Underwater Swimming Strokes

My Underwater Swimming Strokes


I recently wrote about how I underwater swim here.

I’ve come far without writing about what got me to this point.

Understand that I am not trying swim as far as I can while I hold my breath as long as possible.  Instead I’m trying to swim laps underwater across the pool as efficiently as I can while coming up for air as I need to.

Here’s the progression of what got me to this silly point in my swimming career:

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Underwater drills

I decided to spend the first two to four laps underwater because I like it and it’s warmer and it’s more fun.  I looked on YouTube for tips.  The more I swam underwater, the more I swam underwater.  Now it is most of my work out after a few months of this.

Doing underwater drills got me excited about my swimming.  I started with these Michael Phelps drills and I worked on the one underwater and those on your back and sides until I’m pretty good at them now.  I look EXACTLY like Michael does at around 9:25 to 9:30 in this video.  You cannot tell us apart. I might actually be better.


When I first started the underwater drills, I found it very strenuous, and I needed to perform them early in my swim or I just couldn’t do them at all.  My first laps were underwater anyway, so I put this into the first 4 laps.  It just took over my workout from there.


I remembered someone trying to teach me dolphining, and then I found it online in The Shaw Way to Fly Part 1.  I practiced the undulations found here for weeks to get them to work well


I enjoy these drills so I did them all during the time I was working on my butterfly – about twelve weeks.  Then I just brought it underwater.  I’ve worked on no arms, crossed arms, arms out and arms back.  It takes minimal effort now to dive deep and dolphin fairly far whether I use my arms or not.

Underwater kicking

You Tube again showed me swimmers doing this to strengthen their legs so I tried it.  It’s hard! It takes a lot out of me to flutter kick 50 meters underwater.  That’s the hardest skill, aerobically.  Breast stroke kick is the one I feel in my legs the next day so that’s the one I focus on.  It’s hard on my weak lower body!  I watch the little tiles crawl by on the bottom of the pool as only my inadequate eggbeater legs try to propel me just one more slow inch.

Underwater arms

Then I thought I was good.  I lasted only two days of “arms only” before I had to re-think my strategy.  I was ripping my arms out by my shredded rotator cuffs, trying to pull all my weight by my comparatively weak arms.  Now I don’t really do Arms Only except when I forget myself.

Underwater full stroke

This, this is where I dwell now!  I dream of these moments and I want to get back in the pool with my big goofy grin, giggling as I type this.  How can exercise be so fun?

Clearly understand that each stroke is much different than its surface counterpart.  Whatever I first read that got me started on this path said to just get down there and let the water pressure dictate your strokes.  I have found that to be true.  Often the way your brain intuitively tells you to pull is not the way that you really can pull when you have water pressure on all sides.  The stress is different when submerged.

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Here’s the details on the five strokes I swim underwater.


I am a manta ray in the water.  I’m flying.  I’m happy.  I’m a superhero!  There is no more greater happiness than doing Underwater Butterfly Stroke right.  I roll up into a little ball and explode out into soaring across the pool.  I’m going faster than those on the surface doing freestyle sometimes. I’m faster than men when I get this going!

It’s fantastic when the open digits theory kicks in.

I can be more than halfway across the pool in three strokes and I can steer with my fingers.  My spine is almost hyper-extended.  My core undulation shoots me forward. This is insane fun.  I know those lap swimmers at the surface wish they were me when I pass them doing butterfly stroke 4 feet below them.

This is not something I can do everyday by any means.  It is a lot of work and coordination that I don’t always have in me that day.

Breast Stroke

I am a way better underwater breaststroker than I am at the surface.  My surface stroke is improving because of what I do underwater now.  Undeniably, both of my breast strokes still need a lot of work.  I’m focusing on my feet and legs right now.  I’m trying to get my feet to un-clench and it is not easy.


Back Stroke

Oh, now I really think I’m good.  I can shoot off the wall four feet down in the deep end and go straight back for more than a third of the pool.  The only reason I come up is because I get scared of how long I’ve been down there now.  Just wait until I gain confidence.  The feeling on my arms and loose skin issues is just wonderful.  Backstroke rules anyway, as is well known to all swimmers.

The hardest backstroke skill for me is endurance.  Finding a way to fling myself back upside down under the surface repeatedly has been the difficulty.  I’ve even tried to sink down like a pencil and spin around once I get to the level I want.  But then I end up with zero inertia which is difficult to progress out of without strain.  I don’t care though because it is an amazing place to be upside down like that.  My sinuses are very clear these days.

Edit:  Now that I was sick and injured all Fall 2012, my back stroke is gone in Jan 2013.  I’ve lost the strength to be able to do this stroke at all.  It’s something I’m working on but not too hard.  I’m resting my backstroke and breaststroke for now.


This is the hardest challenge I’ve had in swimming for a long time, if not my whole life.  It’s very impossible for me to coordinate myself underwater into doing freestyle.  Each of all four limbs goes in some wrong direction.  I am really struggling with this skill and it is so fun.  A swimming challenge – what more could I ask for at this point in my life?

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Other Issues for Underwater Swimming
Swimming with Open fingers

Llife changes! – Oh this man!

I’m searching for honors to nominate him for, not that Mr. Bejan needs more awards.  Yes he does, he needs to win everything.  The moment I released my fingers underwater, my muscles relaxed from my fingers to my shoulders, and even my neck.  My sore hands and wrists are being healed as I swim now.  My pull changed immediately to be more fluid.  I’m gaining the ability to steer with my hands.

Everything about my swimming has improved since I started swimming with open fingers.

Difficulty Level

I find underwater swimming to be very challenging.  I bust out to the surface near the end of my swim for about twenty minutes.  I find my surface swimming to be 40% as hard as the work I do underwater.  40%!  Can you believe it?  I feel like a light little snowflake up on the surface now; once released from the pressure of water on all sides.

What a rush.  Seriously.  I still haven’t timed myself, so don’t get too excited.  I’m sure I am still a very slow swimmer.


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Skills Tested:
Breath control

I have some now.  I think I could sing again which I haven’t been able to do since I was about 25 years old – half my life ago.  I’m not saying I should sing – but for me – the person who couldn’t breathe well enough to climb stairs – to have that dream again, is a miracle.  I may just go find a church choir to terrorize.  There’s always single men at church, I’ve come to know.


You have to find a place to grab the water – both with your legs and arms.  It’s a fantastic puzzle under the surface.  I feel like I understand SCUBA divers now. (But I am not going there.)  I’m having to reach much farther in all directions to get a catch onto the water.  It is so much harder and I really have to find a place to grab to gain propulsion. So now I also have a geometry problem. There is really not much more that can make this swimming accountant happy.

Better workout

I think it shows that I am having fun, fun, fun.  After the first day of focused underwater swimming I let myself go to the pool the next day – twice in a row.  I was so excited by the workout that I wanted to repeat it immediately.  I ended up paying for that one.

Loose Skin tightening

Yes, it is.  I believe it’s the swimming because I’ve noticed it in the weeks of underwater swimming a lot.  I’m also going heavy on the coconut oil and massage as well as still Dry Skin Brushing, but those all started before the underwater swimming.

I believe I see a dramatic difference on my inner arms and legs.  I am the most critical person in the world of myself.  If I say it looks better, smaller and tighter, I think you can believe me.

Limbs and torso lengthening and thinning

I try hard to pull from my core when I swim.  This technique seems to have really changed my body over the time I’ve done it.

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There is no turning back.  I am an underwater lap swimmer now with no desire to return to the surface for my full work out.  Consider that a warning, because I’m getting crazy down there.


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