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Swimming the CSS and Treading Water - Step By Step Breakdown (videos)

Stew Smith

Learning the CSS and Treading are two important skills for getting TO and THROUGH many training programs.  It is pure technique, effort, and repetition to master a skill. Get in the pool, master the technique and then get in shape to do it for the required time or distances.  Because most likely - Dude You are Not in Swimming Shape.

Here is a Breakdown of the Combat Swimmer Stroke (aka modified side stroke)

The CSS Broken Down

Top Arm, Bottom Arm/Breathe, Kick/Arm Recovery, and Glide. 

Top arm pull - FREE STYLE CATCH
Bottom Arm pull - BREAST STROKE SCULL (not a full arm pull) -
Glide - Work on your streamline in the water -  - this is how your glide should look after every kick / arm recovery of the CSS. 

Treading Water Requires Some
Practice Time and Technique

*IF you are having a problem getting treading down with either the egg-beater or the scissorkick left/right, work on your mobility.  For most people this is a mobility issue as people are unable to get their ankles up high enough with ankles turned out (like kicking a soccer ball to the bottom of the pool) and starting off the power stroke with shins near horitzonal for the egg-beater (or alternating breast stroke).  Try a 5 min tread followed by 5 min mobility on the pool deck for 30-45 minutes to work on both.  

But You Have to Practice Treading Too...

We practice treading as part of our 10 minute warm-up and 10 minute cool down every day we swim and that is 5-6 times a week. 
Treading Water 
Treading - learn the breast stroke kick - or whip kick - as it is very helpful to building up the legs for treading using the egg beater properly. 

The egg beater is nothing more than an alternating breast stroke kick - it is not two legs spinning in a horizontal circle in opposite directions like an egg beater (poor naming).   BUT think of it more of a vertical circle with a breast stroke kick.  Imagine kicking a soccer ball to the bottom of the pool with the inside of your foot. 
PS - You do not need to learn egg-beater.  It is just an option. You can also do an alternating scissor kick (left kick / right kick) if you prefer. 
Put it all together with pacing and learning HOW to take the PST:

500 yd swim
Pushups 2 min
Situps 2 min
Pullups max
1.5 mile timed run

More Training Programs, Ideas, and Guidance

Published Books Available in Stores and at Stew Smith Fitness

It depends:  The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness is a classic and focuses on high rep calisthenics and running and swimming base.  You will build up your running over 12-18 weeks to 20 miles but very fast paced focus on both the 1.5 mile run for the PST and the 4 mile timed run for weekly run test at BUDS. If you are an athlete with a strong power / strength background in lifting and not running or swimming, Navy SEAL Fitness is ideal for you. IF you need some place to start Navy SEAL Fitness is ideal for you as well because a calisthenics base / running / swimming progression is a good place to build a foundation.  Though you will likely need to spend some time in the Navy SEAL Weight Training Book OR if Navy SEAL FItness is too challenging, go with Navy SEAL SWCC, EOD, Diver, PST Phase 1 Workout.  Phase 1 is a good starting point if Navy SEAL Fitness program is too tough. 

Navy SEAL Weight Training - This is part two (winter lifting phase) of my SEAL Prep program. If you have done the Navy SEAL Fitness (12 weeks to BUDS) program a few times and need a break, this is the next program that integrates lifting with the Navy SEAL Prep training. This is ideal for people who have come from an endurance athlete background.  Athletes like swimmers and runners will also require some strength training as you will be exposed to challenges under logs and boats during the first phase and many miles of rucking 50+ lbs of backpacks and gear in 2nd and 3rd phases of BUDS.  Do not skip lifting in your year of training prep.  However, if you are coming from a powerlifting / football background, supplementing a few lifts into your endurance / muscle stamina focus plan is something you may enjoy especially if training for a year or more during your prep phase. 

Navy SEAL / SWCC, EOD, Diver Program Series - Phase 1 is what I call a beginner guide, but it is still challenging.  It is geared toward those who are scoring minimally or failing their Navy PST test - 500yd swim, pushups, situps, pullups, 1.5 mile run.  It is easier than The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness and a good prep course before attempting it. 

Phase 2 and 3 of the Navy SEAL / SWCC, EOD, Diver program is about the same level of intensity as Navy SEAL Fitness and is also a good follow-up plan after Phase 1

Phase 4 ot the Navy SEAL Key to Mental Toughness is by far my toughest workout ever created.  It resembles a day of BUDS, complete with "wet and sandy", runs after eating, high rep punishment push-ups, 4 mile timed runs, 2 mile swims with fins, log PT simulation, and even a HellWeek Simulator with 3 workouts a day.  

Click for more info     

Feel free to email me if you have any questions at

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