Repetitive Freestyle Swimming Workouts | STACK Coaches and Trainers

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Repetitive Freestyle Swimming Workouts

October 20, 2012 | Gary Mullen

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"Practice makes perfect." This is more than an old cliché coaches throw around. Your brain records specific movement patterns, speed and techniques, so repetitive freestyle swimming workouts will wire you for swimming success. (Make sure you're using correct form first.)

Too many freestyle workouts are high in variety while lacking individualization to achieve specific goals. Program yourself to meet your goals. Make this your first priority. Proper goal setting and progressions support motivation in every athlete. Remember: repetition is key. When you repeat your desired pace over and over throughout your training, your body will be able to fall back on its motor program when fatigue sets in during competition.

If you're on the BTRE protocol, the toughest part of the repetition phase is the lack of variety. This drives many swimmers to programs with variations, but it's important to remember that repetition is what helps you achieve your goals. For example, if your goal time is 2:02 in the 200-freestyle, the race pace for each 50 meters is 30 seconds (assuming two seconds for the start). Set goals for race paces for different distances, and "program" your body to swim at those paces through repetition.

Unfortunately, this type of training does become boring, even for highly motivated swimmers. The following swimming workouts offer some variation without compromising repetition and motor programming.

Maximum Repetitions

This is the most basic form of repetitive race pacing. Simply perform the maximum number of repetitions with consistent rest. Each time you do the reps at race pace, attempt to beat your last time at your next maximum rep workout.


Most swim teams perform mountains. A mountain provides "semi-random" practice. Swimmers do various speeds one after another. Attempt the following set without extra rest. Progression occurs by shortening the rest on both sections, or just on the way down, since coming down a mountain is always faster than going up.

Example: Six rounds of
 25 free (100 race pace)

  • First 20 seconds: 
50 free (200 race pace)
  • Second 20 seconds: 
75 free (500 race pace)
  • Third 20 seconds: 
six rounds of
 75 free (500 race pace)
  • Fourth 20 seconds: 
50 free (200 race pace)
  • Fifth 20 seconds: 
25 free (100 race pace)
  • Sixth 20 seconds: six rounds of
 75 free (500 race pace)

Limbo Set

This tests how long a swimmer can keep up race pace. It systematically decreases rest, determining how little rest one can take and still maintain race pace.

  • 5x50 (200 pace)
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • 5x50 (200 pace)
  • Rest 25 seconds
  • 5x50 (200 pace)
  • Rest 20 seconds
  • 5x50 (200 pace)
  • Rest 15 seconds
  • 5x50 (200 pace)
  • Rest 10 seconds
  • 5x50 (200 pace)
  • Rest 5 seconds

Card Game

This is ideal for team practices when the swimmers are desperate for variety. This set forces random practice, which will increase retention of motor skills.

  • Set up a card protocol with specific distances and pre-determined rest intervals. For example:
  • Spade equals 12.5 yards/meters at 50 pace
  • Club equals 25 yards/meters at 100 pace
  • Diamond equals 50 yards/meters at 200 pace
  • Heart equals 100 yards/meters at 500 pace
  • If someone pulls the eight of spades, the team performs 8x12.5 with a 20-second rest
  • After each card, perform a short cooldown
  • Another team member picks a card

Want more workouts to add to the repetition? Check out STACK's Swim Training Library

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