Fun Relay Speed Work

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

Recently at practice about half of our group was missing for a high school meet. We had a block of about 45 minutes that I wanted to get in some good speed work. How to get them excited for it and get some good results? Wacky relays.

We had 12 swimmers split into 4 teams of 3, which allowed us to swim at a roughly 1:2 work-rest ratio. We did 5 relays followed by some active recovery swimming.

Relay 1: 450m each person swims 6×25 free (keeping it simple to get us started)

Relay 2: 450m, each swims 6 x 25 no free

Relay 3: 450m, each swims 25 no free, 75 free, 25 no free, and 75 free

Relay 4: 450m, each swims 25 free, 75 no free, 25 free, 75 no free

By this time, each relay team had won a single race thanks to my expert dividing of teams. The final race would decide who had to do the longest warm down:

Relay 5: 300m each person swims 2 x 50m free dragging a partner holding on to their ankle.

Result: all teams disqualified for various forms of cheating.

The 4-way tie mandated an immediate 50 fly swim-off by a single swimmer from each team.

I got way more energy and effort out of them with this strategy than I would have with a traditional set!


Do you coach swimming and love good quotes? Then you need this:

Product Review: FINIS Backstroke Start Wedge

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

Over the last few years since wedges were introduced, a number of different devices have become available.  Different pools offer different brands and styles, but most in-season meets in our area don’t have wedges. Thus we seldom got to use a wedge.  I have two Junior-National caliber backstrokers on my team, and several more who are close.  It was frustrating to me that we would get to a big meet and have to fiddle with a new device that we were unfamiliar with and practice a start that we have never done before, all to avoid the catastrophic “back flop.”

In steps the FINIS Backstroke Start Wedge to solve that problem.  The FINIS wedge straps on to any kind of starting block and is easy to set up.  It is very durably constructed and performs its function well.  The straps allow for manual adjustment of the height of the ledge and can quickly be moved to suit a swimmer’s preference.  The first day we used it, the straps stretched a bit upon first getting wet, but since then they have not stretched at all.

The price point ($249.99) is still a bit high, but it is much more affordable than other devices — some cost 2-3+ times more, and because the FINIS wedge doesn’t have many moving parts that can malfunction or get jammed up, I think it will last many years.  Like the other products, the FINIS wedge CAN be used in competition.

We now use the FINIS Backstroke Wedge on an almost daily basis.  The walls in our pool are particularly slippery, and my swimmers insist on using it whenever possible.  If you value being able to practice the way you want to compete, this will make your  backstroke starts better.

Here’s a video from GoSwim with a demonstration of how easy it is to set up.


Disclosure: I received no compensation for this review other than being provided a sample product and I receive no commission for sales of this product.

Aerobic Free/Bk/Br for Mid-IM Stamina

Ryan Woodruff

This set was intended to focus on the middle part of our IM swims. Every swim has a 100 back/100 breast in the middle. That 200 is the focus of the set, and we aimed to descend that 200 across the 8 swims. Any distance before or after that 200 is freestyle. We did this in a SCM pool.

Have you seen our FREE e-book, “The Quotable Swimming Coach?” Get it here:

IM with Fly Underwater Kicking Focus

Chris Brookover, YBCC Phoenix

This one is simple and could be changed around but it turned out really well. The fly 25’s turned out to be more of a kick set than swim.

A+ had 1:20 Base for the IM, A had 1:25 and B 1:30

6 x 25 @ :35 Fly – Minimum FIVE Kicks

4 x 100 @ 1:20 –  25 FR / 25 BK / 25 BR / 25 FR

Rest :40

6 x 25 @ :35 Fly – Minimum FIVE Kicks

Rest 1:00

8 x 25 @ :40 Fly – Minimum SIX Kicks

3 x 200 @ 2:40 50 FR / 50 BK / 50 BR / 50 FR

Rest :40

8 x 25 @ :40 Fly – Minimum SIX Kicks

Rest :40

10 x 25 Fly @ :45 Minimum EIGHT Kicks

2 x 300 IM @ 4:00 75 Free / 75 Back / 75 Breast / 75 Free

10 x 25 Fly @ :45 Minimum EIGHT Kicks

Rest :30

12 x 25 Fly @ :50 Minimum NINE Kicks

1 x 400 IM @ 5:15 100 FR / 100 BK / 100 BR / 100 FR

12 x 25 @ :35 EZ FREE


Do you sometimes need an idea for practice? Would you like a weekly email to help spark your creativity? Then sign up for our weekly e-newsletter to get a weekly dose of information, inspiration, and innovation delivered every Tuesday.

