4 key triathlon swim workouts
Training > Swim

4 pool swim sessions for triathletes

John Wood has put together four swim set examples. Three are targeted towards one main skill: endurance, speed or open-water skills; while the final one is designed to help newer swimmers progress, ready to step up to the others.

1, Endurance workout

1hr // 2.8km

400m as: 4 x [50m free, 25m backstroke, 25m kick]

4 x 50m with 10secs rest as: 25m single-arm (with opposite arm trailing), 25 swim

8 x 50m with 10secs rest as: Descending laps 1-4 (get quicker) and reduce your swim golf score 

8 x 200m with 20secs rest as: Deep water starts and no push-offs. First 10m of each 50m quicker 

300 easy swim – try and do at least 50 non freestyle


Doing this session will first get you thinking about your stroke and control, reminding you what gets you moving forward. The main set will get you into a rhythm and working aerobically, which is what you need for a long-distance swim but also focus you on your turns. The little bursts of speed every 50m will give your fitness a nice little turbo boost.

2. Speed workout

1hr // 2.7km

4 x 100m with 20secs rest as 25m scull, 75m pull

2 x 100m with 20secs rest as: 50m side kick, 25m back kick, 25m front kick

6 x 50m with 15secs rest as: 25 double arm pulls, 25m swim

4 x 50m with 15secs rest as: 25 straight arm recovery, 25m full stroke

4 x 50m with 15secs rest as: Build to a fast finish each 50m

12 x 100m as: 1 length – 60secs rest; 3 lengths – 10secs rest; 2 lengths – 60secs rest; 2 lengths – 10secs rest; 3 lengths – 60secs rest; 1 length – 10secs rest

200m choice of stroke, easy 


Through the warm-up you can focus on getting hold of the water with your hands and forearms, then accelerating
it back past your hips and being relaxed through your recovery. Once you hit the main set, you can put that extra power to good use with swimming fast and hard on the 100s with long rest, and trying to maintain a smooth, strong effort on the 100s in between. Make sure you streamline and push off the wall well, especially on the fast 100s. Make the most of the speed it gives, and maintain it as much as possible!

How to streamline your swim


3. Pool to open water skills

Up to 60mins // 2.2km

4 x 300m as: 50m freestyle, 25m choice of stroke (non-freestyle)

6 x 50m with 20secs rest doing side-kick

4 x 25m with 30secs rest – as far as you can without breathing. Be careful, don’t push your limits

4 x [25m with 15secs rest as: head-up FC; 50m with 15secs rest as: 25m swim with fists, 25m full stroke; 100m with 15secs rest as: deep-water start, fast first 25m, steady 75m]

6 x 50m with 20secs rest as: drafting practice. Swim on the toes of your friend for 50, then swap. If you have the space, try drafting on your friends hip, or at their shoulder

Three steps to practising your swim drafting until it's perfect

How much time does drafting save when swimming?


200m choice of stroke, easy 


Doing this session gets you thinking about all the elements that you need to swim open water well. From a good efficient kick to start with, and being able to relax and control your stroke (no breathing), the main set challenges you to think about sighting, gripping the water, accelerating and starts.

6 open-water swimming skills to practise in the pool


New swimmer progression

Up to 60mins // 1.6km

Warm up
4 x 50m with 30secs rest as: your choice of stroke


4 x 25m with 15secs rest as: side kick

  2 x 50m with 20secs rest as: full stroke

 4 x 25m with 15secs rest as: rotator kick

  2 x 50m with 20secs rest as: full stroke

  4 x 25m with 15secs rest as: 6 kicks-1 pull (6-1-6)

2 x 50m with 20secs rest as: full stroke

  Repeat the above

Cool down
  8 x 25m choice of stroke 


After a short warm-up doing whatever stroke you like, the main set is all about finding a good balance in the water and strong body position. The key throughout the set is to look down if you’re not breathing (rather than forwards), turn your chin toward your shoulder to breathe, and to always think about drawing your belly button towards your spine (engage your core). This will all make life much easier for you!

6 ways to improve your triathlon swim technique

10 essential pool swim drills for triathletes

Triathlon swimming technique: 9 common mistakes


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