Swim Workouts

Use these workouts to fill out the swim days in your training plan. You can find a list of swim drills at the bottom of the page.

S1 – 3,000 ladder w 10s rest between
12 x 50 - 600
6 x 100 - 600
3 x 200 - 600
6 x 100 - 600
12 x 50 - 600
Total: 3000S2 - 100 baseline + 500 build
10 x 100 w 10s rest - 1000
500 [250 slow, 250 fast] w 20s rest - 500
10 x 100 w 10s rest - 1000
500 [250 slow, 250 fast] - 500
Total: 3000

S3 - 2000 race pace
2000 race pace w 120s rest - 2000
10 x 100 w 10s rest - 1000
Total: 3000

S4 - 3,000 ladder with 5s rest
10 x 50 - 500
4 x 100 - 400
2 x 200 - 400
1 x 400 - 400
2 x 200 - 400
4 x 100 - 400
10 x 50 - 500
Total: 3000

S5 - 5 x 100 race pace test
5 x 100 at race pace w 10s rest - 500
5 x 100 [rp+10s] + 10s rest – 500
5 x 100 [rp+5s] + 10s rest – 500
5 x 100 [rp] + 10s rest – 500
5 x 100 [rp-5s] + 10s rest – 500
5 x 100 [rp-10s] + 10s rest – 500
Total: 3000

S6 - Change of Pace - 50
50 slow, 50 medium, 50 fast w 15s rest – 150
50 sprint, 50 slow, 50 medium w 15s rest – 150
50 fast, 50 sprint, 50 slow w 15s rest – 150
50 medium, 50 fast, 50 sprint w 15s rest – 150
Repeat All 5x
Total: 3000

S7 - Race Simulation
200 sprint + 100 slow + 300 race + 60s rest – 600
1000 rp + 60s rest – 800
200 sprint + 100 slow + 300 race + 60s rest – 600
1000 rp – 1000
Total: 3000

S8
10 minute warm up
150 yards drills – 50 of catch-up, superman & fist – 15 seconds rest (SR) between each 50
10 min warm down

S9
10 min warm up
150 drills – 50 of fingertip drag, 6 beat delay and fist – 15 SR
10 min cool down

S10
10 minute warm up
150 yards drills – 50 of catch-up, superman & fist – 15 seconds rest (SR) between each 50
100 yard swim – record time to compare and show improvement with future swims
10 min warm down

S11
10 min warm up
150 drills – 50 of fingertip drag, 6 beat delay and fist – 15 SR
4 X 25 normal swim with focus on stroke
10 min cool down

S12
10 minute warm up
150 yards drills – 50 of catch-up, superman & fist – 15 seconds rest (SR) between each 50
4 X 50 with 15 SR – focus on proper stroke
10 min warm down

S13
10 min warm up
150 drills – 50 of fingertip drag, 6 beat delay and fist – 15 SR
2 X 100 with 20 SR
10 min cool down

S14
10 minute warm up
150 yards drills – 50 of catch-up, superman & fist – 15 seconds rest (SR) between each 50
300 easy and relaxed – focus on proper technique
10 min warm down

S15
10 min warm up
150 drills – 50 of fingertip drag, 6 beat delay and fist – 15 SR
8 X 25 with 15 SR  strong effort sprints
10 min cool down

S16
10 minute warm up
150 yards drills – 50 of catch-up, superman & fist – 15 seconds rest (SR) between each 50
3 X 100 with 15 SR – focus on proper stroke
10 min warm down

S17
10 min warm up
150 drills – 50 of fingertip drag, 6 beat delay and fist – 15 SR
6 X 50 with 15 SR – swim easy the first 25, then sprint the second 25 back
10 min cool down

S18
10 minute warm up
150 yards drills – 50 of catch-up, superman & fist – 15 seconds rest (SR) between each 50
8 X 50 with 10 SR
10 min warm down

S19
10 min warm up
150 drills – 50 of fingertip drag, 6 beat delay and fist – 15 SR
2 X 200 with 15 SR
10 min cool down

S20
10 minute warm up
150 yards drills – 50 of catch-up, superman & fist – 15 seconds rest (SR) between each 50
100 for time – record time and compare
12 X 25 with 10 SR – elevated effort, but be mindful of proper stroke
10 min warm down

S21
10 min warm up
150 drills – 50 of fingertip drag, 6 beat delay and fist – 15 SR
5 X 100 with 15 SR
10 min cool down

S22
10 minute warm up
150 yards drills – 50 of catch-up, superman & fist – 15 seconds rest (SR) between each 50
10 X 50 with 15 SR – focus on proper stroke
4 X 25 with 15 SR - sprints
10 min warm down

