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Passing Military and Special Ops Swim Test

Stew Smith, CSCS

Many future military and law enforcement special operations team members have to learn how to be comfortable in the water.  Whether that is to SCUBA dive, swim for miles, or learn insertions and extractions from the water using boats, submarines, or helicopter, learning to swim while wearing full combat gear is a requirement in many special operations units.  Here is a common email from a recruit:

Hello Sir, I am trying to go spec-ops. I am required to pass a swim test which involves me swimming 25 m in uniform with boots on and an assault rifle. What do you think is the best way to go about doing this? Any input is appreciated. Thank you.

The more comfortable you get in the water the easier this test becomes.  Swimming with clothes on for the first time is a shock and requires much more effort than in normal swimming trunks.  So do not let the test be the first time you do this test – PRACTICE it – but never alone.  A good way to describe the feeling of swimming with clothes / gear is like swimming in mud.  You just do not glide or travel very far for every stroke / kick you perform.

After a normal swimming workout of 1000-2000m – you should be capable of doing this if you are seeking a job that requires this water survival test – try adding a sweatshirt to a swim for a few laps.  Do this small addition for a week or so.  Then add a pair of pants after the workout for a few laps.  Feel free to rest on the wall as you will be tired.  Then add boots or shoes for a week of post swim skill sessions.  Finally, add some form of weight to simulate a weapon.  Usually weapons will weight 8-12 lbs so you could use a dumbbell or a plate or find a weighted bar to resemble a gun.  Give it a month of adding this supplement to your swimming 2-4 times a week and doing it for just 25m will not be an issue.

See Swimming Workout Options if you need to create your own swim workouts:

Also related article – Passing Military Swim Tests


  • 100_0385_max50


    over 5 years ago


    I believe all comments made in Mr. Smiths swim test article to be very true based on my experiences. If I could add anything to it prior to testing I would definitely reccomend situps and leg raises to the point of muscle failure. This would help anyone wanting to succeed in thier swim test and overall conditioning.

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