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by Matt Donovan

May 5, 2021

These workouts will help you improve your speed

Speed is an important element for any swimmer.

The benefits of speed training are obvious for a sprinter, considering most 50s are completed in under 40 seconds. Many coaches now train the 100 and 200 distances as sprint events as well.

Distance events of 400 meters or 500 yards and longer need a base cardio element, but there are times those races come down to the final few yards. The ability to produce a burst of speed is essential to getting your hand on the wall before your competitors.

Whether you’re a hard-core sprinter or looking for that burst at the end of a middle- or long-distance event, the elements of speed should be an essential part of your workout routine. Here are five workouts from U.S. Masters Swimming’s Workout Library, written by USMS coaches. These can each be done in about an hour.

Take about two minutes rest between the warm-up and the main set and then between the main set and the cool-down. You can reduce or increase the intervals below as needed.

Workout 1: Breathing Pattern

This workout is the perfect mix of volume, technique, and speed. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The warm-up is a pretty good distance. Shorter warm-ups aren’t ideal for sprinting.
  • Doing 12 ½ easy and 12 ½ hard is a common way to build a sprint. The main idea is to have a very distinct change in your speed from start to finish.
  • The main set is shaped around IM order (8 x 25s), or two of each stroke. The first of each pairing is smooth. The word smooth emphasizes that the strokes should be done slower and with good technique. The even ones are fast but you should still try to maintain proper technique.
  • The longer swims of the set (400-300-200-100) are to work on breathing patterns. Breathing every three, five, or seven strokes if you breathe on both sides; or two, four, or six if you breath only to one side, is a good way to work on breath control. Remember, however, to exhale as normally as possible when your face is in the water. Holding your breath is dangerous and inefficient. If you cannot make it to seven, alternate breathing every three and five strokes per 25.

Warm-up

400 freestyle on 1 minute rest

2 x 100s kick on 15 seconds rest, with short fins, alternate 25 freestyle kick/25 stroke kick

2 x 50s freestyle on 10 seconds rest, get your heart rate up and work your turns

2 x 25s choice on 10 seconds rest, alternate 12 ½ easy/12 ½ hard; 12 ½ hard/12 ½ easy

Main set

25s evens are fast, 25s odds are recovery, and distance stuff is concentrating on breathing

8 x 25s on 10 seconds rest, IM order

400 pull on 1 minute rest, breathing either 3-5-7-3 or 2-4-6-2 by 25s, moderate effort

8 x 25s on 10 seconds rest, IM order

300 freestyle on 1 minute rest, breathing either 3-5-7-3 or 2-4-6-2 by 25s, moderate effort

8 x 25s freestyle on 10 seconds rest

200 freestyle on 1 minute rest, breathing either 3-5-7-3 or 2-4-6-2 by 25s, moderate effort

8 x 25s freestyle on 10 seconds rest

100 freestyle on 10 seconds rest, breathing either 3-5-7-3 or 2-4-6-2 by 25s, moderate effort

8 x 25s on 10 seconds rest, choice

Cool-down

4 x 50s choice on 1 minute, work on breathing patterns

Total: 2150

USMS members can view this workout and hundreds more in our Workout Library

Workout 2: Repeat Sprints

This workout is good for getting in a lot of speed work in a very short period of time. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • This is written as a freestyle workout but can work for strokes or IM training as well.
  • Fins are an excellent tool to use in sprint workouts. They help you go faster than you normally would during your other sets. Fins also help with underwater training and will allow you to maintain your speed for a longer period of time in the training session.
  • Establish your base time on the initial 50 and try to match or beat it over the course of the 10 rounds.
  • The combined splits of the 2 x 25s should be faster than the time of your 50 fast.
  • Backstroke is an excellent way to recover as it allows you to breathe consistently and stretch your shoulders in the alternate direction of freestyle.

Warm-up

300 choice

Main set

Repeat this 10 times with about 1 minute rest between rounds.

50 freestyle fast with fins on 10 to 15 seconds rest

2 x 25s fast choice with fins on 10 to 15 seconds rest

50 recovery backstroke on 20 to 30 seconds rest

Cool-down

6 x 50s on 10 to 15 seconds rest, working on your breathing patterns

Total: 2100

USMS members can view this workout and hundreds more in our Workout Library

Workout 3: Kick and Swim Sprints

This workout is a good combination of swimming and kicking. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • During the warm-up, there’s an opportunity to do multiple strokes and IM. This is a good way to work and warm up different muscle groups.
  • During the main set, you’ll do the whole cycle three times through. It’ll be important to keep track of your times so that you can attempt to match or beat them later on in the workout. The 6 x 50s is an opportunity to work on pacing for the 200 and 500 freestyle.
  • The kick shouldn’t be seen as an area to go slow or recover. This is just as an important part of the set as the 6 x 50s freestyle. You can kick with a board or on your back or even mix it up a little. Fins are always a great option. They can help if you feel that you’re not a very strong kicker.
  • Have a set interval in mind, but feel free to change it if you’re getting too much rest. Repeat this set a few times a month to see how you’re progressing. Your base time and your intervals should get faster as you improve.
  • On the cool-down, work on your breathing patterns—every three strokes on the first 25 and every five strokes on the second 25. Remember, when you exit the pool your heart rate should be almost all the way back down. If it isn’t, then take a few more 50s to cool down.

