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.  

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.

Before You Buy - Give Stew a Call - There is a human behind this purchase! 410-271-0837  
and let Stew be your coach!


Or Questions?  Just email me at

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

Which Program is Right For Me - Special Ops Candidates 



Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1 Beginner Weeks 1-9 
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2 - 3 - Intermediate Weeks 1-12
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4 Grinder PT - Four weeks before Hell Week

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.  

Navy SEAL Weight Training Book
Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness Book

The Pipeline of Training Options: 


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. 

Special Ops – Most of my programs tend to focus on getting TO and THROUGH a specific tactical training program. So you may see a mix of all the seasons in some of these books, but if you are training long term, you can take advantage of Seasonal Periodization and save yourself some of the over-use, long term pains that tend to follow many of the tactical preparations - especially on the spec ops level of training. 

Start training today with workouts that focus on the specifics of getting to and through tactical profession training from firefighter, police, swat, military to special ops. We have programs to help you get TO and THROUGH training.


Seasonal Tactical Fitness Programs 

Especially These That Are Used For Local Spec Ops Candidates Last Year


Tactical Fitness Series - Tactical Fitness, Tactical Strength, and Tactical Mobility is an ALL-encompassing program that focuses on lifting, calisthenics, run, ruck, swim, speed, agility, and flexibility / mobility. Many people focusing on USMC (OCS, RECON, MarSOC) Army Ranger / SF, Air Force Special Warfare, SWAT / Federal Law Enforcement, and Navy Special Warfare have done very well focusing on the Tactical Fitness Series and developing themselves into an all-round Tactical Athlete

The Warrior Workout Series - If you are solid with making your own workouts, but need some ideas.  This three part series has 300 workouts (100 / book) to pick from focusing on all the elements of fitness and training programs. Each book is organized with periodization cycles in mind along with calisthenics only, weights / calisthenics mix, cardio options and more. Warrior Workout 1   -  Warrior Workout 2  -   Warrior Workout 3. 

At - List of Products and Services

  1. FREE Articles
  2. Podcasts and Swimming Videos at page  
  3. eBooks
  4. Books and eBooks in PRINT
  5. Stew Smith Fitness Club membership site
  6. Online Coaching  

Older Post Newer Post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published