Favorite Swim Workouts for Military Training Programs

A National Guardsman inflates her pants to act as a life vest.
Georgia Army National Guardsman Sgt. Grace E. Middleton, transportation specialist, representing the Ellenwood-based 78th Troop Command, inflates her pants to act as a life vest during the Combat Water Survival event during the 2019 Georgia Army National Guard Best Warrior competition at Fort Stewart, Ga., on March 4, 2019. (Sgt. 1st Class R.J. Lannom Jr./U.S. Army National Guard photo)

There are many military training programs that require some level of proficiency in swimming, either to survive for long periods of time floating, swimming or SCUBA diving with speed and efficiency. Here are many swim workouts to choose from and spread out through the week if you need to swim several days per week.

Drownproofing and treading water skills: Even if you do not have a big pool, you can practice these skills in a small, hotel-type pool or in the deep end of a backyard swimming pool.

Treading water: Practicing "vertical swimming" is a skill that can save your life one day. Some programs require you to tread water with no hands, using a variety of kicks (scissor kicks, breaststroke kicks, egg-beater kicks) in order to challenge their water skills.

Elements of a drownproofing test (tread, float, bottom bounce, etc.) are great rest exercises between fast swimming sets of 100-200 meters in length. See this sample workout:

Repeat 10 times.

  • Swim 100-200 meters fast (any stroke)

  • Tread water one minute between (with or without hands)

If pressed for time, mixing in some PT exercises on the pool deck between swim sets is a great addition to any future military member.

Repeat 10 times.

  • Swim 100 meters fast

  • Push-ups 10-20 

  • Abs of choice 20 or plank pose one minute

Swim with fins: Many of your Special Ops world training programs will require you to SCUBA dive and swim with fins. Sample workout challenges can be long and require some time to build up:

Swim 500 meters with fins. Warm up by stretching your legs and ankles. Swim up to 1-2 miles in 30-60 minutes with fins.

Focus on technique and mix in cardio conditioning at the same time:

Repeat 10 times.

  • Swim 100 meters freestyle fast/sprint mode (get very winded)

  • Rest with 50m easy stroke (side / back stroke)

Keep moving through this one -- very little rest on the side of the pool.

Finally, know your swim test and make it a warmup.

For many of the Special Ops swim tests, you will have to perform a 500-meter timed swim. Make this your daily swim warmup. Then start your workout for another 1,500-2,000 meters of swim distance.

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 stew@stewsmith.com.

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