The 50-50 swim workout has become popular with Spec Ops candidates over the past few years. Many use this workout multiple times per week to get into better swimming shape so they can handle the 500-yard or 500-meter swim test required for special ops candidates.
Typically, the Navy PST or the Air Force PAST/OFT requires candidates to reach a goal pace of a yard or meter per second. Reach this level, and you'll have a good above-average score on the swim, PT and run tests needed to get into the training programs.
This is the 50-50 workout:
Warmup with a 500-meter swim (free, CSS or mixed)
The mental victory of turning a 500-meter swim into a warmup is a huge accomplishment for a special ops candidate who was previously a non-swimming athlete.
Simply being able to say that "500 meters is just my warmup" is a huge stress reducer, especially during the PT tests that determine whether you get to join the training pipeline.
When starting out, you may not complete a 500-meter swim without stopping. That is fine. Rest as needed. The swim will get easier the more often you do it.
After warming up, start the 50-50:
Repeat 10 times
Swim 50 meters free hard and fast
Swim 50 meters CSS (combat swimmer stroke) at goal pace
Rest as needed every 100 meters but build up to a level where the CSS is your recovery.
Cool down with a 500-meter swim or 10-minute tread (mixing in no hands as often as possible)
Even though the 50-50 workout takes 10-minute 500-yard or 500-meter swim times to eight minutes in 4-6 weeks with workouts 4-5 times a week, some people look for more once this workout gets easy.
If you do not have a solid swimming base or running base, you may need to take this workout up another notch to see the same improvements listed above.
The next progression is the 75-75, which is simply replacing the 50-meter free and 50-meter CSS with 75-meter sets of both.
Always warm up with the 500-meter swim (free or CSS or mixed). You will find this gets easier and your time gets shorter if you consistently start the swimming workout with the actual test.
After warming up, start the 75-75:
Repeat 10 times
Swim 75 meters free hard and fast
Swim 75 meters CSS at goal pace
Rest as needed every 150 meters but build up to a level where the CSS is your recovery.
The cooldown depends on your weakness. If you need to swim more, use the 500-meter swim as a cooldown. If you need to tread more, tread water for 10 minutes, with a majority of your treading done with no hands.
For those of you who need a bigger challenge or just require a bigger cardio base, the 100-100 is your next step. By doing 200-meter swimming sets, you start to build to the level that will allow you to pass the test and be competitive on the swim and other events as well.
For non-swimming athletes, this is a tough journey. Proper technique and conditioning workouts like this can help tremendously at building the base needed for the 500-meter and longer swim distances as well.
Here is the 100-100:
Warm up with the 500-meter swim. Be consistent. All swims start with this warmup, and you should build up to do it without stopping.
Repeat 5 times
Swim 100 meters freestyle
Swim 100 meters CSS at goal pace
Rest as needed but limit as best you can to 15-20 seconds.
Cool down by working on your weakness whether it's swimming or treading. If you need help with both, do both for a total of 10-15 minutes.
This workout progression will boost your swim ability, water confidence and overall cardiovascular conditioning base. I promise that any time you train for a 500-meter test by swimming 1,500-2,000 meters, you will be in shape for the test.
You also will learn to enjoy the non-impact benefits of swimming and have them as a training tool for the rest of your life. I know as I age into my 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond, swimming will become a bigger part of my personal cardio training.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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