Respiratory muscles can fatigue during prolonged and maximal exercise, thus reducing performance. The respiratory system is challenged during underwater exercise due to increased hydrostatic pressure and breathing resistance. The purpose of this study was to determine if two different respiratory muscle training protocols enhance respiratory function and swimming performance in divers. Thirty male subjects (23.4 +/- 4.3 years) participated. They were randomized to a placebo (PRMT), endurance (ERMT), or resistance respiratory muscle training (RRMT) protocol. Training sessions were 30 min/day, 5 days/week, for 4 weeks. PRMT consisted of 10-s breath-holds once/minute, ERMT consisted of isocapnic hyperpnea, and RRMT consisted of a vital capacity maneuver against 50 cm H(2)O resistance every 30 s. The PRMT group had no significant changes in any measured variable. Underwater and surface endurance swim time to exhaustion significantly increased after RRMT (66%, P < 0.001; 33%, P = 0.003) and ERMT (26%, P = 0.038; 38%, P < 0.001). Breathing frequency (f (b)) during the underwater endurance swim decreased in RRMT (23%, P = 0.034) and tidal volume (V (T)) increased in both the RRMT (12%, P = 0.004) and ERMT (7%, P = 0.027) groups. Respiratory endurance increased in ERMT (216.7%) and RRMT (30.7%). Maximal inspiratory and expiratory pressures increased following RRMT (12%, P = 0.015, and 15%, P = 0.011, respectively). Results from this study indicate that respiratory muscle fatigue is a limiting factor for underwater swimming performance, and that targeted respiratory muscle training (RRMT > ERMT) improves respiratory muscle and underwater swimming performance.