Tri Swim Coach

Saturday Swim Session: Ledecky 400’s

Katie Ledecky dominated female distance swimming setting the World Record in the 400m, 800m, and 1,500m Freestyle, and won five Olympic Gold Medals and 15 World Championships, more than any other female swimmer. This session was a staple leading into major championship events and will benefit any triathlete or open water swimmer.

This week I’ll take you through what Ledecky did, next week I’ve modified the workout for us mere mortals to be able to complete with the normal three options I publish.

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.

The inspiration for today’s workout comes from an article from Swimming World Magazine about the workouts Katie Ledecky’s coach Yuri Suguiyama set for her, you can read the article here.

  • 400m WU on 6min;
  • 4 x 100m IM (Build 1-4) on 1:30;
  • 4 x 50m choice Alt. fast/easy on :50;
  • 4 x 125m F/S Kick – Alt. fast/easy each 25m on 2:10;
  • 4 x 125m – F/S Pull (Build 1-4) on 1:40;
  • 20 x 50m on :50;
    • 4x Drill,
    • 4x F/S FAST,
    • 4x DPS,
    • 4x F/S Build 1-4,
    • 4x FAST,
  • 11 x 400m F/S (Build 1-9, #10 Alt. 25m Dble Arm Bk/25m F/S @12 strokes, #11 Dive Start RACE) on 5:00;
  • 8 x 50m Bk on 1:00;
  • 10 x 50m – F/S (500m pace)
    • 1st on:45,
    • 2nd on:50,
    • 3rd on:55,
    • 4th-10th on:60,
  • 200m CD

Total: 8,500m (although Katie typically did this set in yards)

For the Warm Up (WU) start with a 400m swim. Ledecky did this and rested until the six-minute mark.

The first set is made up of four, 100m Individual Medley (IM) reps, starting every one minute, thirty seconds.

The second set is made up of four, 50m reps starting every 50 seconds. Alternate between odd-numbered reps (first and third) being swum fast and even-numbered reps (second and fourth) being swum easy (but still starting every 50 seconds).

The next set is made up of four, 125m reps of freestyle (F/S) kicking, alternating every 25m between fast and easy. Start each rep every two minutes and ten seconds.

Next up is a set of four, 125m reps of freestyle using a pull buoy. Build your pace for each rep, so your last rep is your fastest. Start every rep on the one minute, forty seconds, as you get qwiker through the reps you will get more rest.

For the following set, you have twenty, 50m reps to complete. Start each rep at the 50-second mark. The first four reps are all drills. The fifth through to eighth reps swim fast. For the ninth through to twelfth reps focus on Distance Per Stroke (DPS). Build your pace ensuring that from the thirteenth to sixteenth reps get faster each rep and then for the final four reps swim them all as fast as you can.

The main set is made up of eleven, 400m reps. Start each rep, every five minutes. For the first nine reps, build your pace getting faster every rep. Your ninth rep should be your fastest of the set so far. Your tenth rep is a recovery where you alternate between double arm backstroke and freestyle (F/S) aiming to only swim 12 strokes for the length (Ledecky did this in a 25-yard pool). The eleventh rep swims as if it was a race with a dive start and your fastest pace.

Ledecky swum these in 4:07, 4:05, 4:03, 4:00, 3:59, 3:57, 3:54, 3:53, 3:51, 3:49 (excluding the drill rep).

Next up is a set of eight, 50m reps swum as backstroke (Bk) starting every minute.

The last set is made up of ten, 50m reps, swum at your 500m pace. Start the second rep, 45 seconds after the first rep. Start the third rep, 50 seconds after the second. Start the fourth rep, 55 seconds after the third. For the remaining reps start them 60 seconds after the previous. If using a pace clock you start on the 60, the following reps start on the 45, 35, 30, 30, 30, 30, 30, 30 & 30.

For the Cool Down (CD) swim 200m. 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.

Keep an eye out for next week’s article that will cover a modified version of this workout for the majority of us.

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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