Triathlete working on his swim speed
How to set your swim benchmark
Training > Swim

How to set your swim training benchmark

The off-season is the time to get your stroke assessed, set specific goals and start to measure your progress

The best way to begin your off-season swim training is by identifying the areas you need to improve.  Performance-improvement goals for swimmers typically break down into three areas: increasing fitness; reducing drag (through better body positioning); and improving propulsion (by increasing stroke efficiency). This critical swim speed (CSS) session will test your current performance, so you can set pacing targets for your training and monitor your progress. 

CSS sessions should be race-specific, so if you’re working up
to a sprint tri (750m swim), your pace should be CSS minus 2-4secs per 100m; for an Olympic/middle-distance tri (1.5km/1.9km swim) aim for your CSS pace; and for a long-distance tri (3.8km swim) aim for CSS + 2-4secs per 100m. 

Structure your training so you  have a weekly CSS-pace session
of 10-20 x 100m on 20secs rest. Drop the rest interval to 15secs after a couple of weeks, then drop it to 10secs a few weeks after that before testing your CSS pace again.

COACH'S TIPS:  SIMPLE MONITORING TESTS

Stroke Analysis

Find a triathlon swim coach who can provide video stroke analysis. Use this to identify the aspects of your technique that can be improved and ask for advice on specific sessions to work on them. 

T10 or T20 Test

With a friend recording your 100m splits, swim as far as you can in 10mins (beginner) or 20mins (experienced). Aim to even pace or negative split the swim. Use the result to review your pacing.

Count vs Rate  

Count the number of strokes you take per 25m at a given swim speed, then see if you can reduce that count while holding pace. Then hold your count and up your stroke rate to increase speed.

THE SESSION

WARM-UP

200m

Change stroke every 50m

4 x 25m

As half-length scull, half-length swim

10secs rest after each 25m

4 x 25m

Half-length high-cadence,
half-length stroke-lengthening swim

10secs rest after each 25m

4 x 50m 

Building rep 1-4 to race-pace effort 

20secs rest after each 50m

MAIN SET 1 – CSS SWIM TEST

400m max effort

With consistent pace throughout.
If you can, ask someone to record each 100m split

6mins easy
Including some light drills 

200m max effort

All-out effort, recording 100m splits

Calculate your CSS pace:
swimsmooth.com/css-calculator.html 

MAIN SET 2 – CSS PACING SWIM

10 x 100m 

Swim at your CSS pace, aim to hold that pace throughout

15secs rest after each 100m

  

COOL-DOWN 

200m 

Mixed stroke

ADAPT FOR BEGINNERS

Reduce the warm-up and CSS pacing swim to 6 x 100m.

ADAPT FOR IRONMAN

Increase CSS pacing swim (main set 2) to 10 x 200m at CSS pace + 2-4secs per 200m, with 15secs rest after each 200m.  

Richard Smith has 25 years experience in elite sport, supporting all abilities from novices to GB age-groupers as TRIbal Triathlon's high performance coach.

Benchmark your off-season fitness


 
 

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