Find Your Threshold Tempo

Ryan Woodruff
Lynchburg YMCA

One of my favorite pieces of equipment is the Tempo Trainer. Below is a set to help you determine what I call your “Threshold Tempo.” Your Threshold Tempo is the fastest cycle rate that you are able to hold for more than 25 yards (and less than 50) while maintaining your stroke length and technique. Essentially, this is a measurement of your neuromuscular capacity for rapid movement. By finding your Threshold Tempo, we are then able to design sets to gradually increase this capacity (enabling a swimmer to swim at a faster cycle rate). In order to find your threshold, do a proper warm-up including some short sprints and then perform the following set with the Finis Tempo Trainer under your cap:

12 x 50 @ 1:00 speed up your tempo by .10 s/cycle after each pair of 50s

Start at the following tempos for each stroke (intended for senior swimmers):
Fly: Men 1.60 Women 1.45
Back: Men 1.50 Women 1.40
Breast: Men 2.00-1.70 Women 1.80-1.60 (varies highly by individual)
Free: Men 1.60 Women 1.50

If you fail to swim at least 25 yards of each 50 at the prescribed tempo, slow the tempo by .05 for the next two and then try again. Continue to make adjustments

For example, a female swimmer’s results from the set done butterfly might look like this

Repeat# – Tempo – Result
#1, #2 – 1.45 – Success
#3, #4 – 1.35 – Success
#5, #6 – 1.25 – Success
#7, #8 – 1.15 – Failure
#9, #10 – 1.20 – Failure
#11, #12 – 1.22 – Success


What we are trying to do here is push the neuromuscular border between success and failure to new faster levels. Thus, we will use the slowest failure tempo that we tried as your threshold tempo.

More sets using the Tempo Trainer another time.

2 thoughts on “Find Your Threshold Tempo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s