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Can't Bottom Bounce for Drown Proof Test - Help!

The Navy SEAL and Air Force PJ Drown-Proofing Test is a tough one and will either instill water confidence or terrify a student out of the program.  Before I even mention the question, please do not EVER tie yourself with hands behind your back and feet together and jump in a pool prior to joining the military.  You can practice simulating this test and if you have a tough time keeping your feet together you can use a rubber band to remind you your feet cannot separate during the test.  BUT - do not do this for real and especially NEVER alone.

Here is the question with a little background:

STEW - I am currently training in preparation to become an USAF PJ. When attempting the bobbing exercise, it seems that I stay afloat midway and can only touch my feet on the floor when I use my hands. I am lean and not overweight so I do not understand why I cannot sink.  Any suggestions? Am I just positive in the water even when simulating my hands/feet being restrained?

PS. I will be purchasing your
Air Force PJ / CCT Workout Guide soon and look forward to it. Thank you for your insightful articles.

It never fails - we all have an issue with at least one of the events of the Spec Ops Drown Proofing Test.  The test consists of first tying your hands behind your back and your feet together at the ankles.  Then you jump into a 9 ft pool.  Once in the water you have to perform a variety of skills - these are:

Bottom Bounce - If you are lean this drill is easy (or should be).  You just sink to the bottom and bounce off enough so you can breathe (head out of the water) and repeat.  Sounds easy but if you are positively buoyant you have to add in a few skills like exhaling as you descend.  Another trick is to really propel yourself off the bottom as if you were trying to slam a basketball - so jump hard.  This will build up momentum and make it easier to come back down.  Try to get your chest out of the water every time and gravity will do the rest for you.  You have to stay straight - one little bend of your legs / back and it will mess up the momentum going down. 

Float - Doing a dead man float is not that tough BUT it is if you are negatively buoyant and have your hands / feet tied.  What I recommend is try to hold your breath for 15-20 seconds each breath and bend at the waist so your lungs bring you to the surface.  Your back should just break the surface, when you need to breathe arch your back, stick your head up, and do a dolphin kick to insure that you have time to fully inhale.  Get back into the 90 degree angle bend at the waist and do little whip kicks from the knees down to stay close to the surface every so often.

Travel - The only way to swim with hands and feet tied is by doing a dolphin kick.  Whip kick from the knees down to propel yourself through the water for 100m.  Do not touch the bottom in the shallow end if you have to swim past a 3-4 ft section.  Just kick and breathe. 

Front / Back Flip - After traveling, you have to do a few bottom bounces to catch your breath and build up some momentum off the bottom to do a front flip.  I recommend immediately after you bounce off the bottom, bend over at the waist - add a few extra whip kicks - and flip on over.  I like to bounce from the bottom again then come up to breathe but it is up to you how you get your next breath.  Then do it in reverse.   Same thing - immediately after bouncing off the bottom, lean back like you were doing a gainer off a diving board - add a few whip kicks while back is arched - and flip on over.  Bounce or kick to the surface to breathe.

Mask Retrieval - By the way - you cannot use a mask / goggles with this drill.  In fact, your mask is sitting on the bottom and you have to dive down and get it.  Do this the same way you do a bottom bounce, but drop to your knees once your feet touch the bottom.  Then bend over and grab a mask with your teeth and swim up to the surface.  You are done!

There is nothing wrong practicing this test, but do not do it alone or with tied hands / feet.  Remember train hard - but also train smart!

Related Articles / Videos:

Passing Military Swim Tests

The Combat Swimmer Stroke Video  see CSS Link

Underwater Swim Technique Video

Swim / PT - Drownproofing Video

See the Navy SEAL Exercise APP - featuring Drown Proofing / Swimming / Weights / PT / TRX etc...



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. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Fitness eBook store and the
Stew Smith article archive at To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at

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