What is the right combination of relaxation & streamlining during the freefall?
Small details can be very important in your freediving training. For example, have you ever thought how efficient you are during your deeper dives?
Being streamlined means to have a body position which creates little drag. To do this, you need to hold your arms straight along your body, keep your legs together and your knees straight; if you dive with fins or a monofin you need to point your feet in order to keep the blade/s vertical.
This will increase your speed, shorten your dives and, make you save oxygen (maybe).
On the other hand, if you relax your body completely you will decrease your streamlining and increase your dive time, but you wont need to tense a single muscle in your body, and you will also save oxygen!
There is no right and wrong
Some freedivers prefer to be fast and choose streamlining over relaxation, others do exactly the opposite.
This is something very personal and there is no right and wrong. Finding a compromise that works for you is a very important part of your freediving training especially when you start to dive deeper and your freefall is becoming much longer than the first part of the dive, when you are swimming down.
In the photo below freediver Alex Lozano, who was training with Freedive Dahab last summer. If you look at the photo you will realize that his position is not very streamlined: his knees are bent and his legs are a bit further apart; his arms are not straight along his body and his left hand is holding on the lanyard.
Does this work for him? Yes it does, because this guy can dive to 90 meters on one breath of air:)
The freediver in the photo below is more streamlined: his arms and legs are much more straight. It is hard to say if this is giving him an advantage of if he would be better off slouching and relaxing a bit more…
Think of it, a freediver who dives to 80 meters will only swim (or pull himself in FIM) down to about 25 meters, so his freefall will be 55 meters long, more than double of his “swimming” distance. If we assume that his speed is 1 meter per second, that means 55 seconds spent of the freefalling phase. If he is very streamlined he can make it shorter, say 45-50 second and save 5-10 seconds off his total dive time.
If he is not very streamlined it can take him 5-10 seconds longer (or more), which will add to his total dive time.
So a fast freediver can have a 20 seconds advantage on a slow freediver on a 80 meter dive.
On very deep dives this will becomes an issue as this time gap is getting longer and longer; freedivers at this level tend to become faster and faster the deeper they go, unless they have a very good breath-hold and afford to do 4 minutes dives.
For freedivers who are diving to 40-60 meters it is surely not the end of the world to “lose” 10 seconds extra on a descent; in general it is better for them to be a bit slower, because they have more time to focus on their equalisation for example. In fact at this stage equalisation (and not breath-hold) is usually the main limiting factor and focusing on both mental and physical relaxation will be more beneficial for them.
– During your freediving training sessions, using a neckweight instead of a weight belt will make your freefalling position MUCH better without you making any extra effort!
– Plan some freediving training sessions during which you will overweight yourself so that you can start freefalling much earlier than normal, say 12-15 meters. This way you won’t need to dive very deep to practice long freefalls and you will be able to do many repetitions.
– During these dives try different things: on some dives work on your streamlining and try to make yourself as straight and as fast as possible during the freefall. On other dives work on maximum relaxation. Then compare the dive profiles and see how much time you lose during the slower dives. (caution! make sure that your buddy is vigilant and do safety for you even if you don’t dive very deep, since you will be very negative)
-Once you have these info you will be able to decide what is best for your depth and your style of freediving.
In the video below Remy Dubern, a french freediver, while training freefall on shallow repetitive dives as suggested above. Notice how he adjusts his body and his fin when he feels that he’s losing his streamlining. His position is much more straight and streamlined than Alex, and his dives are much faster. Does he work for him? Yes, it does, because he’s also a 90+ meters freediver:)
All photos in this article are shot with Ikelite Underwater System.