Tri Swim Coach

Saturday Swim Session: Sprints for Speed

Swimming short reps with a good rest can develop your speed and swimming them with short rests can develop your endurance. Put lots together within one workout with a mixture of rest and you can develop speed, endurance, and speed endurance. This session 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.

I’ve written these sessions for a 33⅓ metre pool, but a lot of the older style pools are 33⅓ yards long (100 feet), so simply interchange the metres for yards and do the session.

Option A

  • 200m WU;
  • 6x 67m (33m Drill/33m Swim);
  • 6x 67m Build 1-3, 15sec RI;
  • 6x 67m Full Sprint, 30sec RI;
  • 200m CD (1,600m)

Option B

  • 400m WU;
  • 6x 67m (33m Drill/33m Swim);
  • 6x 67m Build 1-3, 15sec RI;
  • 6x 67m Full Sprint, 30sec RI;
  • 4x 67m IM Order, 15sec RI;
  • 6x 67m Full Sprint, 40sec RI;
  • 200m CD (2,467m)

Option C

  • 400m Warm Up;
  • 10x 67m (33m Drill/33m Swim);
  • 6x 67m Build 1-3, 15sec RI;
  • 10x 67m Full Sprint, 30sec RI;
  • 4x 67m IM Order, 15sec RI;
  • 10x 67m Full Sprint, 40sec RI;
  • 400m Cool Down (3,433m)

Start the workout with a Warm Up (WU) covering 200m (Option A), and 400m (Options B and 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 of six (Options A and B) or eight repetitions (Option C) of 67m Drill/Swim, where you do a drill for the first 33m of the repetition and then normal swimming for the next 33m swimming. Feel free to use fins whilst doing the drill/swim set.  Do the drills below once through (Option A) twice through to make eight reps (Option B), or three times through to make twelve reps (Option C):

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

I wrote an article about swimming drills previously. Click here to read and watch it.

The first of the main sets involves six reps of 67m swum as a Build set 1-3. This means as you work your way through the set you build your speed over three reps with the third rep being your fastest. As this set has six reps, you repeat the build from the fourth to the sixth repetition. I recommend swimming the first (and fourth) rep fast, with the second (and fifth) faster and then the third (and six) fastest. After each rep take a 15-second Rest Interval (RI).

The next set is the last prior to the Cool Down (CD) for Option A. This set involves six (Options A and B) or ten (Option C) 67m repetitions at a full sprint. After each rep, you get a good long 30-second Rest Interval (RI) in order to recover. Option A moves onto the Cool Down after this set.

Options B and C have further sets to complete. The next one is a set of four 67m reps done in Individual Medley order, with 15 seconds of Rest Interval (RI) between them. Start off with the first rep as Butterfly, next rep is Backstroke, then Breaststroke, and then Freestyle.

The final set prior to the Cool Down (CD) for Options B and C is another Full Sprint set of six (Option B) or ten (Option C) reps. Take a full 40-second Rest Interval (RI) after each rep.

For the Cool Down (CD) swim 200m. 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.

I’ve taken my most popular training plan and given it a make-over for 2020. I’ve taken the 12 Weeks to an Ironman Swim PB – Swim Faster with Smarter Training and I’ve modified to expand the programme from 12 weeks and include an option for more than 3 swims per week.

Now the programme has created some great times for athletes competing at Ironman events around the world, but it was overly set in stone. Now if you have got between 8 & 24 weeks to an Ironman and are consistently swimming 3x, 4x, or 5x per week, I’ve created an option for you. This is regardless of the length of the pool 25m, 33⅓yd, or 50m pool.

This programme is peroidised and builds throughout as you get closer to your Ironman. It works through four key phases:

  • Foundation & Injury Prevention Phase (building your base fitness and developing technique)
  • Early Quality Phase (develop strength and continue developing technique)
  • Transition Quality Phase (focus on threshold pace and maintain technique)
  • Final Quality Phase (further develop your speed and maintain technique and taper off for the event)

Although the original 12-week programme is proven and gets RESULTS. This modified version is unproven. I know it will get the results, but I need the proof. I need a dozen people to complete the programme, so I can measure how much improvement the programme actually delivers.

If you are entered in an Ironman, Iron-distance event, or an Ocean Swim/Open Water event and have between 8 and 24 weeks to train for it, you might be a good fit to try this training plan out. Not everyone will be a good fit for this programme.

This training plan is for people that are keen to swim faster in their Ironman (or other events). You need to be committed to completing a minimum of three swim workouts every week. You need to be meticulous with tracking your training.

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