For my apnea training with O2/CO2 tables I use Ian Donald’s six stage process.

The Starting Point

What your dry breath-hold is right now?

  • Sit on a comfy chair or lay on a bed.
  • Breathe calmly and slowly for 2 minutes – No deeper or faster than you would normally.
  • Take a deep breath in, then exhale everything, then take a really deep breath in. As deep as you can manage.
  • As you hold your breath, relax and think of other things.
  • When you can’t manage anymore take some deep inhales to recover. Always focus on your inhales and not your exhales when recovering.

How did you do? We are going to use this time as a prediction of what you will be able to get to in one month time.

  • 1 minute or less > 3 minutes
  • about 1:30 minutes > 4 minutes
  • 2+ minutes > 5 minutes

Apnea Tables

The preparation

During your preparation focus on:

  • relaxation of the muscles
  • relaxation of the mind
  • relaxation of the breath

All your muscles need to be inactive, any muscle that is tense will use oxygen. Your mind must be calm, if you are stressed out, nervous or even scared, you will not do well. Find something that calms your mind. Your breathing must be relaxed, not forced, not deep, not fast.

The final breaths

Take 3 breaths:

  • One 75% inhale
  • One 100% exhale
  • One maximum capacity 100% inhale (do not pack)


The breath-hold

Stop the air escaping at the glottis or the back of the throat, not at the lips. Never release any air until you intend to breathe again, be it underwater or on the surface. Your exhales will include oxygen, so don’t waste it.

Three stages of apnea

  1. 1st stage: No real desire to breathe. Generally comfortable.
  2. 2nd stage: Starting to feel the effects of carbon dioxide build-up. A general urge to breathe. Some hints of peripheral vasoconstriction.
  3. 3rd stage: The final, dominated by diaphragmatic contractions and low oxygen levels.

By working within the rule of thirds you will get a gauge of how well you are doing. Relax your mind and body. Do not think about anything or run a mantra through your head.

Structure, Location and Timing, Quality

Structure of breath hold training

  1. Work on doing CO2 tables every other day for the first 2 weeks.
  2. Then for the last two weeks work on O2 tables every day.

At first we are working on reducing the urge to breathe with the CO2 tables (as it’s an increase in CO2 that makes us want to breathe). With our CO2 tolerances increased we can then start working on the overall time with O2 tables.

Open the apnea tables

Location and timing

Dry training is 10-20% harder than wet training. It is also a lot safer but nethertheless you should still do it with a buddy as dry breath-holds can still be dangerous. I would try to do at least one wet session a week. Dedicate up to one hour a day for these tables.

Quality of breath hold training

Just like any athletic training, the quality should be more important than the quantity. Doing apnea training everyday but hating every minute of it will get you nowhere fast! Focus on committing properly to the session, get yourself in the right mindset to do it, don’t have any distractions.

Anaerobic And Aerobic Trainings

In addition to the passive apnea sessions described above it is important to add aerobic and anaerobic physical trainings.

Anaerobic training – I do my standard street work out on the bar. I do this at list 3 times a week. Here you may find examples of other anaerobic trainings. Alternatively we can do apnea walk.

Apnea walk

  1. Sit down in a comfortable position, preferably on a chair or other raised area (so its easier to stand.
  2. Start a standard breathe-up.
  3. When you reach the end of your Breathe-up take your final breaths.
  4. Retain the breath and stay seated for 10-30 seconds.
  5. Relax your body and allow your heart-rate to start to drop again.
  6. Slowly stand up and start to walk (preferably on level, even and soft ground) at a steady pace whilst retaining the breath.
  7. Keep walking unless you start to feel the effects of breath-hold.
  8. Push yourself as far as you can without risking LMC or blackout.
  9. Stop and take some recovery breaths.

Aerobic training – long cycle rides or steady long runs. I do 2-3 km jogging every evening.

Life Style

Eat well (healthily), don’t drink caffeine, don’t take any artificial stimulants, don’t drink alcohol, drink plenty of water. Don’t eat or drink lots just before an apnea session, your stomach lining uses lots of energy and blood to digest food.