Aerobic IM Sandwich with Coach Chris Brookover

Chris Brookover, YBCC Phoenix

Warm Up
1 x 400 @ 6:00 Loosen\
4 x 50 @ :45 Drill w/ Forearm Fulcrums
4 x 100 @ 1:30 Descend 1 4

Anaerobic – In Groups off the Blocks:
6 x 75 @ 4:30 – [Two in a Row The Same IM is Two Fly/Btk/BR, Two BK/BR/FR]

3 x 300 @ 4:00 Free
3 x 300 @ 4:30 IM [100 Back / 100 Breast / 100 Free]
3 x 150 @ 2:00 Free
3 x 150 @ 2:15 IM [50 Back / 50 Breast / 50 Free]
3 x 150 @ 2:45 Kick – Choice – Same per 150 [ :55 Base]
3 x 75 @ 1:00 Free
3 x 75 @ 1:05 IM [ 25 BK / 25 BR/ 25 _tatfFR]6t593r8dws
3 x 75 @ 1:20 Kick Choice [ :53.5 Base]

4 X
6 x 25 @ :25
Rest :40

Swim Down
4 x 75 @ 1:30
3 x 50 @ 1:00


Breaststroke-Focused IM Set from Coach Ken O’Reilly, Scarlet Aquatics

Ken O’Reilly, Scarlet Aquatics

For this workout, there are about 24 athletes in 4 lanes. In order to facilitate competition during practice, we have 3 swimmers start from each end of the pool in each lane and put a cone on both sides at the middle of the pool. This allows kids starting from opposite ends to race — whomever passes the cone first as they go in opposite directions is winning.

Have you seen our FREE new e-book, “The Quotable Swimming Coach?” Get it here:

Off the Blocks with Columbia Swim Club

Coach Todd Kramer, Columbia Swim Club

Here is our main set from last Friday 11/23. We were six days out from our mid season rest meet. We wanted to do some quality swimming after hitting them with some high intensity/short rest sets the previous couple of days. We did the OTB (off the blocks) in three heats, so swimmers ended up having about a 1:3 work to rest ratio on those. The kick intervals gave them a bit more than a 1:1 work to rest ratio. The drill/swim was recovery with a strong focus on the little details. The goal of the set was to do some high quality fast swimming followed by working the legs with the idea of helping to develop good kicking late in their races. In hindsight I would have given the kids more specific time targets on the OTB (which was choice based on their best events). A couple of kids had to be given time targets to refocus, but once we got into the workout I think it went very well.


Fartleks for IMers

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

A “fartlek” is a continuous swim where we change speeds or points of emphasis.

During the 10:00, I would occasionally bang a metal wrench on the side of the pool, signaling an all-out sprint to the next wall followed by continuation of the swim.

The next issue of “the wake-up swim” is coming soon. Sign up to get it every Tuesday.

Slingshot to Freestyle Success

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

This set starts with partner slingshots:

Archer 1 involves a 6-Count pause during freestyle in position just after the hand exits the water. Archer 2 is a similar pause later in the stroke, with the elbow at its highest point even with the shoulder.

Paddlehead drill involves putting a hand paddle on top of the head and using the resistance of oncoming water during balanced swimming to hold it there.

B3 = breathing every 3 atrokes

The next issue of “the wake-up swim” is coming soon. Sign up here to get this instant swimming goodness in your inbox every Tuesday.

Working Our Underwaters with Tempo Trainers

Mike Cook, Mason Makos

4 rounds odd rounds fly even rounds back. Fast fish kicks underwater get up when you decelerate into fast stroke.  Stay with the beep and feel the difference. Fly no breath first stroke. Can not past 15 meter with fins

4x8x25 @35 fins

1st round TT@0.7. 2nd round TT@0.6. 3rd round TT@0.5. 4th round TT @0.4


20×50 @50. Odds fly to back evens back with fins


Another issue of “the wake-up swim” was published this week. Check out the archives here to see what you’ve missed or you can sign up here.

Algebraic Relay Descenders

Coach Josh Sinclair

Decided to have some fun with relays the other morning as we have 2 big relay meets coming up in the next fortnight.  It was great to get some quality changeover practice, as well as get some quality work done.

Tuesday morning is 45min dryland session followed by a 1 hour swim session.  Boys worked off their p1500 times as cycle times (A,B,C) next time I will probably make the cycle times a little more challenging (maybe use p200).

I had 20 swimmers attend so ran 4 teams of 5 at a cycle time of..

2xA+2xB+1C = cycle time

1.30+1.40+55 = 4.05

Rounded down to 4min time cycles.  Was surprised how challenging it was for the boys to descend as a team as they all needed to step up each round collectively in order for a faster overall team time.