How to Maximize Your SEAL Swim Score

An Officer Candidate School student takes a swimming test.
Officer Candidate School class 15-19 at the Lt. Michael P. Murphy Combat Training Pool in Newport, Rhode Island, qualifies during the second-class swimmer test on Aug. 9, 2019. (Darwin Lam/U.S. Navy photo)

If you are attempting multiple military or law enforcement physical screening tests (PST) like the SEAL, special warfare combatant craft crewman (SWCC) or explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), consider your strengths and weaknesses as well as your overall abilities. 

The Navy SEAL, SWCC, EOD and air rescue PT test is the following:

  • Swim 500 yards
  • Push-ups for two minutes
  • Sit-ups for two minutes
  • Max pull-ups
  • 1.5-mile timed run

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

Stew, I currently swim an 8:30 500-yard 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.


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 improve from 70 to 100 repetitions on push-ups and sit-ups or from 15 to 25 on pull-ups, you can increase your overall score by more than 120 points (one point per repetition on push-ups/sit-ups and six points on pull-ups/rep). By dropping a minute on the swim or the run, you can get 60 more points on the PST.

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

Swim 500-yard warmup CSS

Repeat 10 times

Swim 50-yard sprint freestyle

Swim 50-yard CSS at goal pace

Rest with one-minute tread, no hands

To break eight minutes on the PST, you need to learn how to swim a 47- to 48-second, 50-yard pace CSS.

Conservation of energy (for the PST)

Also remember that if you blow it all on the swim, 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 downshift your 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, running or PT only.

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

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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