Swimming with Fins: Flippers, SCUBA, to Rocket Fin Progression

Maj. Breck Perry, left, and Sgt. Christopher Rateau-Holbach swim laps with fins during a scout swimmers course Oct. 21, 2014 at the Camp Hansen Aquatics Center. The final event is a two-kilometer surface swim with fins. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Abbey Perria)

Many questions received often depend on the goals of the person asking the question. Just starting a fitness program with running or swimming and wondering what kind of gear is needed or preferred is different than those seeking different goals like triathlons, marathons, military, and even special ops level goals. Here is an answer that answers a common question for any level of swimming in pools regardless of goals:

Sir, What kind of fins would you recommend for pool swimming? Chris

Swimming in a pool with fins is nothing new. Swim teams, beginners, advanced master swimmers, SCUBA divers, and military special ops trainees will use swimming pools in their training as well as fins on their feet. But, it truly depends on your goals. Just swimming? Get some slip-on flippers (FINIS brand is great option.)

To get your ankles used to the bigger fins, you need to start practicing with typical SCUBA fins. A moderately stiff fin from companies like US Diver or Cressi have the ability to build your ankle and leg strength for longer swims and dives.

For special ops - you need a stiffer and longer SCUBA fin that requires booties also, a you will be issued Rocket fins, or Jet Fins if spec ops is in your future. Your ability to swim 45-90 minutes or more with fins will be required regularly in military diving / combat swimming programs (SEAL, Divers, SWCC, PJ, RECON, MarSOC, etc).

Here is a sample leg swimming workout to build your leg joints and muscles for longer endurance with fins:

Swim 500m warmup with fins

Repeat 10 times

  • 50m freestyle, side stroke, or dolphin kick
  • 50m back stroke (kick only) aka “turtlebacking”
  • Swim 500m cooldown with or without fins

If at any time your feet, ankles, legs hurt, take the fins off and continue for 5-10 minutes without fins, then put them on again until they start to bother you again. Eventually, the pain will go away and you will build up the ability to swim for hours if you need to with fins.

The options are actually a good progression to go from just swimming, to starting with slip on fins, to build up to stiffer SCUBA fins. A good model of swimming with fins for a steady workout is 30-45 minutes. Typical SCUBA divers can take 30-45 minutes as well so you have to get used to moving your legs with fins one in open water. Some waters will have current to swim through or your ability to see more of the underwater world will require your ability to kick your legs. Practicing swimming in SCUBA fins will make your SCUBA dives much more enjoyable. And it is a great leg workout no matter what the ultimate goal of swimming with fins is.

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Swimming Fitness Workouts