Why do freedivers stretch?
Stretching is one of the most important aspects of freediving, while reducing the chance of lung squeeze at depth it also makes freediving more comfortable especially when it comes to the flexibility of the diaphragm while dealing with contractions and depth. Good overall flexibility is ideal in all sports but for freediving the emphasis is placed on the diaphragm and thoracic cage.
Exhale Stretching is also known as Empty Lung Stretching or Diaphragm Stretching
Contractions can be the bane of a new freediver’s life however through empty lung diaphragm stretching contractions are felt less and become much more manageable. If performed every day there are good chances that it can be felt within a week; whereas before your contractions started powerful and fast you will now feel your contractions start soft and slow. Lung stretching on exhale can also reduce the residual volume in your lungs allowing you to equalize deeper using Frenzel or Valsalva.
There are two ways to perform this stretch; the first involves sitting in a comfortable position then taking a large breath before forcefully exhaling while hunching over to expel as much air as possible. Hold your breath with empty lungs and relax your diaphragm allowing it to ‘suck’ up into your chest before slowly returning from the hunched position towards having a straight back, you should now feel the diaphragm stretching.
Hold this position for as long as possible without the urge to breathe however when you need to breathe return to the hunched position before you inhale otherwise you will experience an unpleasant gasping inhale. Never hold this position until you experience contractions as the extra strain can cause injury.
The second way to perform this involves standing with legs slightly apart while supporting your upper body with your hands on your knees – there should be no tension in the abdominal region so if you let your arms drop your body should also fall down towards your legs.
The process is similar except while exhaling let your body fall towards the ground to exhale as much as possible and after letting the diaphragm move up into the chest you should return to having your upper body supported with your hands on your knees. Before this routine it is important to do a warm up, during which you will do the same stretches once or twice but on passive exhale instead of full exhale.
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