Its fair to say that the main muscle groups involved in a fair amount of freediving are in your legs (yes, I know that free immersion and No-limits are excluded from this). Because of this, we as freedivers must train our legs to work well, both aerobically and anaerobically.
The kick cycle hits muscles that are often underworked during your daily routine. You will find a lot of pressure put on the large muscles of the Gluteus Maximus ( your butt), Rectus Femoris (muscle along the front of the thigh) and the Gastrocnemius (main calf muscle), but you will also feel pressureon smaller muscles like the Tibialis anterior (front calf muscle), Ili0psoas and Pectineus muscles (smaller muscles in the upper thigh).
If these muscles are not efficient, then it will affect your performance as they will require more blood/oxygen to work. We dont want lots of bulk, but we do want efficiency.
Think of freediving leg training as a fine balance between that of a sprinter and a long distance runner. You need the fast twitch fibers of the sprinter as these are the anaerobic muscles required in the later stages of the dive. You also need the slow twitch fibers of a marathon runner, these are the aerobic muscles used in the first part of the dive and are the muscles which allow longevity in your exercise.
So what exercises should we do when we are out of the water?
Nothing quite works the cardiovascular system and legs like a good run!
Both long distance and shorter HIIT runs (high intensity interval training). You will work your cardiovascular system and develop both the muscle fibers needed for freediving. Try breaking up your running routine so that you dont just do long endless runs or just HIIT . I do 4 days running per week, 2 days long runs and 2 days HIIT. That works for me but it may not work for you, so work whatever feels best in to your regime. Remember to start slowly if you are getting in to running, as its a high impact exercise that can do more damage than good if you go about it wrong.
Normal swimming is fine, but what we want to do is focus on the legs. So grab a kickboard and focus on doing lengths using just your legs. Mix it up between a breaststroke kick and a freestyle kick. I try to do HIIT training when doing this as i feel it works my legs more, so i may do one length ultra fast and one length at a steady pace etc etc.
Using weights will primarily work your fast twitch muscle fibers. You can use either machines or free weights to do this. Remember, when you use weights, how much weight you apply and how many reps you do will affect your training. Heavy weights at low reps will build bulk whilst lighter weights at higher reps will build lean muscle. I go by the principle of doing 15 reps with a minutes rest, 3 times. The weight will be just enough so that the last rep of each round is really hard to complete.
4: Cycling and rowing
Great for cardio and leg strength, both of these exercises are low impact but can yield great results. Again, mix it up between long distance sessions and HIIT sessions to work all your muscles and push your fitness levels up. Rowing also works your core which can be a great bonus for monofin users.
5: Body weight exercises
There are a few exercises that you can do, at home, with nothing more than your own body as resistance.
- Leg raises. Lie on your back, extend your arms up and above you on the ground (so you are flat on your back like superman). Raise one leg up about 45 degrees, then drop it back down. repeat on the other leg…. do this slowly and with purpose. Keep repeating until you cannot do another rep. You can do a double leg raise, doing both at the same time, if you want to work you core as well.
- Calf lifts. Stand on a curb or step, the balls of your feet right on the edge, with your heels in the air. Raise yourself up and down using just the power in your calves. Ramp this up and give your core/balance a workout, by doing one leg at a time whilst raising the other in front of you as if you were mid run.
- One leg kick back. Place yourself on your hands and knees – knees under hips and hands under shoulders. Keeping your right leg bent at 90 degrees, raise your knee as high as you can by squeezing your buttocks. Lower to the starting position and repeat 15 times with each leg.
Hope these help. Remember one of the best things about learning to freedive is that the desire to perform will push us to improve in other areas of our lives.