What are the 8 Freediving Disciplines?

What are the 8 Freediving Disciplines?

All dives in freediving are completed on one single breath that follows eight disciplines. The eight disciplines in freediving are constant weight (with and without fins), free immersion, dynamic (with and without fins), speed-endurance apnea, static apnea, variable weight, and no limit. 

Divers have been holding their breath for thousands of years, and while we may not have evolved gills, we have uniquely adapted to exploring underwater with freediving

Freediving is becoming a popular alternative to snorkelling and scuba diving. But before you dive in, there are a few things you should know, and one of them is the freediving disciplines. 

Freediving disciplines are usually divided into depth and pool categories, but they all follow one rule, holding your breath.

According to AIDA (International Association for the Development of Apnea), there are six officially recognised competitive disciplines to freediving and two non-competitive disciplines. 

In this article, we will cover the following disciplines:

  • Constant weight
  • Constant weight without fins 
  • Free immersion
  • Dynamic with fins
  • Dynamic without fins
  • Speed-endurance apnea
  • Static apnea
  • Variable weight
  • No limit

To become a successful freediver, there are eight freediving disciplines that you should know about.

Read on to find out more!

Constant Weight (CWT)

Constant weight is probably the most common depth version of freediving. When freediving, you descend below the surface either using a monofin or bi-fins (two fins), usually a wetsuit, and just like scuba diving, some weights.

The weight is “constant” because during a freedive there are no changes to your weight, and you are not allowed to pull on any guide ropes to help you descend.

Constant Weight Without Fins (CNF)

This is likely the most difficult discipline you will learn about freediving, and it is also considered a “pure” discipline from a sporting perspective. 

This discipline is different to CWT. While you will still wear a wetsuit and a small amount of weight, you will descend without fins. To help you ascend and descend, instead of diving fins, you only use muscle strength – so get those muscles ready! 

Free Immersion (FIM)

Free immersion is similar to CNF because you use no fins, but you can use a guide rope to help with propulsion underwater. 

When learning the FIM discipline, you can swim in both a head up or head down position during ascent and descent.

Dynamic With Fins (DYN)

This is one of the first disciplines you will learn in the pool. The purpose is to see how far you can swim with one single breath using a monofin or bi-fins. If you haven’t worked it out yet, your fins are seen as the biggest propulsion aid in freediving. 

Dynamic Without Fins (DNF)

Dynamic without fins is the same as DYN, but if you haven’t guessed already, DNF requires you to see how far you can propel yourself on one breath, without fins. 

Therefore, during DNF training, you are only allowed to use your arms and legs for propulsion.

Speed-Endurance Apnea (S&E)

Speed-endurance apnea is a specific discipline set by CMAS (the world underwater federation). During S&E, you will learn to cover a fixed distance underwater as fast as you can. 

You will learn speed-endurance apnea in the pool, covering lengths of the pool, alternating breath holds (apnea) and recovery breaths (passive recovery). 

Apnea is a word that you will hear a lot in freediving; it is what freedivers call “the suspension of breathing”, or in simpler terms, voluntary breath-holding.

You can perform S&E with or without fins, but, you must focus on your muscular strength to propel yourself through the water without any mechanical aids, including mechanisms triggered by your muscular system – this is where your true mermaid or merman fantasy should kick in!

Static Apnea (STA)

If you have ever done a freediving workshop, then this was probably the first thing you learnt n the pool. Unlike the other eight freediving disciplines, STA involves no movement or equipment. 

Static apnea involves floating face down in the pool and holding your breath for as long as possible. Static apnea is the only freediving discipline that is measured by duration.

During STA, you will also learn what freediving diaphram contractions are and maybe even experience them. But do not worry, as diaphragm contractions are normal when performing apnea.

static apnea freediviing
Static Apnea Training

Variable Weight (VWT)

The second most “extreme” discipline is variable weight. This involves you descending to an agreed depth with a heavy weight (usually a metal bar or “sled”), and then ascending using all your strength. 

During the VWT exercise, you can wear fins if you wish to.

No Limit (NLT)

No limit, or known as the “true expression of human endurance underwater” by most freedivers, NLT is considered the most extreme discipline on the list. 

It is considered extreme, as it involves descending with a heavy metal bar or sled like VWT, but the ascent is assisted with a lift bag or counter-balance pulley system. The no limit discipline is used for freedivers that wish to descend deep, often divers that wish to set world records.

For example, Herbert Nitsch, a freediver pro from Austria, is a world record holder for all eight freediving disciplines. Herbert is also known as “the deepest man on earth” after successfully reaching a depth of 214 m (702 ft) using the no limit discipline. 

Don’t Forget Your Dive Insurance!

Before you go out on any dive trip or holiday, it is essential to make sure you have insurance that covers you if something goes wrong. Check out our dive insurance article for more information.

Or go straight to these dive insurance company websites:


Diver Alert Network (DAN)

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Final Thoughts

Freediving is not as simple as holding your breath and exploring the mesmerising underwater world, it involves key components known as disciplines. The eight apnea disciplines are important to achieve great depths, times, or distances using one single breath. 

The eight disciplines are constant weight, constant weight without fins, free immersion, dynamic with fins, dynamic without fins, speed-endurance apnea, static apnea, variable weight, and no limit. 

Mastering the eight freediving disciplines is every freediver pro’s goal.

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Darby Bonner

Darby is a marine biologist and PADI scuba diving instructor from the UK. With over ten years of diving experience, she has visited some of the best dive destinations in the world. Currently, Darby is living in Bali, Indonesia and regularly dives at some of the most beautiful dive sites in the Indian Ocean. Her passion for the ocean led her to study seals, publish a paper, and become a marine mammal medic. In the future, she hopes to complete her master’s in marine science, and of course, continue her love for teaching and diving!

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