Saturday Swim Session: The Pace and Ladder Set - Coach Ray

Coach Ray

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Tri Swim Coach
Swim Sessions Triathlon Training

Saturday Swim Session: The Pace and Ladder Set

The goal of this session is to maintain your pace throughout the main set, despite swimming different distances. It helps build stamina and endurance, setting you up for solid events. This session is perfect for Ironman and Olympic distance triathletes or people doing longer Ocean Swims.

Each week I will load three options up for you to do. Option A is for swimmers who are after a workout less than 2,000 metres. Option B is for swimmers who are after a workout between 2,000 and 3,000m and Option C will be greater than 3,000m.

Inspiration for this week’s session comes from Olivier Poirier-Leroy who wrote about this main set for, you can read the full article here.

Option A

  • 200m WU;
  • 4x 50m (25m Drill/25m Swim);
  • 100m—200m—300m–300m—200m—100m 30sec RI;
  • 200m CD (1,800m)

Option B

  • 400m WU;
  • 4x 50m (25m Drill/25m Swim);
  • 100m—200m—300m—400m—400m–300m—200m—100m 30sec RI;
  • 200m CD (2,800m)

Option C

  • 400m WU;
  • 8x 50m (25m Drill/25m Swim);
  • 100m—200m—300m—400m–500m—400m–300m—200m—100m 30sec RI;
  • 200m CD (3,500m)

Start the workout with a Warm Up (WU) covering 200m (Option A) or 400m (Options  B & 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 drill set. There are four 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 twice through:

  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 and watch it.

There are three main sets. They are all made up of 100m reps. The first set is made up of four (Option A), five (Option B) or six (Option C) repetitions.

The main set is a ladder set where you climb to the top of the ladder from the bottom and then back down again. Start with 100m for the first rep, then take a 30 second Rest Interval (RI). The second rep is a 200m rep, then take a 30 second Rest Interval (RI). The third rep is a 200m rep, then take a 30 second Rest Interval (RI).

For Option A this is as high up the ladder you climb. You will double up with a second 300m rep, followed by a 30 second Rest Interval (RI). The fifth rep for Option A is 200m, followed by a 30 second Rest Interval (RI). The sixth and final rep is 100m.

For Option B your fourth rep is 400m long and after a 30 second Rest Interval (RI) you ride a second 400m rep. Follow that with a 30 second Rest Interval (RI) and descend down the ladder. The sixth rep is 300m, followed by a 30 second Rest Interval (RI). The seventh rep is 200m, a 30 second Rest Interval (RI). The final rep is 100m long.

For Option C your fourth rep is 400m long and after a 30 second Rest Interval (RI) you ride a 500m rep. Another 30 second Rest Interval (RI) sees you start descending the ladder with a 400m rep followed by a 30 second Rest Interval (RI). The seventh rep is 300m followed by a 30 second Rest Interval (RI). The eighth rep is 200m and as with all the other reps is followed by a 30 second Rest Interval (RI). The final rep is 100m long.

To finish, complete the session with a 200m Cool Down (CD). Unlike the previous sets which have to be freestyle, the cool down (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, here is a similar session I published 12 months ago.

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Ray has competed in triathlons from sprint to ironman distance (both IM Taupo and Challenge Wanaka). Consequently he is aware of the importance of balancing training with lifestyle, thus complimenting other important aspects of an athlete’s life (family, work, study commitments etc…). • Entering your first triathlon? • Stepping up to a longer distance? • Looking to go faster? • Wanting to turn previous negatives into positives? Ray has coached athletes to achieve these and more. Training programmes are accessible online, so athletes can be located anywhere and still reap the benefits of Ray’s coaching. Contact him to discuss how he can assist you to achieve your goals.
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