Are STA CO2 tables a waste of time?

There are many debates whether CO2 tables are helpful or useless for Freedivers. And in reality, as always, truth is somewhere in the middle.

We are practicing CO2 tables, classical and modified on our Advanced Freediver and following courses.

First, what is a STA CO2 table?

Take 50% from your current maximum STA and repeat it 6-8 times, every time decreasing rest time. If your current max, let’s say 2 minutes, this is how a classical CO2 table would look like for you.

2.00 1.00
1.45 1.00
1.30 1.00
1.15 1.00
1.00 1.00
0.45 1.00
0.30 1.00

Before you start doing this type of training or critique it, let’s ask the main question – what is your goal in this kind of training? Have a longer breath-hold?

Now let’s have a look at what happens during this table.

First, a Freediver who does this table, practicing relaxation breathing. Seven times from 2.00 to 0.30 practicing a critical skill. Calm down your mind and relax your muscles. Don’t underestimate this skill.

Next, the freediver trains how to relax while holding your breath. And this is a crucial skill for all levels and especially for beginners. Don’t try to be tough and “handle” contractions; learn how to hold your breath longer without them!

Probably the first 4-5 attempts will be pretty easy, and you won’t experience any urge to breathe symptoms – beautiful, coming out from your comfort zone is not your priority at this moment.

And it might be on the last 1-2 the Freediver going to have 1 or 2 contractions. So, in addition to previous goals, we train how to stay relaxed during these first couple of contractions for these two attempts.

If you don’t have any, increase each breath hold by 5 seconds on the next training.

My conclusion – if you are a beginner or intermediate Freediver and trying to build a foundation – this classical STA CO2 table is a legit way of training!

But then why do a lot of experienced Freedivers critique it? Because it is a waste of training time for THEM! They have already mastered how to do relaxation breathing or stay relaxed and not panic during first contractions. They passed this step. Now they have different goals.

And yes, a classical CO2 table is not the most effective way to train tolerance to a high level of CO2. But if your STA is less than 4 minutes, do you need to train it? Or your priority to learn basics, which is relaxation, not suffering?

Don’t blindly copy the way how champions are trained, when you are a beginner!

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How to start training STA breath hold

First Freediving course is over (if you haven’t done it yet – check here for more details), you are happy and willing to train more to become a better Freediver. The big question – how to train?

If you are lucky, and there is a Freediving club nearby – then just join it. You will find support and motivation there. But what to do if there is no Freediving club nearby? How to progress? Well, this is what we are going to discuss here

IMG_0511First of all – if you are planning to train in the water, you HAVE TO have a Freediving buddy. No exception. What about easy breath holds? Still no, you have to have a buddy in any case! If no – train STA dry (less fun, but safer!).

Before you start – refresh your knowledge about Breathing process in general (at least a part that it is CO2 which caused the desire to breathe, not O2). Don’t know where? Check out our video about it here

The worse what you can do in the beginning – is to start pushing your limits too hard! Why does it? Impressed someone? Because your friend can hold breathe longer? Or is it because 3 minutes sound impressive? Whatever reason you have – don’t do it.

Remember, a huge part of Freediving is relaxation, so, start with it.

But let’s be more specific. Let’s say your breath hold on the course was about 2 minutes. IMG_1180And you want to reach 3 minutes within 3-4 months. Here is your plan (train 2-3 times per week). Choose only one of these exercises for a session

  1. Do 5-7 breath holds, without checking the time at all. Finish every attempt as soon as you feel uncomfortable (urge to breath). Your goal is relaxed breath holds
  2. Do 5-7 breath holds, with start timing only after you start feeling uncomfortable. For example, your safety buddy can count to 10 (or less) after you have your first contraction. The goal is still to stay relaxed even after you have an urge to breathe.
  3. Do easy CO2 tables (more details in the video here). Increase your breath hold time very gradually (only last 1-2 breath holds should be challengeable). The goal is slowly to accumulate CO2 and still be relaxed
  4. Practice relaxation breathing (as meditation, pranayama breathing, and three section breathing). The goal is not to fall asleep.

IMG_1313Have you noticed “PUSH HARDER” advice? No? This is because there is no such advice here! You don’t have to push harder to reach 3 minutes static breath hold!

Stay safe and progress slowly!


How to hold your breath

The basic skill which you learn on your first Freediving course is, of course, how to hold your breath! This Freediving discipline requires a minimum of Freediving equipment!!

A lot of my students, when I ask them, how long they can do it, answering – 30-40 seconds. And then in 10 minutes, they can hold for 1.5-2 minutes! Magic? Not really 😉 Simply understanding how to do it correctly, what happens in the organism during static breath hold – helps that much!

Watch how our student does it for the first time! Interesting to try? Come to Koh Tao (Thailand) and we going to be more than happy do Freediving course with you!