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Warm-up vs. no warm-up dives - a field report

Our body is made for the deep - this has been sufficiently proven and there is no scientific evidence to the contrary. Many freedivers go to depths around 100 meters without "warming up".

With this post, I want to give you best-practices from my experience and exchange with other athletes and coaches along the way. So that your no warm-up attempts, above all are safe and experienced as beautiful as diving with warm-up dives.

Many well-known freedivers start their training session or competition dive directly with the maximum depth. For various reasons, they deliberately avoid a dive to "warm up", the so-called warm-up dive. Nevertheless, we learn in almost every basic freediving course, no matter at which institution, that they belong to. In the following, I would like to get to the bottom of the question of whether it really needs warm-up dives.

Why do we do warm-up dives?

Warm-up dives are recommended for different reasons. I would like to deliberately address the following selection:

  • Trigger the dive reflex
  • Check equalization
  • relax the "mind" and find the right "mindset"
  • Warm up the body / get used to the depth

Critical as I am I ask myself: is it all really necessary?

Waking up the dive reflex

Widespread hypothesis: the warm-up dive awakens or activates the dive reflex.

In dynamic, warm-ups are generally avoided before a maximum attempt. This feels if you are not used to it, not necessarily very pleasant, because the desire to breathe is stronger and comes often earlier.

Meanwhile, this has also been established for dives to depth and it has been found that the dive reflex is activated more strongly. If the diving reflex also arrives more strongly during deep diving without warm-up, it means: its more effective slowing down the heartbeat (brandycardia), and that the blood shift (bloodshift) and peripheral vasoconstriction will start more strongly.

That the spleen effect really plays a role is still not really proven. There are many theories on this subject and some scientific studies that have been done, but none really shows a proof, or a way how this would be repeated. For this reason, we do not go into it further at this point.

It should still be noted that experienced and trained freedivers have overall weakened reactions to hypercapnia or have developed certain techniques for relaxation or adaptation (eg body scan, activating the 3 bandhas, etc.) While novice divers can not get much benefit from a no warm-up training, because the reaction to hypercapnia is perceived as too strong.

Check equalization

Many divers use the warm-up dive to check if the equalization works. I wonder: what is there to check? Either it works or it doesn't. If it doesn't work on the first dive, it doesn't matter if it's a warm-up or a deep dive. It is unlikely that a sudden problem dissolves into thin air, just because I have made one more dive.

Much more important than to test the equalization in a warm-up dive, is to build up proper knowledge of the techniques of equalization applied by oneself. This includes anatomical basics and a good level of body awareness, as well as exercises. There are many tools - in the water and on dry land, that can help you to achieve the necessary knowledge and self-awareness for a solid equalization. Optimally, this way you can eliminate all insecurities before diving.

Settle the "mind" and find the right "mindset"

Many use warm-up dives to mentally and physically relax and acclimate to depth. Some also draw mental confidence from it. "If the warm-up is good and I can relax, then the deep dive will be good". This approach is mental because, as we have learned, the physiological effects are greater without a prior warm-up.

The right "mindset" is composed of various components. It is also important to know and be able to assess your own body in stressful situations or under pressure. A warm-up dive can help to calm the mind and relax the body. However, is is not mandatory for this.

It is possible to achieve the same degree of relaxation and calming of the mind without a warm-up. The goal should be in the water to refrain from unnecessary muscle tension, which in the worst case can result in injuries, which then lead to barotrauma of the lungs or throat, for example. It is important to localize these during targeted training dives or through exercises on land (e.g. BCS protocol, yoga, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, mental training, etc.), to learn from them and to develop more feeling for one's own body. This does not necessarily have to be done in the water. Especially not necessarily during a warm-up before a maximal attempt. Trust your abilities (you're not doing this for the first time, you've already trained a lot and are physically fit, etc.) and find your own way to relax.

The way from 4 to 0 warm-ups

I used to do 4-5 warm-up dives before a deep dive, guiding my way down almost meter by meter: 15m, 20m, 25m, 30-35m.

The background for me was the information from experienced freedivers, "you have to warm up", "you get a squeeze otherwise", "your body has to get used to it first".

4 years ago I started to change that. Then the first dive was 25-30m, maximum two more and then I went deep. Usually the third dive was the deepest. For this I always received a lot of feedback with the above "mantras" to dissuade me.

I have listened to my body and exchanged with other freedivers and found for myself: It can be done differently and even much better! 2 years ago I started to do my warm-up dives between 30-40m and then I often went down in the second dive. More than 50m without a warm-up dive, however, I had never made in the lake.

With time, my deeper warm-ups have proven to be a good routine. When I was last in Sharm El Sheikh, I had planned to build on that routine and, following the lead of other athletes, forget warm-up dives. This time I was finally able to take the time to try out the approach. And it works! My first -70m+ CWT dives and two days later even a -100m+ VWT (Variable Weight) dive, without warm-ups, were successful. The first CWT dive was not yet as relaxed as usual, but that was probably due to a growling stomach.😅

However, no warm-up dive does not mean doing without a warm-up routine. A regular workout on several levels is also necessary to dive certain depths with the necessary relaxation.

Motivated to give it a try? I highly recommend it and look forward to your feedback.

Kaluna Freediving "No Warm-up" Recommendations:

  • Regularly stretch, if necessary also before the dive: The BCS Protocol is for example is a super solution, but also other exercises which stretch the intercostal muscles or the diaphragm. There are also some yoga exercises for this - Ask our instructor Anna
  • Slow down! Depending on how often you're in the water and how strong you are mentally, don't start with a depth that matches your PB on your first attempt without a warm-up dive. Take some speed out and start with e.g. 20% less. Then work your way step by step to your old PB. Talk to your trainer or coach, he can tell you what the next goals are and give you assistance.
  • A good body sense is half the battle. A dive, it is more than just to relax the neck, abdominals, shoulders, chest, arms or legs depending on the discipline. Start observing yourself during the dive and relax the parts of your body that are not yet relaxed. Try to answer the question "how did you feel during the dive" as detailed as possible.
  • No warm-up dives are only recommended for divers who are regularly in the water and have a good dive reflex.

The subjective perception varies from person to person. Some feel better right away on the first dive, others need these warm-up exercises to get the body in the right mood for diving at depth. An important aspect of freediving is and remains: to test and experiment, to explore yourself and find out what works best for you. To refine one's techniques and approaches over a longer period of time.

Try as much as you can and don't get frustrated if it doesn't work the first time. Maybe you weren't relaxed, you were cold, you had a growling stomach or you were still mentally holding on to your warm-up routine. Try to figure out what works for you and take the time to try it out - not just once!

If you have any questions, write a comment


Anna-Karina Kaluna Instructor

"Nichts ist entspannender als den unterschiedlichen Geräuschen unter Wasser in Ruhe zuhören zu können."

Daniel Roettgermann

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  • Hi Daniel, danke für das Feedback.

  • Hallo Daniel,
    wirklich ein schöner Artikel. Ich bin aktuell bei 1-2 Warmups. Ich setze hier auf FRC Tauchgänge um Tiefe im Warmup zu vermeiden. Auftauchen durch FIM.

    Daniel Weißhoff

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