How to Swim Underwater for Distance

Swimming underwater is about more than just holding your breath.
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Swimming underwater for distance is an exercise in balancing speed and oxygen depletion. The dangers, even for experienced swimmers, are very real. Your top asset is a strong kick-off and a stroke that doesn't expend too much precious energy. Using flippers can intensify your strokes as well. The dolphin kick, in which you keep your feet and arms together and move in a dolphin-like wave, may be a useful ally for swimming underwater. In fact, Olympians use the undulating dolphin kick to get a strong underwater start in a race.

Training Outside the Pool

    Step 1

    Stand 10 yards away from your pull-up bar. Take in a breath and hold it. The goal is to complete entire exercise several times before needing to take a breath, but be sure to stop and breathe when you need to.

    Step 2

    Do a forward roll. Bend into a tucked position with your knees bent and ease yourself forward over one shoulder. Roll onto your backside and stand up. This movement mimics the initial push off and glide when you're in the water. You can also roll forward on your side, like a hotdog or rotisserie, if that is more comfortable for you.

    Step 3

    Walk to the pullup bar. Complete one pullup and one squat, return to your starting position and do another squat.

    Step 4

    Repeat the circuit until you have to breathe. A 50-yard underwater swim would equal five circuits. As you feel the need to breathe, exhale slightly to blow off carbon dioxide. It may allow you to continue for a few more seconds. Training outside the pool allows you to practice holding your breath without the obvious danger of drowning.

Training in the Pool

    Step 1

    Practice underwater swimming with a buddy. Even experienced swimmers can put themselves at risk, and there is the dangerous possibility of losing consciousness underwater.

    Step 2

    Get deep enough in the water that your body doesn't break the surface, but not so deep that you can't surface quickly. Creating waves also creates drag, so staying under the water allows you to glide smoothly.

    Step 3

    Kick off from a firm surface, if possible. This is a surefire way to make distance through the water without using up too much energy or oxygen. You can easily add several meters to your distance in a strong kickoff.

    Step 4

    Use a dolphin kick, in which you keep your legs together instead of using them separately. Put your arms straight in front of you, one hand over the other, fingers together and pointed. Kick forward in a swift whipping motion with both legs to propel your body forward. Bend at the hips slightly so that your legs are just in front of your body. Your body should make an undulating motion that allows you to glide.

    Keep arms and legs together.

    Step 5

    Use flippers to strengthen and intensify your kick and lengthen each stroke. If you use a dolphin kick, there are connected flippers that go over both feet, but separated flippers may give you more versatility.

    Step 6

    Minimize strokes, and focus on gliding through the water between strokes. When you're deprived of oxygen, there is a temptation to fight through the water as quickly as possible. But this will only deplete your energy faster. Strong, slow kicks will propel you through the water without robbing you of energy.


    • Practice the leg movement and undulation of your dolphin kick while holding onto the side of the pool before you try it for distance underwater.


    • Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise regime, especially if you have issues related to breathing.


    • Practice swimming, especially underwater distance swimming, with a buddy to avoid the danger of losing consciousness.


    • Do not attempt to hyperventilate, or take several deep, quick breaths, before diving.


    • It doesn't help you swim farther and it can deregulate the flow of oxygen to the brain. One strong, full breath is all that is necessary.

    Things You'll Need

    • Pull-up bar

    • Pool

    • Swimsuit

    • Flippers

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