Speed in Your Swimming Workouts
A progressive swimming workout that will help
you become a faster swimmer
One of the goals of competitive swimming is to
get faster. That's obvious. There are thousands of ways to swim
faster, and every swim coach and swimmer has great ideas. One
idea to improve swimming speed that I have tried with my
swimmers is based on an idea called sustained speed (ss).
I stole this idea from a triathlon site
article by Francois Modave titled "vV02max and tlimVO2max:
Practical Considerations for Triathletes in Quest for Speed" -
whew - that's a mouthful, Francois! His ideas are based on
research by the physiologist Veronique Billat from France. He
summarizes the main thread as "specific training at a specific
intensity for a specific time will help improve economy,
threshold, and VO2max factors" in athletes.
Done right, you can get a lot done within a
One of the main ideas is that each session is
individualized for each athlete, allowing them to work within
zones that will benefit them the most. This is important to
maximize the benefit of this type of work. However, I have
modified it to work with a large group of swimmers, and it seems
to work that way, too. It would be more effective if
individualized, but we don't always have that luxury - if you
do, then I'd recommend doing this work custom-tailored, athlete
- A four week cycle, with this type of
workout done once each week
- Establish a base pace for each "ss"
- Focus on holding the base pace - no
faster or slower - during the "ss" set
- Adequate rest between repeats to allow
holding the base pace
- Encourage active recovery, for those that
are fast enough, when done as a group set
- Warm-up adequately.
- Swim 4 x 25 on :30 to :45 seconds rest to
prepare for a fast effort.
- Establish a base pace by swim a distance
that takes approximately 4:30 to complete at your fastest
possible effort. For example, if you think you can do a 300
in 4:30 (1:30 per 100 average) then do it! You can adjust
the distance the next week if needed.
- Calculate your pace per 100 by dividing
your time by the distance you covered.
- Swim easy for 5:00 to 10:00 (work on
technique) to recover from the fast swim.
- Complete a set of 3 x 100 holding the
base pace; work to rest should be equal. For example, if
your base pace for the set is 1:30 per 100, then you should
also rest for 1:30 per repeat - 3 x 100 on 3:00 with a goal
time of 1:30. You may do some easy swimming during the rest
- Swim easy for 5:00 (work on technique) to
recover from the first set.
- Repeat the set of 3 x 100's.
We do this type of set once per week with both
our youth and adult group, modifying the base pace distance by
ability, but keep the "ss" distance the same for most swimmers;
this keeps the group together. Although it does not allow the
full benefits of the set to be realized by everyone, practical
experience has shown that the swimmers are improving and enjoy
the concrete challenge of meeting the goal time during each