Tri Swim Coach

Saturday Swim Session – A Variety Of 400’s To Improve Your Swimming

400s are the perfect distance to enhance your endurance and stamina. Within this workout, you will use pull buoys & paddles to improve your performance. Both pull buoys and paddles focus efforts on the upper body whilst swimming and will help to develop specific strength as well as feel for the water. This workout is perfect for Ironman and Olympic distance triathletes or people doing longer ocean swims.

Each Saturday I will post a Swim Session, most weeks I will load three options up for you to do. Option A is for swimmers who are after a workout between 1,000 & 2,000 metres. Option B is for swimmers who are after a workout between 2,000 & 3,000m and Option C will be greater than 3,000m.

Option A

  • 200m WU;
  • 4x 50m (25m Drill/25m Swim);
  • 2x 400m (1st Padd, 2nd PB) 60sec RI;
  • 6x 50m on ½T+5sec RI;
  • 8x 25m Kick 10sec RI;
  • 200m CD (1,900m)

Option B 

  • 400m WU;
  • 4x 50m (25m Drill/25m Swim);
  • 3x 400m (1st Padd, 2nd PB, 3rd F/S) 60sec RI;
  • 6x 50m on ½T+5sec RI;
  • 8x 25m Kick 10sec RI;
  • 200m CD (2,500m)

Option C

  • 1,000m WU;
  • 8x 50m (25m Drill/25m Swim);
  • 4x 400m (1st PP, 2nd Padd, 3rd PB, 4th F/S) 60sec RI;
  • 8x 50m on ½T+5sec RI;
  • 12x 25m Kick 10sec RI;
  • 200m CD (3,900m)

Start the workout with a Warm Up (WU) covering 200m (Option A), 400m (Option B), or 1,000m (Option C). During the warm-up feel free to stop and stretch as needed.  It doesn’t need to be a continuous swim.

Next up is a set of four (Options A and B) or eight (Option C) repetitions of 50m Drill/Swim, where you do a drill for the first 25m of the repetition and then normal swimming for the next 25m swimming. Feel free to use fins whilst doing the drill/swim set. Do the drills below once through for Option A and B.  Twice through if doing Option C:

  1. Kick On Side (KOS) left side 
  2. Kick On Side (KOS) right side 
  3. 6/1/6 
  4. 6/3/6

I wrote an article about Swimming Drills previously. Click here to read it and watch the videos of how to do the respective drills.

Take your fins off for the next sets.

Next up is a set of 400s using pull buoy and/or paddles. If doing Option A do two reps, with the first being paddles (Padd) and the second being pulled buoy (PB).  If doing Option B do three reps, with the first being paddles (Padd), the second being pulled buoy (PB) and the third being regular swimming. If doing Option C do four reps with the first using both pull buoy & paddles (PP), the second with paddles (Padd) only, the third using a pull buoy (PB), and the final rep regular swimming. Between each rep take a 60-second Rest Interval (RI).

Following on from the 400’s is a set of ’50s. These are all done on half your T-Time plus five seconds. Have a read of this article here.   For example, if your T-Time is 2:00 minutes, half of this is 1:00 minutes then adding five seconds gives you 65 seconds. You would start each 50m rep every 65 seconds. Regardless of how fast or slow you swim you go again 65 seconds from when you started the previous rep. If it takes you 60 seconds to swim the 50m you would get five seconds rest and if you swim it in 50 seconds, you would get 15 seconds rest. In this workout do six reps if you are doing Option A or B, and eight reps if you are doing Option C.

Next up is a set of eight (Option A and B) or twelve (Option C) repetitions of 25m Kick. My preference is for you not to use a kickboard for this set but instead do either Kick On Side or Kick On Front drill.

Then it is time for a 200m Cool Down (CD). Unlike the previous sets which have to be freestyle, the cooldown (like the warm-up) can be any stroke you wish to swim.  You can also stop and rest after any length.  I encourage you to stop and stretch during the cool-down.

If you would like further advice feel free to contact me.

I am the Head Coach & Director of Qwik Kiwi Coaching.

I specialise in assisting first-timers and recreational athletes to achieve their sporting goals. I can be contacted at and 021 348 729.

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If you enjoyed this workout, I published a similar session 12 months ago.

Saturday Swim Session: Time Trials for Success

Coach Ray is the author of the successful 12 Weeks to an Ironman Swim PB – Swim Faster with Smart Training eBook.

2 Replies to “Saturday Swim Session – A Variety Of 400’s To Improve Your Swimming”

  1. Great site for my preparation for a 6.5km swim in the sea in Malaysia, from Kapas island to mainland Marang.

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