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Underwater Set to Dramatically Increase Your Speed



Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, and Caleb Dressel have what in common? UNDERWATERS!! That’s right; if you want to be fast at pretty much everything 500 yards and below, you’ll need to have fast underwaters.


Why are underwaters so important?

Off the start, and the turns are the fastest you’ll ever be in the water. Being able to maintain that speed longer means you’ll be faster overall.

How far can I kick underwater?

15 meters for Butterfly, Backstroke, and Freestyle

2 Common problems that most swimmers have

#1: The swimmer is unfamiliar and doesn’t know how to be efficient underwater.

#2: Underwaters are trying.

The set below focuses on these two common problems.

Equipment needed: Bungee tied to the wall. There should be minimal to no slack while the swimmer is on the wall.

Underwater Set:


(*See below for round recommendation based on skill level) x

  • 5 x push-offs with 10 med kicks (try to get as far out from the wall as possible. Remember where that distance is)

  • 10 x push-offs with 6 fast kicks (make it to the same distance as above)

*Beginners – 4 rounds, Intermediate – 7 rounds, Advance – 10 rounds


After every last underwater kick, swim back fast (butterfly or breaststroke) to the wall with a fast open hand turn.

30 sec rest between rounds


Tips to think about while doing the drill:

- Upkick and down kick have the same effort

- Streamline position

- Engage your core

- Air: when should you inhale and exhale?

- Use hips to help drive your legs

- Head position

- The angle you push off the wall

Pro tip:

  1. Off the wall and start count 1 full second before you start to do your kick. Kicking too early will create drag and won’t allow all the air bubbles to come off your body entirely.

  2. Magnitude of kick: a good rule of thumb is the width of your body should be the magnitude of your kick.

  3. Use an underwater camera to help analyze your technique.

  4. Moving your legs faster does not always mean faster underwaters. Use this drill to feel the water. Going a little slower, but grabbing the water is better than just kicking as fast as you can. Build up strength and flexibility to maintain that ability to “grab” the water and increase the speed of your kick.

Remember, this underwater set is challenging, and you might need to adjust. When I started, I could do a 25-yard underwater just under 11 seconds (from the start). I implemented the set above 2 times a week for about 6 months, and my 25-yard time dropped to mid 8 seconds. I had a lot of help from my coaches and fellow teammates to correct my kick and improve my efficiency. With a little practice, you’ll be able to improve your underwaters!

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