stretching

The more flexible the diaphragm is, the more easily it can rise up under the rib cage when the lungs compress at depth. This makes the diving to depth easier and safer, as it helps prevent lung injury. For safety this exercise should be done on an empty stomach, bladder and bowel.

Inhale then full exhale, lean your body forward. Hold the breath in, pull your diaphragm up into your chest. When ready relax the diaphragm and inhale. Do this three times. It is a good stretch for the diaphragm flexibility. And decrease your residual volume.

Stretching with a bridge or Fitness ball

Put your hips on the ground, and put the bridge or the fitness ball under your back. if you have a yoga block put it under your neck, so you will not feel any stress on your neck. There are two common positions that you can apply; the first is to put your hands far apart, and the second is to put your hands above your head as in a monofin position. First start to breathe slowly and deeply from your belly for five times, then breath slowly and deeply from your chest for 5 times, and then do a full breath (2 section) for five times.


Stretching is very important for freediving; because a greater range of motion will allow you to use proper technique, to be more streamlined, and it will make lung squeeze more less likely. It is recommended that someone have a morning routine. It is good for the flexibility of the thoracic area, and the more flexible the thoracic area the more the inhale with the maximum breath is.

The morning routine must include a full lung stretching and an empty lung stretching, they are equally important in maintaining our flexibility to compress at depth and to reduce our residual volume. It also helps to steady the mind and prepare us mentally before a performance. It doesn’t have to take a long time, 15 to 20 minutes can be enough and it will not make you tired.

The above is only a guide, you can add many more stretches that may suit you better. The most important thing is to listen to your body, and not to push it too hard. Always concentrate on your form, and pay attention to how it feels. Do not over stretch, and focus on the muscle group you are working on. Work with your breath, try deepening the stretch on each exhale and using the inhale to adjust your form.


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Freediving Gili, Freediving Training Exercise: Morning Routine. URL:[online]

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