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3 Swim Practice Sets that Swimmers Hate and Coaches Love

Check out these swim practice sets to up the challenge in your next swim workout.


When you’re training to win, you will inevitably have to go through some really tough workouts to get faster.

These are the workouts that, while you're swimming them, will make you rethink every life decision you’ve made that led you to that moment. But, they also make you feel great and accomplished afterwards - not just because you survived the set, but also because you know it made you a faster swimmer.

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Coaches love giving these workouts. Swimmers get better, and the team comes closer to securing a successful swim season.

Here are 3 swim practice sets that swimmers hate and coaches love.


1. Lactate Tolerance Training

Lactate tolerance sets, according to Ernest Maglischo’s Swimming Fastest, are sets with long sprints with medium to long rest, or short sprints with short rest periods.

Why swimmers hate it: Lactate tolerance sets are designed to produce acidosis to increase muscle buffering capacity. This means you will definitely feel the burn in your muscles around halfway through the set.

Why coaches love it: Swimmers can adapt to lactate tolerance training quickly, with improvements in muscle buffering capacity occurring within 4 to 6 weeks. You are then better able to handle pain, and maintain good stroke technique, when acidosis sets in.

Here's a sample lactate tolerance set from Swimming World’s Set of the Week.

lactate tolerance swim set


2. IM Sets

Why swimmers hate it: IM main sets mean you’ll have to swim every stroke, even when medley isn't your specialty. There's no escaping that 1 stroke (or 2) that you don’t like.

Why coaches love it: IM sets challenge you to train your weaker strokes, and become a more well-rounded swimmer.

Here’s a sample IM set designed by Maclay Northside Dolphins coach Bob Ruth, as posted on Your Swim Book.

im swim sets


3. Test Sets

Why swimmers hate it: Depending on the type of test set, these workouts can be extremely tough and challenging. It’s like competing for an event multiple times at practice.

Why coaches love it: Test sets are a great way to monitor developments in specific areas of a swim and track progress, so swimmers can continuously improve throughout the season.

Here’s a sample aerobic test set from South East Swimming.

aerobic test set

Try out these sets as is, or use them as inspiration to spice up your next training session!


Jasmine Ong

Jasmine has over 13 years of competitive swimming experience and is a marketing professional by trade. Jasmine enjoys merging her swimming history with her natural marketing abilities, to deliver valuable swimming and performance content.

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