Saturday Swim Session: Steve Tarpinian’s Sprint Tri Main Set 2ii

Building your ability to sustain your threshold pace in a swim is an important capability for triathletes and open-water swimmers. These sessions further develop that ability by progressing the intensity as you work through the workout, but maintaining the Rest Interval (RI). The session gets tougher, as you work through it. This session will benefit triathletes of all distances, as well as other open-water swimmers.

Each Saturday I will post a Swim Session, and 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.

Read this article here for an explanation of Swim Intensity.

The inspiration for these workouts comes from an article by Steve Tarpinian in an old issue of Triathlete.

Option A

  • 500 WU;
  • 12x 25 Drill;
  • 6x 50m Easy 20RI;
  • 6x 100m Fast 30RI;
  • 300 CD (2,000)

Option B

  • 800 WU;
  • 16x 25 Drill;
  • 8x 50m Easy 20RI;
  • 8x 100m Fast 30RI;
  • 300 CD (2,700)

Option C

  • 1,000 WU;
  • 20x 25 Drill;
  • 12x 50m Easy 20RI;
  • 12x 100m Fast 30RI;
  • 300 CD (3,600)

For the Warm Up (WU) start with a 500m swim (Option A), 800m (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.

Follow this with a set of drills. Option A completes twelve, 25m reps of drills (three times through the four drills below). Option B completes sixteen, 25m reps of drills (four times through the four drills below). Option C completes twenty, 25m reps of drills (five times through the four drills below). Take a pause of about ten seconds after each drill. It’s a chance to grab a drink, review the programme, and think about the next drill you will do. If you need 15-20 seconds or longer you are welcome to take it because the rest duration isn’t physiologically critical to the aim of this set. Having a quick break is neurologically critical though, so make sure you don’t just roll straight from one rep to the next.

The first of the main sets is made up of six (Option A), eight (Option B) or twelve (Option C) reps of 50m. These are swum nice and easy. Take a 20 second Rest Interval (RI) after each rep.

The second set is made up of six (Option A), eight (Option B) or twelve (Option C) reps of 100m. Swim these as hard as you can. Take a 30 second Rest Interval (RI) after each rep.

For the Cool Down (CD) swim 300m. Unlike the previous sets which have to be freestyle, the Cool Down (CD) (like the Warm Up (WU)) 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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