How To Hold Your Breath Longer Underwater

By David Fialkoff •  Updated: 11/20/20 •  7 min read

Holding your breath underwater when freediving is adventurous and there’s no other feeling like it, but it comes with its share of dangers. With a little practice, however, you can become a pro in holding your breath for up to 5+ minutes. When holding your breath underwater, it’s the feeling of carbon dioxide building up in your body that’s telling your brain to go up and breathe, or that you’re out of breath. When in reality, you can build up a tolerance to this feeling of wanting to breathe and it will significantly increase your breath-hold. We’ve compiled this short and simple guild to help you hold your breath longer underwater so that you’ll be able to dive deeper and shoot more fish when spearfishing.

If you’re just getting into spearfishing and are wondering how to hold your breath longer underwater, you might want to consider a few training tips and practice sessions in a swimming pool first. Most beginners and people just starting out can only hold their breath for 30 seconds to a minute. While trained freedivers are capable of holding their breath for more than 5+ minutes!

In this article, we’ll explain the skills and techniques needed to maximize your time underwater while spearfishing. There is no certainty that this guide will prove to have guaranteed benefits, but these techniques have worked out quite well for many divers in the past.

How To Hold Your Breath Longer Underwater

In order to master any sport, it is mandatory to train and practice frequently. Here are some of the main techniques you can practice to increase your breath-hold for spearfishing.

Static Apnea Training

The initial part of your practice is undergoing static apnea, also known as STA. This is called static apnea because in this technique you don’t have to swim any distance. You can perform this in a shallow pool or even on your couch at home. Just float horizontally in water with your face submerged facing the pool floor. You’ll want to take a few deep breaths to open up your diaphragm and lungs, then take one big final breath and hold it for as long as you can. Use the timer on your phone or watch and track how long you can hold your static breath. Performing this 2-3 times a day and gradually increasing time for a month will significantly increase your breath-hold.

Performing Pranayama Triangle Breathing

Pranayama Triangle Breathing process is made up of 3 phases that you need to perform before freediving. Sit down in a pool for a few minutes to get yourself comfortable in the water.

Start exhaling twice as much as you inhale. For example, if you inhale O2 for 4 seconds, slowly exhale CO2 in 8 seconds. While pursuing the two phases, incorporate a third phase of 1 or 2 seconds of a break in between. So, now you inhale for 4 secs, take a pause of 1 sec and exhale through a period of 8 secs slowly.

Doing this will slow your body’s functioning and reduce the amount of oxygen usage. It also slows your heart rate that is ideal for anyone wanting to free dive underwater. Some people also follow this technique for calming their senses and balancing their body. You have to count the length of your inhalation and then try to increase the count gradually for subsequent breaths.

Underwater Movement and Anaerobic Exercises

After practicing static apnea, the next thing to determine is how well you can hold your breath underwater while performing specific movements. As with every underwater movement, you burn oxygen to provide blood to your muscles. It can gas you out of oxygen in a fairly quick manner. Performing regular anaerobic and cardiovascular exercise will significantly increase your time spent underwater.

These are also known as underwater interval training exercises. It is a great exercise for building muscle strength and boosting endurance. You can increase its intensity depending on your stamina. In fact, people try making this exercise as challenging as they can endure. By performing these techniques regularly, you can increase the time to hold your breath by 2 to 3 times your initial capacity.

Challenging Yourself

Nothing is more beneficial for you instead of challenging yourself or pushing your own limit. Give a stopwatch to your partner and ask them to record the duration of your time underwater. Come out of the water as soon as you feel uncomfortable. Take a look at how you did, regain your composure for a few minutes, and try and beat your previous record.

Doing this on a regular basis will double the length of your maximum breath-hold over time. That being said, there is no guarantee this will benefit everyone as many factors like smoking, underlying health conditions, etc. can affect this result.

Tips To Further Increase Your Breath-Hold

Here are a few tips that can help you minimize oxygen waste underwater when spearfishing.

Equalize Your Body Before The Dive

Before taking your plunge underwater, it is of prime importance to equalize the pressure in your body before reaching depth. The air spaces in the body contract and get shut off completely, resulting in a sensation of pain. In order to avoid this unfavorable situation, it is mandatory to equalize inner and outer pressure while you’re descending underwater.

Avoid Hyperventilation

Hyperventilation occurs when you inhale and exhale repeatedly and buildup excess oxygen in the bloodstream. From the onset of deepwater diving, divers had the misconception that hyperventilation proved to be beneficial in maintaining normal condition of the body for long periods underwater.

Whereas, there is scientific proof that hyperventilation when diving has led to injury and even death, due to shallow water blackout. During hyperventilation, the body tends to lose a lot of CO2 instead of incorporating higher O2 reserves, resulting in low blood pressure and not feeling a need to breathe even when the body is at risk of getting fainted.

Many divers have blacked out mid-water and met their untimely deaths due to hyperventilation. It has since become part of many diving courses to educate divers on the diverse effects of hyperventilation.

Avoid Excessive Movements Underwater

During your time underwater, the first thing to avoid is making excessive movements for no particular gain. The more you move and do, the more oxygen will be pulled from your body. You want to conserve as much oxygen and use the least mount of energy possible.

This is a useful technique for every freediver, whether they are an expert freediver or doing it for the first time. It will help you stay safe underwater and avoid injuries and other dangers as well. Most importantly, it will help you hold your breath for a longer duration.

Other than the above-mentioned tips, it is also recommended to try exercises that help to improve your lung capacity. Box breathing is a popular technique used for this purpose. If you opt for more than one exercise, it is recommended to alternate between the two each day. Also, make sure to get some rest in between practices to relax your lungs and then start again.

It is always advisable to gradually increase the intensity of any exercise you opt for. 15-second increments are usually safe and easy to practice. If you will try to take a huge leap, you might end up not learning anything at all. Staying still while you hold your breath helps to preserve the oxygen you have already have in your lungs. So, it is recommended not to make any movement when you try any of these exercises.


Anything can be mastered with a little practice and technique. Trained freedivers are able to hold their breath underwater for up to 5+ minutes and some experts are even capable of holding their breath for over 10 minutes! There are all kinds of training techniques to practice that will significantly increase your maximum breath-hold.

All of these tips and tricks can result in deeper, longer dives that will in return lead to you shooting more, larger fish. You can increase the time to hold your breath while freediving if you regularly practice the techniques mentioned in this guide. There are also many different courses offered both online and in-person, but if you are looking for a free guide with all the essential information regarding freediving and increasing your breath-hold underwater, this guide is enough for you!

David Fialkoff

David Fialkoff is the founder of Spearfishing.Live, a site that's dedicated to the sport of spearfishing. He is a full-time digital marketer and loves to spend time chasing fish underwater on the weekends.