Improving Strength, Range and Balance

Bulgarian split squat. Photo by Stephen Frink

Strength, range of motion and balance can improve your overall dive experience. This series of functional exercises targets all three areas to better prepare you for the dynamic natural underwater environment. It may take time for your body to learn the movements. Start with a lighter weight until you build muscle memory (your brain recruiting the right muscle fibers) for these movements. Some exercises may feel shaky at first, but with time and focus your balance and fluidity of movement will improve.

Bulgarian Split Squat

Three sets of 10 repetitions per side

  1. Position yourself in a staggered stance with your front foot forward and rear foot elevated on an object roughly knee height.
  2. Bend your front knee, bending forward slightly at the hip to lower your upper body to the ground. Do not bend too far forward at the waist; it’s important to maintain good posture throughout the motion.
  3. As you descend, make sure your knee and front foot stay in line.
  4. As you reach the bottom portion of the movement, drive through the heel of your front foot to extend the knee and hip, and then return to the starting position.

Tip: Make sure you have your front foot forward enough to keep your knee behind your toe as you descend.
Challenge: Hold a light dumbbell in each hand to increase the difficulty.

Dumbbell Alternating Renegade Row

Three sets of 12 repetitions

  1. Begin in a slight squat position with a dumbbell positioned between your feet.
  2. Bend at the waist to reach down and lift the dumbbell from the ground, making sure to keep a flat back.
  3. Row the dumbbell by pulling up toward your chest.
  4. When the dumbbell is about to reach maximum height, gently toss it from one hand to the other.
  5. Lower the dumbbell back down to the starting position in a slow, controlled manner.
  6. Repeat the cycle, alternating between hands.

Challenge: Begin with a light dumbbell, and increase the weight only when you can maintain proper form and body position.

Half-Kneeling Shoulder Press

Three sets of eight repetitions

  1. Place an appropriately weighted dumbbell on the ground within reach. Assume a half-kneeling position (a lunge with the back knee resting on the ground). You may want to place a mat or folded towel under your knee.
  2. Bring the weight up to your shoulder using one or both hands, and keep it in a neutral position (palm in) to start. If the left leg is in front, this means the weight will come to the right shoulder.
  3. While maintaining tightness in the abdominals, extend the arm with the weight overhead, keeping the elbow close to the ear at full extension.
  4. Control the weight back to the starting position.

Tip: Make sure the weight stays in line with your shoulder.
Challenge: Increase the weight to further challenge core stability and shoulder strength, and/or perform a slower negative (taking three or more seconds to return the weight back to the starting position).

Dumbbell Windmill

Three sets of eight repetitions per side

  1. Place a light dumbbell between your legs, and assume a standing position.
  2. Clean and press the weight overhead, keeping the arm holding the weight locked out with no bend at the elbow once overhead.
  3. While maintaining a full lockout, push your butt to the side the weight is on.
  4. Slowly continue to lean until you can touch the free hand to the floor directly in front of your toes. The hand with the weight should always point directly up with your eyes watching it.
  5. Slowly return to the starting position.

Tip: Listen to your body. It is OK if you can’t reach the floor at first.
Challenge: Perform the motion more slowly, or add weight as you feel comfortable.

Hip Mobility Hurdle

Three sets of 15 repetitions with each leg

  1. Stand facing an obstacle knee height or higher.
  2. Flex your hip to raise your knee and foot to slightly above the obstacle height.
  3. Rotate hip to bring your right leg over the obstacle without touching it and bring your foot to the ground.
  4. Reverse the process to return to the starting position.

Challenge: To make this exercise more difficult, keep the leg that will be clearing the obstacle straight with no bend in the knee.

NOTE: To avoid an increased risk of decompression sickness, DAN® recommends that divers avoid strenuous exercise for 24 hours after making a dive. During your annual physical exam or following any changes in your health status, consult your physician to ensure you have medical clearance to dive.

© Alert Diver — Q4 2019