Part 3 of 3 Lower Body Conditioning for Diving It is your lower body that propels you under the water. A scuba diver using his arms to move is a tell-tale sign of a novice, someone still grasping the basics (the exception being of course, the handicapped scuba divers). Your lower body must have the endurance to move you steadily over distances, and the strength to propel you fast when swimming against currents or racing to get a better view of a moving marine animal. Split Squats If you are comfortable with the squat, it is time to try this variation. One leg forward, the other one back. Front foot is flat on the floor, the back foot rests on the ball. Bring the back knee towards the floor while keeping the front foot flat. Move down and up in a straight line. Depending on your level of fitness, you may start with your body weight and eventually add weight in the form of a bar over your shoulders or dumbbells. Cable knee-ups Use it to build up endurance in your hip flexors. Use an ankle strap with the rings in the back of your ankles. Attach the cable and make sure you are stable. Grab onto a steady object if you have to. Bend the knee and bring up and down repeatedly. An alternative is ankle weights. Another alternative is a Nordictrak with the skids set to moderate high resistance. Cable Kick-backs A nice way to work the posterior leg and hip muscles. Use an ankle strap with the rings in the front of your ankles. Attach the cable. To make this exercise more specific for divers make sure to kick the leg back straight without arching the back. The range of motion will be smaller than a conventional cable kickback, but more specific to our purposes. The leg curl in any form is not a good alternative since it involves knee flexion, which is not an effective way to swim underwater. Instead, try the Romanian Deadlifts. Romanian Deadlift One of the best overall conditioning exercises, and a top for many elite athletes. Grab a barbell with a slightly wider than shoulder grip. Keeping the feet hip-width apart, bend the knees slightly and lock the position. Always bend at the hips. Keep the back neutral at all times! The arms should always be straight and bar kept close to the body. You should immediately feel your glutes, hamstrings, calves, and back spring into action. Walking lunges Excellent power builder, and quite a terrific aerobic conditioner when done for high repetitions. Start with feet hip width apart. Step forward and fall onto your front foot, keeping it flat at all times. The force produced will help you move the back leg to the front in one motion without the need to pause. Calf Raise Standing/Seated Use both variations for endurance. You will be grateful that you did them when you are kicking hard in your fins. Rope Skipping Go in 1 minute speed intervals with 1-2 minutes rest in between. Excellent builder of coordination, plantar flexor endurance, and cardiovascular conditioning. Build up your stamina so that you eventually can go at least 10 minutes non-stop. Arm crosses can be added to increase the challenge and intensity level. Upper Body Conditioning for Diving Most of your upper body conditioning will be obtained from your swimming workouts. Unfortunately swimming is not a complete upper body conditioner since it places the emphasis on the powerful internal rotator muscles. This contributes to the stiff, rounded shoulders and slouching posture common of most swimmers (and bench press fans). Not a good thing when you need upper-body flexibility to remove and put your Buoyancy Compensator in comfort, or reach your instruments and tools. The Exercises below are designed more to balance the work provided by swimming. Bent Over Row with Pronated grip Start with a barbell. As the name states it, bend over keeping the knees slightly bent and the back neutral. Grab a barbell with an overhand grip (pronated). Bring the elbows up, trying to get your shoulder blades together. Variations can be done with the dumbbells, the cable, and the T-Bar row station as long as the grip is pronated (or overhand). Reverse Fly Same starting position as the Bent Over row, grab a pair of dumbbells with a neutral grip (palms facing each other) Open the arms trying to bring the shoulder blades together, bring them down. Variations can be done with a pronated grip, or cables, or the machine. Rotator Cuff The rotator cuff muscles are active throughout most upper body exercises. Nevertheless, it never hurts to add a little extra if you want to add an occasional emphasis. There are several exercises, such as the cable rotations, dumbbell side rotations, movements in the scapular plane, etc. Use a different one each workout. Cardiovascular Endurance Wait a second. Do not skip this part! You may be in for a rude awakening. By now you probably have it engraved in your head that diving has demands that require your body to be fit to accomplish them successfully and enjoyably. You may already be thinking, “I already do plenty of cardio!” In which case you need to re-analyze your position. If you are the kind of person who watches TV or reads while pedaling a bike, or elliptical, or treading on a conveyor belt, then you are due for a change! You may have been raising your heart rate slightly, but in NO way, you have conditioned yourself cardiovascularly. I encounter the same situation daily. People proudly telling me how they do 45 minutes of the elliptical everyday, only to be gasping for air and nearly fainting after merely 45 seconds of Kettlebell drills, struggling to catch a breath to tell in their livid expressions: “… I do not understand… But I do so much cardio”. Beneficial cardiovascular work involves a lot more than simple repetitive schemes. To obtain the physiological benefits of cardiovascular work, the cardiovascular system needs to be challenged, and when the cardiovascular system is challenged, it is IMPOSSIBLE to read or watch TV. So how do you train your Cardio system properly? Simple, by doing interval training. That means having periods of intense work followed by periods of lower intensity for recovery (this is common in the training of super-endurance athletes). If you are new to this, start by 10-15 seconds of very intense activity, followed by 2-3 minutes of slower activity. Eventually you will increase your intense activity time while keeping the rest times the same or less. This type of training not only is effective, but also efficient. That is, you get a lot more benefits in much less time. Take your fitness seriously. Remember that you will be in an environment that is unnatural for humans. Being fit will help you conserve your air, make you capable of better dealing with challenging situations, reduce your chances of getting decompression illness (you’ll find out about it in your class) and make you a better, independent diver. Congratulations! You have chosen one of the most exciting activities! Good health and good diving!