One Simple Secret to Effective Swim Sets

Coaches Corner

Swimmers clock in incredible amounts of time and effort at practice every single week, training to swim faster and beat their personal bests.

When you put in anywhere from 10-30 hours a week to drop a few seconds, or sometimes even just milliseconds off swim time, every single practice has to count, and every single set has to be effective.

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So here’s one simple secret - that isn’t so much a secret as it is something too often taken for granted - to effective swim sets: ALWAYS have a clear purpose and keep it top of mind.

Let your goals guide you through every swimming set you implement in training - from building the training plan, to executing the training sets, and to evaluating them.

Building the training plan

When you’re planning the daily, weekly, or even seasonal training plan, think about what your main objectives are for that day/week/month/season.

Are you trying to improve technique? Working on sprints? Building endurance? Perfecting distance pacing?

Identify areas that need improvement, and build the sets around them. You can’t work on everything at the same time - at least not if you want real improvements that will stick long term.

Structure your swim workouts so that you’re focusing on specific components of a swim for a given period of time. Prioritize based on set objectives, and come up with a training plan that lends itself well to these goals. Don’t write up random sets with no defined purpose.

Check out this post for tips on creating a winning swim training plan.

Executing the swim sets

This one applies more to swimmers, but can also be valuable for coaches.

For swimmers, it’s essential to come to every practice with personal goals and targets.

Swimming effective sets require mindfulness - staying focused on daily training targets and putting in the necessary effort to hit these targets - whether it’s getting the technique right for the entire set, making it to a certain interval, swimming at a certain pace, or something else entirely.

The most effective swim sets aren’t necessarily the ones that were extremely difficult, requiring maximum effort.

Most of the time, they’re the sets that, at the end practice, leaves you knowing something productive was accomplished. They’re the sets where the right kind of effort, and attention, were given to whatever was set out to be achieved - for the day, week, season.

For coaches, keeping these goals in mind give direction on the types of feedback that would benefit each swimmer. It helps you know what to look for and identify precisely how improvements can be made to bring each athlete one step closer to their goals.

Evaluating the effectiveness

Evaluating the effectiveness of workouts is a crucial part of the process to further improve training plans in the future.

Here, again, it’s essential to go back to why you built the sets this way in the first place. Assess whether the sets worked to achieve this purpose, or at least moved the swimmers in the right direction,

Find what worked, and what didn’t, and make the necessary adjustments to improve the effectiveness of future sets.

With effective swim sets and productive practices, your swimmers will be well trained for their races, contributing to a successful season for your entire swim team. 

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