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Comparing frenzel and valsalva: Which equalization technique is right for you?

Diving underwater requires free divers not only to have physical preparation but also to know special techniques for equalizing pressure in the ears. The ability to properly equalize pressure during a dive not only ensures comfort but also prevents potential ear injuries. Among the various pressure equalization techniques, the definition Valsalva maneuver and the Frenzel technique stand out. Let's take a closer look at them and find out what problems may arise when using them, and also determine what is best suited for different diving conditions.

Definition Valsalva maneuver

Valsalva maneuver
This way to equalize is popular among beginners who first come to a freediving courses due to its simplicity: simply close your mouth, pinch your nose, and try to exhale, which creates pressure that pushes air through the Eustachian tubes into the middle ear, equalizing the pressure on the eardrums.

However, for freediving, where the dive is performed without scuba and in a vertical position, valsalva maneuver not working so easy. The fact is that as the depth increases, the volume of the lungs decreases, and the use of abdominal muscles to push air out of the lungs becomes difficult. The Valsalva maneuver can be risky at great depths, increasing the likelihood of lung and ear injuries due to the need to exert more effort.

Furthermore, the Valsalva maneuver is associated with tension and excessive oxygen consumption, which contradicts the main goal of freediving - maintaining relaxation and conserving energy. In this regard, although beginner freedivers may start with Valsalva, they should soon learn the Frenzel technique, which involves smaller and non-respiratory muscle groups, providing a softer and more controllable pressure equalization, allowing for deeper dives.

The Frenzel technique

Frenzel technique
It may seem complicated to master because it requires excellent control and awareness of one's oral cavity and throat muscles. Some people manage to master this skill intuitively, and the reasons for this are not fully understood.

To perform the maneuver, you need to pinch your nose and position your tongue to create "T" or "K" sounds. It is important to close the vocal cords and raise the larynx, which helps direct air from the mouth into the nasal cavity, while the soft palate must remain in a neutral position. An important feature is the absence of abdominal movements during the maneuver. The implementation of this method of compensation underwater becomes more complicated due to the inverted position of the body and unusual conditions, as well as the need to hold your breath.

Why is the frenzel technique preferred for freediving?

The Frenzel method has become the method of choice for free divers, as it requires the activation of only a small group of muscles, excluding the use of respiratory muscles to move air from the lungs, making it more manageable and conducive to relaxation - the ideal combination for diving without breathing apparatus.

Proper use of Frenzel can help reach depths of 30–40 meters and even deeper with intensive training. Although some free divers may naturally use Frenzel or quickly master it, many will need time to learn the skills. It is not uncommon for full mastery of this way of equalization to take days or even weeks of practice.

Comparative analysis

Valsalva Maneuver:

Advantages:
  • More intuitive to understand.
  • Simple to execute.
  • Effective at shallow depths.
Limitations:
  • Requires significant effort at greater depths.
  • Can lead to excessive oxygen consumption.
  • Increases the risk of injury.
  • Ineffective at greater depths.
Frenzel Technique:

Advantages:
  • Effectively equalizes pressure at greater depths.
  • Uses a minimal amount of muscle movement.
  • Helps maintain the necessary level of relaxation.
  • Preferred by free divers to increase dive depth.
  • Improves body control underwater.
Limitations:
  • More complex to master compared to the Valsalva maneuver.
  • Requires more time to understand and perform the technique.

Conclusion

When choosing between the Valsalva maneuver and the Frenzel technique, consider personal sensations and the level of comfort during diving. If you are new to underwater swimming, you may want to start with the Valsalva maneuver to learn the basics of pressure equalization diving. However, as soon as you feel the need for a more effective technique, especially as you need freediving equalization, consider switching to the Frenzel technique. Regardless of the chosen method, it is important to remember safety and to gradually increase the depth of diving to avoid the risk of barotrauma. The ideal solution would be to work with an experienced instructor who will help you master and refine the Frenzel technique. Practice, patience, and consistency are the key components of successful pressure compensation at depth.

31.01.2024
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