S23
10 min warm up
150 drills – 50 of fingertip drag, 6 beat delay and fist – 15 SR
6 X 100 with 15 SR – focus on maintaining good form and technique
10 min cool down

S24
10 minute warm up
150 yards drills – 50 of catch-up, superman & fist – 15 seconds rest (SR) between each 50
5 X 100 with 10 SR
10 min warm down

S25
10 min warm up
150 drills – 50 of fingertip drag, 6 beat delay and fist – 15 SR
3 X 200 with 15 SR
10 min cool down

S26
10 minute warm up
150 yards drills – 50 of catch-up, superman & fist – 15 seconds rest (SR) between each 50
3 X 100 with 10 SR
8 X 25 with 15 SR – lots of rest, very strong effort
10 min warm down

S27
10 minute warm up
5 X 100 with 10 SR
6 X 50 with 20 SR – Very strong effort
10 min warm down

S28
10 min warm up
400 at comfortable pace – think race pace, relaxed and efficient.
6 X 25 with 10 SR – very strong effort sprints
100 drills - catch-up, 6 beat delay, fingertip drag & superman kick
10 min cool down

S29
300 yard warm up
200 drills – 100 catch up, 100 fist
5 X 100 with 15 seconds rest (SR)
300 warm down

S30
300 yard warm up
200 drills – 100 6 beat delay, 100 fingertip drag
3 X 200 with 15 SR
300 cool down

S31
300 yard warm up
200 drills – 100 6 beat delay, 100 fingertip drag
4 X 50 normal swim with focus on stroke
200 for time – record  time to compare and show improvement with future swims
300 cool down

S32
300 yard warm up
200 drills – 100 catch up, 100 fist
8 X 100 with 15 seconds rest (SR)
300 warm down

S33
300 yard warm up
200 drills – 100 6 beat delay, 100 fingertip drag
8 X 25 sprints with 15 SR
4 X 100 with 10 SR
300 cool down

S34
300 yard warm up
200 drills – 100 catch up, 100 fist
600 easy and relaxed – focus on proper technique
300 warm down

S35
300 yard warm up
200 drills – 100 6 beat delay, 100 fingertip drag
8 X 75 with 10 SR – easy first and last 25, strong effort middle 25
300 cool down

S36
300 yard warm up
200 drills – 100 catch up, 100 fist
10 X 75 with 15 seconds rest (SR), first and last 25 at easy pace, sprint middle 25 of the 75 yard repeat
300 warm down

S37
300 yard warm up
200 drills – 100 6 beat delay, 100 fingertip drag
6 X 125 with 10 SR
300 cool down

S38
300 yard warm up
200 drills – 100 catch up, 100 fist
10 X 100 with 10 SR
300 warm down

S39
300 yard warm up
200 drills – 100 6 beat delay, 100 fingertip drag
12 X 25 sprints with 10 SR – not max effort, but strong focus speed and stroke.
300 cool down

S40
300 yard warm up
200 drills – 100 catch up, 100 fist
4 X 200 with 15 SR
8 X 50 with 15 SR – odd repeats are easy and even’s are at strong effort
300 warm down

S41
300 yard warm up
200 drills – 100 6 beat delay, 100 fingertip drag
200 for time – compare against previous timed 200
4 X 100 with 10 SR
300 cool down

S42
300 yard warm up
200 drills – 100 catch up, 100 fist
10 X 75 with 15 seconds rest (SR), first and last 25 at easy pace, sprint middle 25 of the 75 yard repeat
8 X 25 with 15 SR – hard effort sprints
300 warm down

S43
300 yard warm up
200 drills – 100 6 beat delay, 100 fingertip drag
6 X 200 with 10 SR
300 cool down

S44
300 yard warm up
200 drills – 100 catch up, 100 fist
2 X 400 with 20 SR
6 X 100 with 15 SR
300 warm down

S45
300 yard warm up
200 drills – 100 6 beat delay, 100 fingertip drag
8 X 25 with 15 SR – lots of rest, strong effort
4 X 200 with 20 SR
300 cool down

S46
300 yard warm up
200 drills – 100 catch up, 100 fist
4 X 200 with 20 SR
10 X 50 with 15 SR
300 warm down

S47
300 yard warm up
200 drills – 100 6 beat delay, 100 fingertip drag
12 X 25 with 15 SR – lots of rest, strong effort
2 X 400 with 20 SR
300 cool down

S48
300 yard warm up
2 X 500 with 20 SR
6 X 50 with 20 SR – Very strong effort
300 warm down

S49
300 yard warm up
200 drills – catch-up, 6 beat delay, fingertip drag & superman kick.  25 of each and repeat.
16 X 25 with 15 SR – Strong effort, but relaxed and focusing on proper technique – stay long and focus on catch.
3 X 100 with 15 SR – descending: first 100 is slowest and last is fastest – hint: pace well on the first 100.
300 cool down

