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Swimming with Fins - How and What Kind of Fins?

stew smith combat swimmer stroke duck feet fins military fitness navy seal rocket fins special ops special ops training stew smith swimming

This week, I received a frequently asked question about swimming with fins. Swimming with fins during rigorous military training like BUD/S, Coast Guard HRSS, Air Force PJ, Army Ranger / SF training or many law enforcement SWAT programs is required in open water tests. Also see our YouTube Videos of swimming with fins

My philosophy with teaching swimming is “a picture is worth 1000 words, but a moving picture is worth 10,000 words”. I have a link on YouTube.com of me swimming the Combat Swimmer Stroke with and without fins. (see link) The combat swimmer stroke is a very efficient stroke with and without fins and done by SEAL, PJ, and other special forces / special ops men and women.

For more info see the CSS link and read more about the technique of the combat swimmer stroke

The type of fins you should use when swimming in open water for any of these professions is a strong SCUBA type fin that can also substitute for SCUBA diving. Getting your ankles used to the strain of the kick takes a few weeks of 500-1000m swims, but the initial pain will go away as long as you incorporate swimming with fins regularly into your program. You will need to wear booties with these types of fins and not be able to use these fins bare foot. If you can slip the fins on a bare foot - then they are flippers not fins.

Here is the email question from a young man preparing for BUD/S by swimming with a newly purchased pair of fins.

Recently I bought a pair of Rocket fins and booties. Up until now I have been using soft fins for your workouts and I have been able to fin 1 mile under 30 minutes with soft fins. With rocket fins, however, it feels much more awkward and painful. It seems as if my arm-pulls get me more propulsion than the flutter kicks with rocket fins.

1. Is there a specific technique to fining with rocket fins? Does the kick have to be a certain width? It seems that bigger kicks give me a stop/start movement and interrupt my momentum but while smaller kicks give me constant movement they still don't seem to propel me that fast.

There is a technique to swimming with fins, but no one best way as we all have different kick strengths. I have found that athletes in sports like football and soccer may not be the best swimmers without fins, but when they place a pair of SCUBA fins on their legs, they are faster than most people in the class. This is because they have well developed leg and hip strength and can use bigger kicks to build speed. Some athletes with less strong legs / hips tend to still swim fast, but are required to kick using smaller strides at a faster pace. You have to find out what works best for you personally. You will want to learn how to swim on both sides as well because you can alter your kick as long as your top leg always extends forward on both the left and right side. Learning to swim on both sides offers a form of “rest” by changing the pull – push stride of your left / right leg.

As far as arm pulls and breathing as pictured in the video, the arm pull can be used as another method of propulsion, especially if you need to rest your legs by skipping a few kicks throughout a long distance swim. Many people like to do a slight pause of kicking when breathing and recovering the arms forward again to remain streamlined. As with any swimming, recovering your arms should remain stream-lined and not an obstacle to forward motion. See Video to help:

2. The fins seem to cause pain in my feet after a couple hundred yards and stiffness up the front and side muscles of my shins. Is this just a matter of conditioning and getting my feet used to wearing these fins?

It is a matter of conditioning. When first wearing fins while swimming, you should only swim a few hundreds yards and push slightly past discomfort in the ankle and shin area. Do not push too hard and for too long at first as over use injuries like tendonitis in the feet and knees can flare up causing you to only be able to swim or run with severe discomfort or injury. This process usually takes about 10-15 swims or two to three weeks of swimming with fins. It is recommended to swim 500m with fins and if they start to bother you, take off the fins and swim 500m without, then try fins one more time until discomfort returns. Do this for a few weeks and you will be able to add greater distances each time you swim.

3. Is there a particular SCUBA fin you recommend prior to training for BUD/S?

Actually, as long as you have a SCUBA diving fins that requires you do wear booties (versus slip on bare feet flippers) then you are good to go. I used my old SCUBA fins prior to BUDS and they transitioned nicely when issued Rocket Fins and UDT Duck Feet. SO you can use what you have or get the Rocket Fins if you wish. I personally like the CRESSI Frog Fin and it is what I swim with today.
         
Rocket Fins                UDT Duck Feet
Good luck with adding fins to your swim workouts. It takes time to get comfortable so do not feel weak if you can only swim a few hundreds yards the first time you wear a “real” pair of fins. Feel free to email me if you have any questions at stew@stewsmith.com.

 

Special Ops Books
(Signed by Author & Delivered by Mail)

The Navy SEAL Weight Training Workout - Add weights and rucking to your Navy SEAL or Special Operations training preparation. This is the second phase of the Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness book that only incorporates calisthenics, running, and swimming to help prepare for the tested elements before and during training.  Regardless on your athletic history, this workout will help prepare you for the strength demands of boats carries, log PT, and rucking done at BUD/S.   $17.97 Plus FREE CSS Video.

