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Three Things That Slow Your Swim Time

Stew smith

Three Things That Slow You Down in the Water
(And You Need to Fix ASAP if You Want to Crush 500yd / 500m PST / IFT Swims)

Weak Kick / Streamline Position Off the Wall – By not producing a powerful kick and tight streamline position or pulling the arms too quickly off the wall, you lose out on free distance with little to no effort other than a short breath hold. Learning a proper and practicing a powerful “breaststroke pullout” is key to your success no matter how long the pool is you will be using. Here is the sequence you need to master off the wall: (awkward kick off ruin momentum) 

a - Strong JUMP - Similar to jumping to grab the rim of a basketball hoop, you need to put some power into the horizontal squat jump off the wall. Hold this glide for 4-5 seconds typically. 

b - Get a good double arm pull (breast stroke pullout) -  Pull hard with your arms (*at the elbow) in a vertical position like an oar. Use your lats to pull like a pullup, then transition to a hard push with your shoulders and triceps like you are doing a dip. Together, think muscle up level of effort on this arm pull off the wall.  Hold this glide position for 2-3 more seconds. 

NOTE - your arms should not look like you are doing a jumping jack off the wall - it needs more power than that - "think muscle up". 

My breaststroke pullout / CSS swim

c - Kick and Recover Arms Overhead - Before you slow to a stop, it is time to now kick your legs (breast stroke or scissor kick) and recover the arms tightly overhead in a streamline body position. Your hands should be scrapping your torso on the way up from where the pullout stroke left them by your hips. 

d - Now start the CSS stroke - Pull - Breathe - Kick - Glide (3 Mississippi's) - repeat. See article on the topic. 

Over gliding – If you hold the glide position for too long, you will eventually quit moving then you must recreate the momentum again with the next stroke. Off the wall you maybe able to get 5 seconds of glide time if the power and streamline positioning is present and during the stroke of the CSS (commonly used in these special ops tests) the common glide time is less than 3 seconds after the kick into the glide position. With the CSS, most people can effectively glide after the kick for 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, Pull on THREE. 

"Pull on THREE" 

Popping Head Up to Breathe – If doing the freestyle, side stroke, or CSS, you want to turn to breathe, not pop your head up to breathe as you can lose horizontal movement when you go vertical to breathe. Plus, your body acts like a seesaw and when your head pops up, the legs tend to drop causing a diagonal swim position. This is much less effective than being in a horizontal body position in the pool.

See recent video critique on TIKTOK (link) with the pop up to breathe killing all momentum.

If you have fixed all of your technique issues and still slow in a 500yd/500m swim, THEN conditioning is the issue!

This is the workout that I have been having folks do 5-6 times a week and go from 10+ minutes on the 500yd or 500m swim test to the 8 minute zone (some even sub-8 min) IN ONE MONTH...


My set goal for all swim workouts is a yard or meter per second.  That means 500ys = 500 seconds = 8:20.  1000yds = 1000 seconds = 16:40.  Now this is an above average speed and anything under 9 minutes / 18 minutes is acceptable and still a few minutes below the minimum standards.  The minimum standards is NOT a goal for any future spec ops candidate...

I also have one for the Air Force Special Warfare candidates as their challenging events in the water are similar but require a few subtle changes. But you can still do this one for the 500m focused training you need to master as well. 

Enjoy as I have seen so many people who do this for a month drop from the 10 minute zone or higher to the sub 9 / even sub 8 min zone. Just add this to your normal training day though you may want to replace your swim workout if you have not see much improvement.

Do not forget.  I review CSS swims on video so send them and I will critique them for you so you have the CSS technique down and at least ONE lap of 50yds in 50 seconds. 

Check Them Out on Instagram and TikTok and Do Not Forget Youtube

Instragram (@stewsmith50) - Fun workout posts / CSS videos, cool pics

TikTok (@stewsmith50) - ONLY Spec Ops Swim Videos (swim, drownproofing, life saving, underwater, and more will be posted here). 

But Long Before the platforms above I was posting on Youtube.  Still do - Tune in to the Two for Tuesday LIVE Q and A where I critique swim videos and take LIVE questions. 

If you want help, that’s what I do…. Check out these resources that have helped spec ops candidates succeed where others have failed for the last 20+ years!

Training is What We Do: 

Need Programming for Fitness Tests and Beyond?  We are all about getting you TO and THROUGH your future training program.  See how that works.  

There is More To than a You May Know

(In fact, there are more than 40 books, 1000+ articles, online coaching - and more) 

Who is Stew Smith CSCS? Coach, Trainer, Writer, PodcasterI'm the former Navy SEAL that tactical candidates go to for books, ebooks and online coaching to prepare themselves to get to and through intense tactical assessment and selection programs and qualify for service in their chosen tactical profession.  See More at

Where to Find More Information About Optimal Performance Training Programs

When you start training again, consider the seasonal tactical fitness model.  I call it A WAY to train and obviously not the only way to train. But it offers the opportunity to never neglect your weaknesses, helps with flexibility and mobility, but will also put you at a level of physical abilities where you are happy with your overall ability to do just about anything. We have a system where the seasons dictate our training. When it is nicer outside, we tend to run and do more calisthenics. When it is colder and not so nice, we lift more, run less, and still maintain our outdoor activities with shorter runs and rucks. Check it out: Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization System.  

These Seasonal Tactical Fitness BLOCK Periodization programs will walk you through 4 x 4 weeks cycles with 16 weeks of each season in two programs. (32 total weeks)

Increase Strength & Crush the PST / PAST
3 Weeks Strength - 1 Week PT / Cardio Focus 
(16 weeks)

These programs will walk you through 4 cycles with 12 weeks of each season in two programs. 

The Specific Military / Special Ops Physical Fitness Workouts 

Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2 - 3
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4  Grinder PT
Navy SWCC Workout

Army / Air Force Advanced Fitness / Special Ops 

Army PFT Workout (Prep For Rucking, OPAT, ACFT)
Army Special Forces / Ranger Workout
Army Air Assault School Workout
Army Airborne Workout
Air Force Special Warfare IFT / OFT / Selection Prep


Advanced Running Program - Special Ops Supplement Plan
USMC OCS / TBS Workout


The Combat Conditioning Workout
Air Force PJ / CCT Workout  Battlefield Airman Prep Course
The UBRR Upper Body Round Robin Workout / Spec Ops version


The Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer / Navy SAR Workout
The Service Academy Workout (West Point, Navy, Air Force Academy)
The Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp Boot Camp Workout


The Law Enforcement Physical Fitness Workouts

The FBI Academy Workout  |   FBI Workout Vol 2  
The DEA Workout
The FLETC Workout - Ace the PEB
The PFT Bible: Pushups, Sit-ups, 1.5 Mile Run
The Fire Fighter Workout - Ace the CPAT


Online Coaching Options

Online PT CLUB - Weekly Workouts created personally for you.

New Member's Only Content / Services Program!

If you want access to years worth of workouts, many of the top eBOOKs, favorite workouts of the week, free fitness APP, closed Facebook Group, video / picture library of exercises, and more access to LIVE Q/A sessions check out the Stew Smith Fitness Members Section

The dashboard below has the links to all the information, archives, videos, and links to workouts, podcasts, live Q and A lessons. 

Consider this! - A Membership Program and Gain Access to Exclusive Content
(click for Fitness Club Dashboard - members only)

Best of all, if you have questions, email Stew Smith himself (  Join the tactical fitness group discussions, latest articles, videos, podcasts at the Stew Smith Tactical Fitness Training Closed Group on Facebook.


Questions?  Just email -

At - List of Products and Services

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