S50
300 yard warm up
2 X 250 with 20 SR
300 warm down

S51
300 yard warm up
500 at race pace – comfortable and relaxed pace you can hold for 1 mile during race
300 cool down

Swim Drills
Swimming, it is the bane of many triathletes and a barrier to many would be triathletes.  It is the most technique dependent of the three disciplines – it doesn’t matter how strong or fit you are, if your technique is bad you will do a lot of splashing and little moving, so I have dedicated a special section for those who are new to this discipline, or those looking to make improvements in their stroke.
When we talk swimming and triathlons we are talking freestyle stroke.  The basics of an efficient freestyle stroke are:

  • Proper head position – nose pointed down.  This allows the hips to ride up at the water line and reduce drag.
  • The stroke starts with full extension of one arm and a slight roll of the body to allow for a relaxed full extension – right arm extended, hips and shoulders roll with left side moving up and right side rotating downward.
  • Pull with high elbow “catch”.  Elbow should be high on the pull and over the hand for maximum leverage and proper utilization of the big muscle groups – hand and fingers pointed downward.
  • Pull through so the hand exits at the thigh, don’t shorten the stroke to increase turnover – you will look and feel fast, but will not go fast.  Long smooth strokes are fastest and most efficient.
  • Recovery (hand recovering from exit at the thigh to full extension in front) – Elbow higher than hand and fingertips are just above water line and stay close to the body.  Hand enters the water fingertips first and the elbow should go through the same “hole” in the water that the fingertips made.
  • The kick is from the hips with toes pointed backwards, knees only flex slightly.  Legs trail straight back, if they flop to the side it is a sign of some issues with your upper body position and side to side movement.

This is an over simplification of the freestyle stroke, but it will get the beginner started and will help the average swimmer make improvements that will allow them to drop some time off of their swim.  There are dozens of great videos online that can be a great help putting these pieces together.
Fixing stroke mechanics and getting faster - First and foremost, if you need help with swimming the best way to improve is with a coach who is knowledgeable about stroke mechanics and is at least familiar with the needs of triathletes, there are several options on the California Triathlon Calendar (californiatriathlon.org), including masters programs.  If you do not have access to a coach and can’t attend a master’s program, or if you are looking to just put some finishing touches on an already acceptable level of swimming competence, drills are your best option.  The following are the more common drills that I have found effective in improving stroke mechanics and dropping precious minutes off of swim times.

Catch Up – Swim normally, but do not start the pull right arm until the left arm has reached full extension – your left arm caught up with your right.  Pull through with the right arm and recover, but don’t start the pull with the left arm until the right arm is at full extension.  What it does – Forces full extension and slows down the turnover so you can focus 100% on the proper pull and recovery of a single arm.
Finger Drag – After finishing the pull and exiting the water at the thigh, keep the elbow high and drag the fingertips along the surface of the water all the way through the recovery and into the entry.  What it does – Forces a high elbow recovery and proper entry of the hand and elbow.
Fist – Swimming with hands balled up into fists.  What it does – Helps reveal and correct flaws in the “catch”.  If a swimmer is not effectively executing a “catch” they will have almost zero forward motion with this drill.  Focus on keeping the elbow high and over the hand during the first part of the stroke and efficiency will increase dramatically.
Ear Touch – After exiting the pull at the thigh touch the ear and pause slightly.  What it does – Forces high elbow recovery and proper hand placement for efficient entry, and slows down the stroke to all the opposite arm to achieve full extension.
10 Beat Kick – Swim normally, but pause with one hand at the thigh and the other fully extended in front (full pull) and kick 10 times prior to recovering the arm, repeat with the opposite arm.  What it does – Engages the kick and forces a slower turnover with a full extension and pull.  This can be done with a 10 beat kick, or 8, 6 or 4.
Superman Kick – Both arms in front at full extension, shoulder width apart and approximately 4 -6 inches under the water (proper starting position for the stroke) – the way superman flies.  Kick, flexing at the hips and toes pointed backwards.  When necessary to breathe, pick the head up looking forward to get a breath, not to the side.  What it does – Forces proper positioning for start of the stroke, and puts the swimmer’s focus on kicking properly and efficiently.  Also helps develop the neck and core muscles needed to sight in open water events.
Again a simple explanation to a complicated process, but internet videos will help a great deal in allowing visualization of the process.  Drills are not about speed, they are about doing the stroke correctly and when done correctly the speed is there.  Some of the best swimmers and triathletes commit as much as 30% of their swim training time to drills and stroke development and that is not a coincidence.