Warm-up

300 choice, 75 freestyle/25 stroke, on 1 minute rest

2 x 100s IM on 15 seconds rest

Main set

Repeat this three times with 1 to 2 minutes rest between rounds.

6 x 50s freestyle on 15 seconds rest

200 kick on 1 minute rest

100 recovery backstroke

Cool-down

6 x 50s on 15 to 20 seconds rest, working on your breathing pattern

Total: 2600

USMS members can view this workout and hundreds more in our Workout Library

Workout 4: Descend to Sprint

This workout is good to help work on descending. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The warm-up is your choice. You know your body best. Use this time to prepare to work hard and swim fast.
  • In the main set, you’re asked to descend each set of 3 x 100s. What this means is that your times should get faster each 100. The first time that you do a set like this, you might find that your times aren’t consistent, but as you do it more often, you’ll find it easier to accomplish.
  • Make a goal time for yourself for that third 100, possibly 10 seconds off your in-season best time. A good starting point would be to try and drop two or three seconds per 100.
  • There are several ways to find speed in the pool. If you focus on stroke count, technique, breathing patterns, consistent kicking, speed into the turns, and power off the wall, you’ll find that your times will drop. Pick one or two items that you feel confident with and add in more as you progress.
  • The kick and pull 100s will be similar, but you’ll find that you may need to adjust your intervals and goal times based on your skill level. It is very common for a swimmer to be a very good puller and not so great at kicking (or vice versa).
  • It would be ideal to be faster in the second round than the first, but if the second round is slower overall, that’s OK. Still make every effort to descend your 100s.

Warm-up

300 choice

Main set

Repeat two times with 1 to 2 minutes rest between rounds

3 x 100s freestyle on 30 seconds rest, descend by 100

3 x 100s pull on 30 seconds rest, descend by 100

3 x 100s kick on 30 seconds rest, descend by 100

50 choice recovery

Cool-down

6 x 50s on 15 to 20 seconds rest, working on your breathing patterns

Total: 2500

USMS members can view this workout and hundreds more in our Workout Library

Workout 5: Broken 200

This workout helps you work on learning how to approach and race 200-yard or -meter events. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • During the warm-up, there’s an opportunity to do multiple strokes and IM. This is a good way to work and warm up different muscle groups.
  • If you haven’t used fins much, be sure that you properly hydrate and stretch out your legs (with a focus on calf muscles) before the main set. Cramps are common when using fins for this long.
  • Start with a 100 freestyle. Have a goal time in mind and do your best to match it. It’s a good idea to use the first round to gauge where you are for the day and establish a baseline.
  • For the 2 x 50s, your minimum goal should be to have the combined time of these 50s be faster than your previous 100. Do not pace or even-split these 50s. Approach each one independently and aggressively.
  • The 100 plus 2 x 50s is a broken 200. This is a very common way to train for a 200. This gives you the opportunity to maintain your speed for the entire 200 in a way that would be near impossible when practicing a straight 200.
  • The benefit of fins over a long set like this is that it’s easier to maintain speed, power, underwater kicking, and technique for all six rounds than it would be without equipment.
  • On the cool-down, work on your breathing patterns—every three strokes on the first 25 and every five strokes on the second 25. Remember, when you leave practice your heart rate should be almost all the way back down. If it isn’t, then take a few more 50s to cool down.

Warm-up

300 choice (75 free, 25 stroke) on 1 minute rest

2 x 100s IM on 15 seconds rest

Main set

Repeat this six times while using short-bladed fins with 1 to 2 minutes rest between rounds.

100 freestyle fast on 15 seconds rest

2 x 50s freestyle fast on 10 seconds rest

100 recovery backstroke

Cool-down

6 x 50s on 15 to 20 seconds rest, working on your breathing patterns

Total: 2600

USMS members can view this workout and hundreds more in our Workout Library

Get More Sprint Workouts in USMS’s Workout Library

U.S. Masters Swimming has created a searchable database of online workouts, developed for seven swimming specialties and featuring all ranges of distances, strokes, and skill levels. With this members-only feature, you can:

  • Subscribe to receive workouts for the week emailed to you every Monday
  • Filter by course, desired distance, and type of sets you want to do
  • Send workouts to your smartwatch via our Swim.com integration
  • Customize a workout via Swim.com and truly make the workout yours
  • Print workouts easily so you can bring them to the pool

JOIN NOW TO GET ACCESS


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  • Technique and Training

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