Preparations: The Kick Divers Need

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Outside Magazine, November 1994

Preparations: The Kick Divers Need
By John L. Stein

One item that you won’t find on the “before-you-dive” checklist is strong legs, but physiologists say that’s where scuba divers are often least prepared. Once you’re strapped in to a pair of big fins, the same quads and hamstrings that usually propel you with ease can fatigue quickly under a new kind of workload. Unexpected challenges like currents, surge, and long surface
swims can make things that much worse.

So to ensure that your relaxing tropical vacation is just that, do some pre-trip pool work. Larry Liebowitz, head coach of the Santa Barbara Swim Club Team and its four national champions, prescribes a four-week schedule with three workouts per week. For the first two weeks, do two endurance workouts for every interval workout; in the last two weeks it’s vice versa, and there’s
more fin work. Of course every session consists predominantly of kicking–you don’t see many divers doing the crawl.

Endurance Workout

  • 10 minutes warm-up, freestyle
  • 10 minutes flutter kick with a kickboard
    For each minute, alternate 10 seconds kicking hard with 50 seconds kicking easy.
  • 500-yard pyramid, freestyle
    Using a pull buoy to rest your legs, swim 250 yards broken into four distances–25, 50, 75, and 100 yards–resting for 20 seconds between efforts. Then do the same distances in reverse order.
  • 5 minutes dolphin kick with a kickboard
    Lengthen the set by one minute each week.
  • 10 minutes cooldown, freestyle
    Starting in week three, wear fins for the entire workout.

Speed Workout

  • 10 minutes warm-up, freestyle
  • 10 x 50-yard repeats, using a kickboard and fins
    Increase intensity with each repeat, taking 45 seconds of rest between efforts. Decrease the rest time by five seconds weekly.
  • 8 x 75-yard repeats, freestyle
    Once again, use a pull buoy to spell the legs, and rest 15 seconds between repeats.
  • 10 x 25-yard sprints
    Wear your fins, mask, and snorkel, and keep your arms at your sides. Rest 15 seconds between sprints.
  • 10 minutes cooldown, freestyle