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by Kerry O Brien

February 5, 2014

A sprint training set for strong race finishes

If you don’t have a coach helping you, start this set from whatever end necessary to get the best look at the pace clock for accurate sprint times. Be sure you’ve had a full warm-up prior to starting this high-intensity sprint set.

Begin by sprinting 25 yards while wearing a swimmer’s parachute. Do this 25 on what would normally be a moderate interval for 25s. As soon as you finish, get your time and drop the ‘chute.

Once your interval is up, go into a 50 sprint, without the ‘chute. Get your time for the 50. Add it to the 25 sprint for a 75 time.

Begin an easy swim of at least 200 yards. Repeat the whole set three or four times within a practice, trying to improve your 75 time.

Here’s why I love this set:

  1. Sprinting with the ‘chute forces you to focus on swimming with power arm stroking and power kicking.
  2. The short rest between the 25 and the 50 does not allow the heart rate to drop.
  3. As you begin the 50 sprint, the lack of resistance from dropping the ‘chute creates a psychological boost to increase your stroke rate.
  4. Carry this sprint through the turn, focusing on the mechanics of the full-speed turn, including the approach, the flip, the plant, the push-off, the streamline, the timing of the leg drive, and the breakout strokes.
  5. If you have fully committed to sprinting, the last half of the last lap will feel very much like the last 15 yards of a 100 race. You should feel some discomfort and maybe a little bile. Just like the end of a 100 race, the last 15 yards is not about how fast you can go, but how much you can control the slow-down. In an evenly matched heat of competitors, often the one with the fastest last lap is not the one who wins the race. That swimmer may catch the field some, but ultimately is not at the top of the podium. All the fastest swimming should have taken place before the last lap. The focus here is to maintain as much tempo as possible, the integrity of your body posture, and a well-timed finish.
  6. By completing this set, you’ve worked on power swimming and kicking, increasing your stroke tempo, full-speed turn work, buffering the pain of high exertion, and executing a well-timed finish.

Parachutes come in a small and larger size. The smaller ‘chute is plenty of resistance for me. Hang the ‘chute off of one hip or the other so as not to impede your kick.

Take full advantage of the swim-downs and recovery time—you’ll need them to complete this set properly.


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