The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness - Stew Smith wrote "Twelve Weeks to BUD/S" almost ten years ago. This book creates a foundation of fitness to help you ace the BUD/S PST as well as the high miles of running, swimming, and high repetitions of the PT through the day.  Quite simply, this book works! Now you can get the third revision with new information on getting to and through SEAL training.  $19.95  (Book and DVD combo plus free CSS Video)

Maximum Fitness - Navy SEAL Cross Training - Maximum Fitness features a 52 week program with progression focal points each quarter to create a well-rounded tactical athlete or special operations candidate. This program focuses on fitness peaks and valleys through the year and periodizes hardcore fitness into four cycles:  1 - Calisthenics and a base of cardio workouts, 2 - Hardcore Cardio and High Rep Calisthenics, 3 - Hardcore Calisthenics mixed with weights / cardio, 4 - Heavy weight / strength cycle with light non-impact cardio options.  16.95 plus free CSS Video.

The Special Ops Workout - The Special Ops Workout is for those seeking military special operations professions OR those wanting to train like one of the United States elite soldiers.  MIke Mejia CSCS creates a functional Special Ops Workout to prepare the Average Joe for harder training.  And former Navy SEAL Stew Smith CSCS creates the Navy SEAL Workout, the Army Ranger / SF Workout, and the Air Force PJ Workout all in one great cross training book.  $16.95 plus FREE CSS Video

The SWAT Workout This Law Enforcement Special Ops Book describes the rigorous physical training tactics employed by America's Special Weapons And Tactics teams. The book outlines two six-week programs of calisthenics, weights, and speed drills as well as a twelve-week program designed to keep physical performance at a top level, in a reference that is complemented by demonstrative photographs and nutrition tips.  $16.95

 

   Special Ops eBooks
(Downloadable but can be viewed by Smart Phones, Pad, Computers, even Printed)

 

Navy SEAL Phase ONE:  Ace the Navy SEAL PST and increase your chances of graduating from BUDS with this four phase system.  Phase I:  Beginner Guide to the PST  -  IF you can only meet the minimum standards you want this nine week workout  - you do not want to go to BUDS yet. $15.95 
Navy SEAL Phase II & III:  Weeks 1-12 of the Original Guide to the PST - Need to get killer scores?  This workout will get you there.   This eBook is considered to be one step above the Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness published book and is a great preparation guide if you are above the minimum standards but not quite at recommended fitness standards.  $15.95  
Navy SEAL Phase IV:  The Grinder PT This eBook mimcs the first four weeks at BUDS.  You will be required to workout throughout the day, adding in various punishment exercises (pushups, burpees, wet and sandy).  Simply put, Phase FOUR is the toughest workout you will ever do.  This is hardcore and not for beginners.  It is a true Gut Check with tips on mental toughness.$15.95  
Be a Naval Special Warfare Combatant Crewman - Navy SWCC Workout - Learn to drive fast boats with big guns and train with the SEALs in this fast paced Naval Special Warfare career booster.  This is a NINE-week plan to help you ace the training required to work with the SEALS. $15.97 
Combat Conditioning - Advanced Workout Quite possibly the toughest standards of all the regular military forces are combined into this total fitness package.  Ruck marches, swimming with fins, PT, weights, sprints and distance running combined create a cross-training workout plan designed to create super fit soldiers. $15.97 
The New UBRR Workout - The UpperBody Round Robin Fitness Test is a new challenging workout that many Special Ops Teams around the world are not only using as a tough physical event, but it has started to become a selection process testing event as well.  Run, rucking pullups, pushups, benchpress and many more max rep exercsies.  See details - UBRR Article  $16.97
The Army Special Forces / Ranger Workout - This Ten Week Plan will help you ace the toughest standards of the Army and the endless miles of ruck marching and running.  Be prepared for running and rucking at SFAS!  If you are not, your body will let you know.  The Ten Week plan is great for preparing for  for RIP and SFAS as well as the actual courses.  $16.97 

USMC RECON Workout Ace the Recon Indoc Program (RIP) and follow on training with this 12-Week Program.  The USMC RECON / Special Ops twelve program will help you with the rucks, runs, swims, and hardcore PTs at all stages of RECON Training.  Many have successfully used this workout mixed with the Navy SEAL Workouts to prepare for MARSOC.  $16.97  

Air Force PJ / CCT Workout  - The AFPJ/CCT Workout will help you ace the PAST to get into training but also help you ace the tough standards in the water, PT and running at the Air Forces Special Operations Training Center.  This workout also helps officer candidates seeking STO / CRO professions as well.  On test days simply add the distance required on your PAST as needed.  Prepare for the entire AF Spec OPS Training Pipeline with this top-notch workout plan.  Great for Pool drill competency too with cool drills and free CSS Swimming VIDEO download! $ 16.97  

The US Navy and Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer / SAR Swimmer Workout - This workout is a challenging aquatics skills program mixed with even more tough running and calisthenics to build the needed endurance when fighting high seas to save someone's life. Whether you are training for the Coast Guard HRSS or the Navy SAR training schools, this workout will help you prepare.  $15.97  

 

For complete list of BOOKS, EBOOKS, COACHING PRODUCTS (click)



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