Cart 0

Two Major Errors That Ruin Your CSS Time (500yd PST)

Stew smith

Part Two - The Secret Move to Fix Two Common Errors in Swimming

Head Out of Water During Inhale Phase
and Kick Errors

There are two things that crush your swim portion of the Navy SEAL / SWCC / EOD / Diver Physical Screening Test.  If you are not used to swimming 500yds, it is something that requires significant time learning how to swim, swimming more efficiently, as well as getting in swimming shape.  But if you can fix the following errors everything else falls into place nicely very quickly and you can learn the full technique.  Then all you have to do is worry about getting into swimming shape...

Smooth CSS

Head Out of the Water 

Fix this error and most of your problems go away minus a few minor fixes typically. If your head pops out of the water during the inhalation phase of the CSS, it wrecks everything:

KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN and your feet will no longer drag.  One move equates to TWO fixes of the main reason why your CSS is TOO SLOW. 

- Body Position - Your body position has to be in a streamlined swim position. When you lift your head out of the water, your feet actually drop and now instead of swimming horizontally - your power in your kick forces you to swim more diagonally. 

- Crushes your momentumCSS Swimming is all about remaining low in the water and turning to breathe vs popping up to breathe. When you lift your head out of the water you actually change the direction of your swim path from horizontal to vertical and you will actually stop moving in the water.  Combine this with a overly wide scissor kick and you can not only stop momentum but actually go backwards. (see below on the kick error). 

- Throws off your timing - Your top arm pull and breathe can be screwed up if you pop your head but it is likely you are popping your head up because your timing of the breathing / arm pull is off.  If you have a hard time turning your head with the freestyle catch / arm pull / breath, you will likely have the same problem with the CSS since they are identical pull and breathe portions of both strokes.  See freestyle catch.

- Bottom Arm Pull Error - Some people will start their bottom arm pull in a downward direction actually pushing themselves out of the water. Consider doing more of a breast stroke scull with the bottom arm pull.  So the top arm is freestyle / catch / breathe and the bottom arm is a breast stroke scull done while inhaling *(timing of the stroke).

- Panic Mode - The popping up of your head is typically a panic mode that most novice swimmers do versus a breast stroke style of breathing. Relax, think screw driver and turn to breathe not see-saw and pop up to breathe. When in doubt, practice freestyle swimming more and apply the arm pull and the breathing of the freestyle stroke to starting off the CSS with the top arm pull and turning to inhale. Same thing.  See Smooth CSS!

The Kick Errors (With Easy Fix)

There is a wide list of things people get wrong with the scissor kick of the CSS. Along with the top arm pull (free style catch), this is the biggest unit of propulsion of the swim stroke. Getting this wrong stops your momentum, creates no glide, and can waste energy as well. Here are the common errors with the kick and an easy fix.  

They call this a scissor kick because it looks like a pair of scissors opening and closing moving in the forward and backside plane of the body. The top leg pushes water with the back side of the top with a forward kick and the bottom leg will push water with the front side of the lower leg and top of the foot. 

Roll Over Too Quickly  - This is a side stroke where you spend most of the time on your side kicking and breathing on your side. You do the kick on your side and if you prefer, you can roll over to your belly DURING the glide phase or you can stay on your side.  But for those who prefer to glide on their belly and get a deeper freestyle catch on the next stroke, rolling over too quickly can screw up the kick. What happens is the kick starts out like a scissor kick on the side, but in the middle of the kick, some will roll over to their belly turning the scissor kick into a breast stroke kick completely dissipating the power of the scissorkick and missing out of the power of the breast stroke kick altogether.  Fix - Stay on your side during the scissorkick and during the 2-3 second glide - roll over toward your belly if you wish. 

PICK ONE OR THE OTHER.  You can do this kick with the scissor kick or the breast stroke kick.  Pick one as the combo of both makes for a weak kick and eliminates almost all of the glide. Avoid rolling in the middle of any kick.  Kick then roll during the glide. 

Adding Flutterkicks / Dolphin Kicks - For most people the addition of these kicks either off the wall or in between scissorkicks is a complete waste of energy for the effort it requires. The speed you may see in a 50m pacing drill is typically not sustainable for the non-swimming athlete.  My advice is do a 500yd swim test with the extra kicks one day and then try it without it - see if you notice a difference in your overall time, speed, pace maintenance, and energy levels for the rest of the PST. 

TOO Wide of a Kick - If you extend your legs actually like a pair of scissors both forward and backwards, you will put the brakes on in the middle of your swim. Try to sneak the legs up and whip kick outward with the front leg from the knee down and the back leg is a hard knee down push of the water.   You do not have to do a huge scissor kick to go faster Think of it as a whip kick.  

While You Are Here - Fix All Your Training Issues:

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

Recently updated

See Related Swimming Articles:
Dude - You Are NOT in Swimmer Shape

Common CSS Errors (part 1)

Common CSS Errors and Fixes (part 2)

Faster Run and Swim Times (PST Related)

Classic PST Training Week of Training

The PST Clinic - Form a Strategy for Success

Do You Want my REAL TIME Seasonal Periodization Training - Delivered Weekly?

Get Weekly Unpublished Workouts Tested and Evaluated by local
Stew Smith Training programs. 

Stew Smith Fitness Membership – You have access to years of workouts for both beginner / intermediate and advanced / special ops levels of fitness. Each week you will receive new and unpublished workouts being tested by Navy SEAL veteran / Stew Smith CSCS and his local group of future tactical professionals in both basic training and advanced spec ops training programming. The latest videos, articles, and other programming will be part of the weekly data feed to members as well. We go through the Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization program one week at a time.

Join the Online PT CLUB:
One On One Coaching with Stew Smith

If You Need a More Personalized Approach to Fit Your Needs, Goals, Time per Day, Days per week, Facilities, Abilities, etc...Try Online Coaching

Over weight? Out of Shape? Not meeting personal and professional standards of fitness and health? Try some one - on - one personalized assistance with your training goals and consider Online Coaching by Stew Smith CSCS. No matter what your goals, you and Stew will create a program together that works for you. 

VIDEO TESTIMONIAL:  Jim started with me several years ago needing help with his fitness and health. Over the years, we became friends and even business partners on a few joint ventures - I still send him weekly workouts. Here is a video testimonial that was placed in the middle of his podcast - I was shocked but wanted to share as it is a great story and quite typical of clients on any of the Online Training Programs.


Or Questions?  Just email me at

Or Try Workout Programming Specifically Designed for any Tactical Fitness Goal:


Who is Stew Smith? Coach, Trainer, Author, PodcasterI'm the former Navy SEAL that special ops 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 just about anything. We have a systems 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.  

My most recent programs that walk you through these four cycles with 12 weeks of each season in two programs. 

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)

The Specific Military / Special Ops Physical Fitness Workouts Where Optimal Performance Will Be Tested Each Day

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

Army PFT Workout (Prep For Rucking, OPAT, ACFT)
Army Special Forces / Ranger Workout
Army Air Assault School Workout
Army Airborne Workout


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

  1. FREE Articles
  2. Podcasts and Swimming Videos (Youtube, TikTok, Instagram)
  3. eBooks
  4. Books and eBooks in PRINT
  5. Stew Smith Fitness Club membership site
  6. Online Coaching  

Stew Smith Fitness 

Older Post Newer Post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published