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Fitness and Strength Tips for Technical Diving

The stress on your mind, body and soul from deep ocean diving can be eased with the proper level of fitness.

All sports today benefit from 
physical training; this is especially 
applicable to technical diving. You don’t have to be an anatomy chart or a body builder, but being in better condition does help you handle the stress of the extreme sport to be a more efficient and confident technical diver.

When recreational diving a diver uses one tank but on some of the dives performed technically up to six could be required; different tanks with different gases. A much more cumbersome weight to carry whilst on the boat, particularly when it’s time to attempt standing up!. Once a technical diver enters the water they will normally add a couple more tanks for decompression.

All of these extra tanks and equipment take up more space causing the diver to use more energy. So streamlining your equipment is very important. Your gear should be close to your body to help reduce drag, this is the same scenario as with racing cars. The less drag you have the more efficient the vehicle making it faster. Along with being streamlined you need to ensure that you are able to access everything quickly, just in case of an emergency.

The more energy a diver uses underwater results in a the higher Partial pressure of oxygen and carbon dioxide levels within the body which can be very dangerous if not monitored and kept within safe levels. Carbon dioxide controls your breathing rate and if your breathing gets out of control is what usually causes a diver to panic. Oxygen can cause a diver to go into convulsions if the partial pressure gets to high which can come about without any warning. On the surface this is not much of a problem but underwater if the diver experiences convulsions they may spit out the regulator which can obviously result in drowning. This could happen more easily to ‘out of condition divers’ where poor physical condition reduces stamina, with the increased exercise increasing the CO levels. Excessive amount of Carbon Dioxide also increases the likelihood of ‘Decompression Illness’.

Some predisposition factors for Decompression Illness
– Loss of body fluids; Dehydration is one of the main causes of DCI; this can be caused from urination, perspiration, breathing dry gases, alcohol or drug consumption.
– Poor or impaired circulation, which can arise from prior operations, accidents, old age, previously suffering from DCI and obesity.
– Carbon Dioxide build up
– Equipment not properly maintained or prepared, poor physical fitness or heavy exertion.
– Physical Labour- heavy lifting or task loading resulting in over use of joints and muscles.
– Ignorance – not knowing how to use, or adhere to dive tables.

All of this is taught in our courses, where you will learn about equipment configurations, oxygen and nitrogen levels and much more. 

The above predisposition factors for decompression illness show that you can reduce the risk in three out of the five points by maintaining a reasonable level of fitness: And your overall health will improve!

Nobody benefits from being overweight, so lets start talking about diets. Simply put, a diet is what you eat. A common misconception is that when you diet, you’re only eating things like boiled eggs and pineapple, (just an example). Following a fad diet like that will never achieve any goals.

What to eat!
Gain or Lose Weight
Protein: Try to get two grams per kilo of body weight per day from sources such as chicken, lean meats, eggs, low fat milk or fish. Also a good whey and casein protein powder is an easy way to get your protein intake up.
Carbohydrates: Get most of your carbohydrates from wholegrain bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, vegetables or oats. A few pieces of fruit every day are also good for you.
Fats: Stay away from Saturated fats which come from animal products. Good fats are Monounsaturated (olive and canola-oil) and Polyunsaturated (fish and vegetable oils).

To Lose Weight:
There are many different ways to ‘diet’. I prefer to cut down my intake of carbohydrates for between five and seven days, getting 50% of my calories from fat and the other 50% from protein. Following this with one or two days consuming as less fat as possible resulting in an intake of approximately 40% from protein and 60 % from complex carbohydrates.
The Zone Diet: Your calorie intake should be equal parts protein, carbohydrates and fat.
Low Fat Diet: Doesn’t work for me. My energy level is a roller-coaster ride; I have to eat every two hours to stay sane. Might work for you though. There’s only one way to find out! You could try to have your first three daily meals of protein and carbohydrates followed by three consisting of protein and fat. Separating carbohydrates from fat will minimize the output of insulin, which is very important when trying to reduce fat.
One thing to remember is drink LOTS of water.

How Much To Eat.
Many small meals are better than a few large ones; Aim for around six a day.
Clean up your eating habits and learn how to count those calories. 
Buy a good food scale and keep a food log so you know what works and what doesn’t. 
After a week or so of clean eating reduce your daily calorie intake to equate to 500 a week until you lose no more than a kilo each week; losing any more than that is loss of muscle mass.

To gain weight 
Increase your protein intake to exceed 2.5 grams per kilo per day. 
Increase food with approximately 500 Calories per day for a week until you see an improvement in bodyweight. There’s no point in getting to fat so pay attention to you’re waist and not just the scales! To gain muscle you will also gain a small amount of fat.

How to train
Cardiovascular fitness is very important for the technical diver as it reduces air consumption, which not only enables diving with smaller and therefore lighter tanks, but it also reduces the risk of decompression sickness.

To increase your Cardiovascular capacity you need to raise your heartbeat for 15 minutes or longer. Participate in exercises such as jogging, cycling, swimming, step machines or skipping. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do it!! Aim for three to four times per week. You can do the less demanding forms of exercise for longer periods or the higher ones for shorter. Varying your training makes it more fun. Try a round with a skipping rope for one minute (full speed) followed by a rest for 30 seconds. Repeat this cycle until you’ve had enough, next time try to increase the number of ’rounds’. Try the same with running and walking; it works very well.

Also important but you don’t have to look like a body builder. A well-balanced weight training program with a bit of extra work on legs, back and waist is what you need. Doing too much is counterproductive. Quality, not quantity is what matters.

45 Minute Circuit
This workout will give a combination strength and cardiovascular workout in one 45-
minute session. The key is to move from exercise to exercise as quickly as possible.
Select a weight for each exercise that leads to failure in 12-15 repetitions.

1. 5 minutes warm up on the treadmill
2. 1 set to failure of the following exercises:
• Chest Press
• Leg Press
• Lat Pulldown
• Hamstring Curl
• Biceps Curl
• Triceps Press
• Crunches
• Leg Extension
• Shoulder Press
• Calf Raise
• Seated Row

3. 5 minutes stationary bike, moderate intensity

4. 1 set to failure of the following exercises:
• Crunches
• Lunges
• Chest Press
• Biceps Curl
• Calf Raise
• Lat Pulldown
• Triceps Press
• Seated Row
• Leg Extension

5. 5 minutes elliptical, high intensity

6. 1 set to failure of the following exercises:
• Chest Press
• Hamstring Curl
• Triceps Press
• Leg Extension
• Biceps Curl
• Calf Raise
• Shoulder Press
• Lat Pulldown
• Crunches

7. 5 minutes elliptical, high intensity

8. 5 minutes cooldown on treadmill

This exercise should take you 45 minutes to complete and should be done twice a week for 4 weeks when preparing for any technical diving activity


4 responses

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  2. Alex

    Great advice, now what do suggest for some one on a remote island in the south pacific with no gym?!?

    July 16, 2010 at 2:28 pm

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  4. Ed

    Alex- swimming, running in the sand, pull ups from branches, press ups and handstand push-ups.

    January 24, 2011 at 6:15 pm