The Frenzel maneuver – demystified

In this article we’ll take a look at the Frenzel maneuver that many believe is unattainable or even impossible. Once it was believed that only those with a privileged anatomy could use this maneuver, but today this is considered a myth – anyone can perform it if taking all the necessary steps. The Frenzel maneuver is an important and very effective equalization maneuver, but it is not easy to perform as it requires a lot of training, body awareness, relaxation and patience.

We’ve already talked about the importance of equalization in another topic, for those who want to understand a little more, it’s worth checking it out.

Now let’s understand why this maneuver is so coveted among underwater divers and spearfishers. The first issue is that you do not use your hands for it, leaving your arms free and thus not disturbing the hydrodynamics of the dive, as well as facilitating the approach to fish and schools. With this maneuver you will also use less energy. It can be done over and over again as it is very quick and practical to do.

With Frenzel, energy savings are greater, as we use the muscles of the cheek, tongue and throat. The fewer muscle areas involved, the lower the expenditure of energy and oxygen, while in other maneuvers such as Valsalva, the muscles of the abdominal region are used in order to force the exhalation and consequently expending more energy. Another great advantage is that it is possible at great depths from 50 to 90 meters.

It is noteworthy that every maneuver has its evolution throughout history. The most used Frenzel maneuver today has the addition of other steps such as Mouthfill and Hands-free making this very effective equalization maneuver even more complete.

Let’s practice!!! First it is important to know the parts of your body that will be used in this maneuver:

  1. The first step is to pinch the nose or use mask compression for this, this way you don’t use your hands, but for those who don’t have this skill, you can start practicing by pinching the nose until you can do it without hands.
  2. The second step is to transfer some air from the abdominal cavity to the mouth. Let the air slide naturally from the abdomen to the mouth – it is necessary that this volume of air is small, just enough to make the equalization.
  3. The third step is to close the epiglottis – to know if the epiglottis is closed, just open your mouth and inhale a little bit without letting the air out or entering. This is only done to train the epiglottis control – once mastered, it is easy to recognize when it is closed. To train this movement, repeat the sound of the letter K several times with the mouth slightly open. It is important to pay attention to the backward movement of the tongue helping to close the epiglottis.
  4. The fourth step is the control of the soft palate. It must remain in a neutral position – and to obtain this control you must train as follows: keep your mouth open and inhale and exhale air through the nose (lowered palate) only without the air pass through the mouth, then switch and inhale and exhale through the mouth (elevated palate). Do this repeatedly and slow down the inhalation and exhalation always keeping the mouth open, then alternate between mouth and nose until it is easy to carry out these exchanges without concentrating so much, then you exercise this region and have mastery under it easily finding the neutral position. The neutral palate position we want is when the air comes out of the mouth and nose at the same time.
  5. The last step is to use your tongue to push this air in the mouth cavity to the Eustachian tube, that is, make a compression of the tongue towards the throat and upwards repeatedly. After a few times, you will hear a noise in your ears and you will feel a relief in the pressure on them. In this way the air will be passing from the oral cavity to the Eustachian tube until reaching the middle ear and thus performing the equalization.

As we said, this maneuver is very effective and safe. It can be performed by anyone. To be successful it is important to be relaxed and focused on each of the exercises, because the more you come to know each part of your body and how to master each one, the easier it will be to perform the maneuver.

It is important to recognize that this equalization maneuver cannot be learned in a few minutes, and it is necessary to train several times out of the water before putting it into practice, until you feel that you have complete mastery of the maneuver. But with dedication and a little training everyone can do it!

In the video below, Emma Farrell explains the technique in more detail:

We would always recommend you learn new maneuvers such as this one with a diving coach. This article is a general overview only and not intended to be advice. 

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