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Ask Stew: How to Maximize Your SEAL Swim Score

Combat Swimmer Stroke

If you are attempting multiple military or law enforcement physical screening tests (PST) like the SEAL, SWCC, EOD, you need to consider your strengths and weaknesses as well as your overall abilities. 

To achieve your maximum score, practice the test until you figure out the most effective strategy that factors your overall strengths and weaknesses. Here is a question about doing better on the Navy SEAL PST swim portion of the test.

Reference: The Navy SEAL, SWCC, EOD, Air Rescue PT test is the following:

Swim 500 yards, 2 minute pushups, 2 minute situps, max pullups, and 1.5 mile timed run.

Stew, I currently swim an 8:30 500yd Combat Swimmer Stroke (CSS). How long do you think it will take me to get to a 7:30? And what workouts do you recommend to get to that pace? Thank you for your time sir.  Trey.

My questions are, “What is good enough for you?”  What are your other scores? Are you struggling with the PT or the run at the end?  My answer is IT DEPENDS.

If you are struggling with the PT exercises and can gain points by increasing from 70-100 repetition on pushups or situps or from 15 to 25 on pullups, you can actually increase your overall score by over 120 points focusing on the PT section  (1 point per repetition on pushups / situps and 6 points on pullups/rep). By dropping a minute on the swim or the run, you can get 60 points more on the PST.

Strategically speaking, it really depends on your natural strengths and weaknesses. By all means, get good and border line great at everything on the PST, but an 8:30 is already pretty competitive on the PST. Getting that closer to 8 minutes will naturally occur with regular swim workouts like the following:

Swim 500 yds warmup CSS

Repeat 10 times
Swim 50 yds sprint FREE
Swim 50 yds CSS at goal pace.
Rest with 1 min tread no hands

If you have a goal to break 8 minutes on the PST, you need to learn how to swim a 47-48 second 50 yard pace CSS.

Conservation of Energy (for the PST)
You have to also remember that if you blow it all in the swim and give it all you have on the swim portion of the test, your ability to perform optimally on the PT and the run will decrease. You have to be fast, but you also need to be in shape enough to down shift effort but increase your scores.

This requires good technique and continued conditioning in the pool every day (at least 5-6 days a week.)  Do not neglect the other elements of the PST either and just focus on swimming or running or PT only.

That is how you get to 7:30 from where you are now.

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Stew Smith works as a presenter and editorial board member with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He has also written hundreds of articles on's Fitness Center that focus on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

Latest Fitness Books: Navy SEAL Weight Training and Tactical Fitness