How to Do Torpedo Scull in Synchronized Swimming

The torpedo scull may sound like an advanced, complicated skill, but don’t let the name fool you—it’s actually one of the first, and more basic, sculling moves you can learn.

The intensity described in the name hints at the way it allows you to propel yourself feet-first across the water, leaving a rippling wake in your trail. And while it may not quite live up to the speeds of its namesake, if you can master the torpedo scull, you will get awfully close.

The Basics

First, here’s an explanation of the technique of this overhead scull.

Back Layout
  1. Start by laying out on the surface in your best back layout position—feet together, knees extended, hips up, and neck long.
  2. The only difference from a standard sculling back layout position is that your hands will be overhead. Keep your elbows slightly bent and your arms just below the surface.

Get Your Hands Moving
  1. Start with your palms facing the sky, so you don’t start moving down the pool before you’re ready. Scull-in by moving your hands closer together, and scull-out by moving them farther apart.
  2. Hold your upper arms still while you scull so that only your forearms and hands are moving.
  3. On the in-scull, tilt your pinky fingers up towards the sky just a little bit (just the same way they tilt in standard scull). On the out-scull, tilt your thumbs up the same amount. The tilting is what creates water pressure (as opposed to just slicing through the water).

Get Yourself Moving
  1. Flex your wrists and turn your palms toward the wall behind your head.
  2. Keep sculling in-and-out while also maintaining the same tilting of your palms (thumbs up and pinkies up).
  3. Just like in any type of sculling, you will travel in the direction opposite the way your palms are facing.
Hot Tip: Avoid Pumping

As you start trying to move down the pool faster, you may start pushing instead of sculling in an effort to cover as much distance as possible. But pumping your arms in and out will make you travel is bursts of speed instead of one continuous motion.

Remember, no matter how far you have to travel, keep your upper arms still. Try to get just as much movement out of your in-scull as your out-scull.

Reverse Torpedo

As you might have guessed from the name, reverse torpedo is torpedo scull that moves headfirst. There aren’t as many uses for it as regular torpedo, but it will come in handy for dolphins and the very end of walkovers.

There is only one change you have to make in order to travel headfirst: That’s right! Change the way your palms are facing.

Bend your wrists so that your palms are facing the top of your head. You might have to put your hands a little deeper to make sure your fingers don’t poke up out of the water.

Reverse torpedo scull is sometime called “kissing snakes” because of the way your arms and hands look while you’re doing it. Your finger tips almost “kiss” on the in-scull, move away on the out-scull, and then come back in for another smooch.


Once you have the basic technique down, doing laps of torpedo scull will help you practice the skill and strengthen your arms.

Here is an example of a good practice drill:

  • Start out by doing one lap of regular torpedo, rest, and then do one of reverse.
  • To make it more difficult, start immediately on your second lap of reverse torpedo without breaking your back layout.

Be a Torpedo

This basic sculling skill will become an essential part of your routines and figures. It can give you more control in figure competition, and help you showcase your strength and speed in routines as you move quickly and streamlined through the water (just like a torpedo!).

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