Try This Time-Saving Workout That Can Help with Dive and Rescue Swimmer Training

A senior airman completes a swimming workout.
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Megan Stanton, 366th Medical Operations Squadron medic, completes a swim workout July 11, 2013, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. (1st Lt. Bryant Davis/U.S. Air Force photo)

Once you start learning about military fitness, you'll find that there are classic combination workouts used throughout the military training world. If you have ever had to squeeze in multiple exercises into a short period of time due to your busy schedule, you may have come across what many refer to as "swim PT."

If you have attended rescue swimming training, dive school or other aquatic special ops programs, you may have had an extended pool session with some of the following events. I've listed some of the classic ways to work on your swimming endurance, technique and calisthenics conditioning below.

Swim PT: If You Only Have 30 Minutes, Try This Workout

Repeat as many times as you can in 30 minutes:

  • Swim: 100 meters any stroke
  • Push-ups: 20
  • Flutter kicks: 20
  • Pull-outs: 10 (muscle up on pool edge)

Swim and Tread PT: If You Need to Work on Treading

Repeat five times (30 minutes total):

  • Swim three minutes fast (any stroke)
  • Rest with three minutes of treading (mix in no hands, hands only and a mix of both treading types)

Underwater Mask Swim

With a partner swimming freestyle over you, swim underwater for as long as you comfortably can. When you need to breathe, leave the mask on the bottom and trade places with your swim buddy.

As you now swim on the surface, your buddy must clear the mask and begin swimming underwater. You can only advance the mask by swimming underwater. Continue this underwater, surface swim and mask clearing combination until you either accumulate 500 total yards or set a 30-minute time limit. If that's too far, set a time limit that fits your abilities.

Swim Fast with Fins

If you only have 30 minutes and want to get the most out of your swimming with no resting, try this combination that allows you to still move while catching your breath.

Repeat for 30 minutes total:

  • Swim: 75 meters fast (any stroke)
  • Swim: 25 meters turtle backing (flutter kicks only while on your back with face out of the water, breathing to catch your breath)

See whether you can get 1,500-2,000 meters total in 30 minutes.

Personally, I find that mixing in a wide variety of calisthenics with any swim stroke makes for a challenge to both swimming and calisthenics. You can get more done in a shorter period and take away much of the monotony of just swimming and looking at a black line in the pool for your workout the entire time.

If you are considering any military scuba or rescue swimmer course, you will need to get creative with your swim workouts to prepare for the long hours in the pool, performing swimming and diving skills and workouts mixed together on the pool deck.

-- Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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