Dive Fitness Research: Specificity, Strength and the Pipe Puzzle


“In the context in which I view fitness for diving it becomes necessary to

develop strength in those movements that contain the identical elements

in the exercise program that are present in the activity.”

– Glen Egstrom, Ph.D. FACSM


I became a Specifist in the early 1950s. I became a proponent of the axiom that people make highly specific adaptations to the demands of their environment. As a Specifist I began to study the barriers to improved performance in, on and under the water. These barriers include methodology of diving and underwater work, the impact of biomechanical problems brought on by diving equipment and tools as well as changing environmental conditions. The specific physiologic and psychologic fitness requirements for diving were also studied in very focused ways in the underwater environment.

Story by Glen Egstrom, Ph.D. FACSM with Gretchen M. Ashton, CFT, SFT, SFN, SSC, NBFE

I was fortunate to have met Dr. Gershon Weltman, a UCLA Human Factors Engineer and his talented grad student, soon to be Dr. Tony Christianson, in the late 1950’s. We worked as a team for years and found support from the Office of Naval Research for some of our projects. Dr. Christianson has become a prolific inventor of rock climbing and skin and scuba diving equipment while Dr. Weltman continued in his human Factors studies.

Upon becoming a certified diver and being a physical educator specializing in biomechanics at the time, we recognized that there was little or no validating research supporting many of the safety practices that were being promoted in the quest of improving diving safety. For example, at that time we were all taught to tow an inner tube as personal floatation. The practice created more problems for the diver than it solved. Issues such as getting tangled in the towline or kelp or getting caught on underwater obstacles during a dive were not unusual and increased risk on many dives.

Our group began cataloging the nature of the specific adaptations needed to overcome problems encountered while performing underwater tasks, which in turn caused us to focus on the biomechanical, physiologic, methodologic and psychologic aspects of diving under the specific conditions that were imposed by the various projects in the various underwater environments. To that end, we began accumulating data on a wide variety of specific diving activities, i.e. Skin Diving, Hookah Diving, Scuba Diving, Hard Hat Diving, and 1 ATM dive systems.

We began examining the methodology that was used and focused upon the basic premise of the instructions that were currently being given to students in dive training. At that time, the basis for selecting a procedure in the recreational, scientific and commercial communities was largely based upon the U.S. Navy Diving manual and other Navy training films and studies. There were very few resources that could be found which provided data for supporting recreational diving…

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