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How to Swim Faster with Swimming Test Sets

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How to swim faster begins with great technique. Evolves into aerobic swimming improvements. And then focuses on anaerobic skills. All in an effort to use a simple swimming test set to break down complex mechanics and systems.

The first test sets will be focused on freestyle but can be applied to any and all strokes. As you familiarize them, add more and more specificity to your training opportunities. And please make sure to take the rest between sets and/or reps.

Improve your Technique with this Swimming Test Set

Measuring form is the perfect place to start your training as great technique is the building block to phenomenal swimming.

6x 50s freestyle at 2:00. 

Before you jump right in, think about how fast you would like to swim the second half of your 100 freestyle. Long, short. Yards or meters. The race is up to you.

Once you have your goal time, subtract 5 seconds. This quick calculation will be the time you want to achieve for the first of the 6x50s @2:00. From there, you should descend 1 second per 50 to land on your goal time for the final 50.

The last wrinkle will be that you should maintain the same number of strokes per 50 on each effort.

And the key is to not ‘over swim’ the first two efforts. Focus on setting up your stroke in the early half of the set and bringing a fearsome kick to the back half.

Example: 

39.90 SCY Free (split 19.4 | 20.5)

1st 50 @ 25.5

2nd 50 @24.5

3rd 50 @23.5

4th 50 @22.5

5th 50 @21.5

6th 50@20.5

All with 20 strokes/50 or fewer

Aerobic Swimming Measured

The next step in improving your training and, ultimately, your performance is to work on your flow. Once a foundation of technique has been created, we can begin to increase the workload with a focus on aerobic training. 

Be mindful though, its important to not get bogged down with simple terms like aerobic. Instead, remember that our goal is to make each aspect of training relevant to our performance goals.

Some may carry more weight than others for a specific task, but all are important. 

2x 6 minute swims

To measure your flow, swim as far as you can in 6 minutes. Do your best to maintain a balanced pace throughout the 6 minutes.

Once completed, immediately take your Heart Rate for a 10-second count. 

Give yourself no more than a minute to compose yourself and repeat the 6-minute swim for distance, and once again, take your heart rate for 10 seconds. 

Relax. Take deep breaths, and 2 minutes after completion, take your heart rate one final time.

Calculation from spreadsheet

Anaerobic Power, Acceleration and Speed

With proper technique and a strong foundation of repetition built upon it, we can begin to apply more force to our swimming without experiencing the adverse effects. Coaches will typically refer to these phenomena as ‘spinning your wheels’ or ‘over swimming.’

But at this point, really “how to swim faster” is implicitly understood as acceleration, power, and speed.

8×25 on 1:30

2 rounds of 

1. Half fast! Half easy. 

2. Half easy. Half fast! 

3. All easy.

4. All fast!

Record your overall time and the number of strokes taken for each effort.

How to Swim Faster with Your Data

Your completed test sets can be viewed as independent of one another or as a piece of your quantified ‘feel for the water.’

And if the aim is truly how to swim faster: you should try to do a swimming test set approximately every 21 days.