5 Swim Sets You Have to Try Before You Die; And, What’s Your Favorite?

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Photo Courtesy: Taylor Brien

5 Swim Sets You Have to Try Before You Die; Tell Us Your Favorite

By Wayne Goldsmith

Swim sets are like burgers. There’s a lot of them in the world: some are great, some are awful and some are just plain ordinary burgers. Here are 5 Swim Sets You Have to Try Before You Die.

A great swim set has to include three things:

  1. It must be challenging – and demand more of you physically, mentally, technically and tactically than previous training sets;
  2. It must be able to be progressed – i.e. you can make the set more challenging and more demanding over time by changing variables such as speed, breathing frequency, rest periods and the number of repeats in the set;
  3. It has to make you swim faster in competition – the set has to actually make a difference to your swimming performances.

Here are 5 Swim Sets which are challenging, can be progressed and most importantly – will make a big difference to your racing.

5 Swim Sets You Have Try Before You Die

(140822) -- NANJING, Aug. 22, 2014 (Xinhua) -- Tamas Kenderesi (L) of Hungary celebrates after winning men's 200m butterfly event at Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, east China's Jiangsu Province, Aug. 22, 2014. Kenderesi won the gold medal. (Xinhua/Yang Lei) (ljr)

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1. 50 / 100 / 50 set

This set is a killer but it really sorts out the men and women from the mice. It is a great set for learning to sustain high-speed swimming with limited rest.

It goes like this:

  • Dive and swim 50 metres on a 1:00 minute time cycle at 100 metre pace;
  • Swim 100 metres with a push start on a 2:00 minute time cycle at 200 metre pace;
  • Dive and swim 50 metres on a 1:00 minute time cycle at 100 metre pace.

Repeat the above 50 / 100 / 50 sequence 4 times through. Then add another 50 / 100 / 50 each week until you can complete 6-10 of them in a single swim set.

2. Mini Max Swim Set with Double Ups

Mini-Max (i.e. minimum stroke count at maximum speed) swim sets are great for developing both speed and M.D.S. – maximum distance per stroke.

Start with a single timed 50 metre maximum speed swim. Count your strokes.

Add the time and the stroke count together for a total lap “score”.

For example if you swam the 50 metres with 46 strokes and your time was 42 seconds, that’s a total score of 88.

Now swim another 50 at maximum speed – also counting your strokes but aiming to reduce your score of 88 by at least 1, i.e. by swimming faster, taking fewer strokes or both.

So – say you swam 40 seconds and took 44 strokes, your new lap score is 84.

Next – the “double-up”.

Multiply your lap score of 84 by 2 and that becomes your goal score for a 100 metre swim, i.e. 168.

Swim 100 metres at maximum speed, count your strokes and add your time and stroke count together striving to score better than 168.

Then….yes – you guessed it. Double up again and see how you go for a 200!

And then…..yep – believe it or not – try doubling up again for a Mini-Max 400.

3. Magic Medley Mayhem

This swim set has been a favourite of medley coaches for a long, long time.

  • 4 x 25 Medley order (i.e. that’s 25 fly, 25 back, 25 breast, 25 free) on 30 seconds
  • 100 IM on 2:00 minutes
  • 4 x 50 Medley order on 1:00 minute
  • 200 IM on 4:00 minutes
  • 4 x 100 Medley order on 2:00 minutes
  • 400 IM on 8:00 minutes.
  • Rest 5 minutes.
  • Timed 200 IM within 5 seconds of your PR time.
  • Rest 5 minutes
  • Timed 400 IM within 10 seconds of your PR time.

Add this “golden-oldie” to your training program and watch your medley times plummet.

4. Horrible Hundreds

It doesn’t sound like much but this swim set is another that can make or break most swimmers. It’s very simple in design yet – done correctly and with total commitment – it is as tough as it gets.

8 x 100 metres on 6:00 minutes…..all at maximum speed and all within 3 seconds of your PR time.

If you don’t swim within 3 seconds of your PR time, that 100 does not count and you have to repeat it.

Ouch!

5. Endless 50s.

This swim set is another shock to the swimming system.

Swim a single 50 metre effort at maximum speed. Add five seconds to that time.

For example – if the maximum speed swim equals 38 seconds , then add 5 = 43 seconds.

Now add another 5 seconds – i.e. 48 seconds.

And now the fun part…..How many 43 second swims can you repeat on a 48 second time cycle? 

Key:

Less than 5: You’re as soft as a marshmallow.

6 – 10: Good but you can do better.

11 – 15: Very good.

16 – 20: Excellent

More than 20: Move over Phelps. Look out Ledecky….you’re awesome.

(140822) -- NANJING, Aug 22, 2014 (Xinhua) -- Matheus Paulo de Santana of Brazil celebrates after winning the Men's 100m Freestyle match at Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu Province, on Aug. 22, 2014.Matheus Paulo de Santana of Brazil won the gold medal. (Xinhua/Yan Yan)(hhx)

Photo Courtesy: Xinhua/Yan Yan

Swim sets come in a virtually unlimited range of designs and variations.

While the design of the swim sets is important , it’s even more important to think about how you swim them.

Even the best designed of swim sets, if executed poorly, will not help you to achieve your swimming goals or to realise your personal performance potential.

However, well designed swim sets, when completed with commitment, engagement and enthusiasm can make a considerable impact on your competitive swimming capacities.

Here’s an idea.

Instead of just adding a great comment to this post – why not add your own favorite (be that fabulous or frightening) training set!!

Wayne Goldsmith

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17 comments

  1. Chris Voigt

    When are we going to move on from advice from someone who doesn’t actually coach swimmers? Coaching coaches is like having someone who’s dining in a restaurant coach the cooks in the kitchen.

    • Mike Mcgowan

      Chris Voigt been doing this for 62 years swimmer official coach back to swimmer. Parents have been coaching coaches for years n

  2. Kathryn Newberry

    Swim some of these sets before you die… Which might happen right after you swim some of these sets…

  3. Brian Albright

    Not a universal observation, but when looking for ideas for a good workout, look for women coaches. When I had writers block and looked for inspiration, guys would post crazy hard workouts with pride and brag about how they have it to their team. Women would post interesting workouts. Admittedly, I was looking specifically for masters, but the interesting workouts sparked more creativity and were more fun than the crazy hard ones.

  4. avatar
    Anonymous

    Back in the day we would do what we called a ‘bender’. We did it in yards and meters.
    100 with 10 seconds rest
    200 -20 seconds rest
    300- 30 seconds rest up to 600 with a minute rest.
    700 with a minute rest, keep climbing up to a 1000 with only a minute rest after each.
    Then climb your way back down with a 900, 800 and so on down to a 100. Totals 10,000 yards/ meters.

    • avatar
      Paul Cate

      Brutal, ‘Anon’.

  5. Paula Stone

    Raelene Myers Belinda Johnson Nicole Bann-Murray

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