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The Best Swim Workout Sets to Add to Your Workout

Image of Jasmine Ong
Jasmine Ong

With how often swimmers need to come to practice, swim workouts can easily become monotonous.

Monotony isn’t something you’d want in your workouts for a variety of reasons - swimmers’ losing interest, hitting a plateau, and increasing injury risks, to name a few. 

So, if you’re looking for workout ideas to improve your own swim, or to build a winning swim team, here are some of the best swim workout sets to add to your workout.

Note that these are meant to be done as main sets, with sufficient warm up and cool down before and after, for optimal results and lower injury.

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Sprint Sets

When it comes to sprint sets, the main focus is on maximizing speed. Sprint sets are shorter in distance, and higher in intensity.

Intervals can vary - some sets could have tighter intervals with short rest periods between reps/sets, others have longer intervals, sometimes with an easy rep in between reps/sets.

Here is a sample sprint set with descending intervals from Oakville Aquatics’ coach Sean Baker, as posted on Your Swim Book.

16x25 specialty stroke, all fast (maximum effort), broken down as:

  • 4x25 @ 2:00
  • 4x25 @ 1:30
  • 4x25 @ 1:00
  • 4x25 @ 0:30

Distance Sets

Distance sets are about building endurance, and learning to swim, and hold, a specific pace in every lap. Distance sets are longer yardage and lower intensity, usually with tighter intervals.

Here are sample distance sets done by Hickory YMCA’s Ross Dant

3 Rounds of:

  • 100 free @ 1:20
  • 200 free @ 2:30
  • 300 free @ 3:30
  • 400 free @ 4:20
  • 2 minute break

30x100 free broken down as:

  • 5x100 @ 2:00
  • 5x100 @ 1:50
  • 5x100 @ 1:40
  • 5x100 @ 1:30
  • 5x100 @ 1:25
  • 5x100 @ 1:20

You can modify the intervals based on personal capabilities, but the pattern on these 2 sets are as follows: On the first set, the intervals decrease by 5 seconds for every hundred. On the second set, the intervals decrease by 10 seconds every 5x100 on the first 20, and less 5 seconds on every 5x100 on the final 10. 

IM Sets

Some swimmers are more versatile in all 4 strokes than others, but even for those who only specialize in 1 or 2 strokes, a good IM set is always a great addition to switch things up in training.

Here’s a sample IM set from University of South Carolina’s Emma Barksdale

Round 1:

  • 2x150 (50 fly, 50 back, 50 breast)
  • 2x200 IM swim
  • 8x50 fly
  • 100 recovery

Round 2

  • 2x150 (50 fly, 50 back, 50 breast)
  • 2x200 IM swim
  • 8x50 back
  • 100 recovery

Round 3

  • 2x150 (50 fly, 50 back, 50 breast)
  • 2x200 IM swim
  • 8x50 breast
  • 100 recovery

Round 4

  • 2x150 (50 fly, 50 back, 50 breast)
  • 2x200 IM swim
  • 8x50 free
  • 100 recovery

Kick Sets

It’s all too easy for swimmers to slack on their kicks, but kick sets can not be taken lightly if swimmers want to develop solid kicking power and technique.

Here’s a sample high intensity kick set from Commit Swimming.

Round 1

  • 4x100 (last 25 fast) @1:50
  • 4x25 fast @45

Round 2

  • 3x100 (negative split) @1:50
  • 4x25 fast @49

Round 3

  • 2x100 (last 75 fast) @1:50
  • 4x25 fast @35

Round 4

  • 1x100 fast @1:50
  • 4x25 fast @30

Test Sets

Test sets are designed to assess a swimmer’s performance and track their progress over time. There are different types of test sets for measuring different components of a swim. The key is to determine what it is exactly that you are looking to test, and to perform tests regularly.

Check out this post to learn more about the different types of test sets you can add to your training.


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