Ryan Woodruff,  Lynchburg YMCA

I’ve posted before about The Guessing Game and The Guessing Game for Sprinters.

Tonight we tried the guessing game with a new twist: Elimination.

We had 12 swimmers in the pool near the end of practice.  Everyone swam a 100 free (any speed) and immediately had to guess their times.  Top 3 swimmers who guessed closest to their actual time got to climb out and go home. Everyone else swam again and repeated the process. Incredibly, in order to be in the top 3 in the first round, a swimmer had to guess within 0.8 seconds.  Similar results happened in subsequent rounds as the group sharpened their skills. One swimmer managed to finish 4th in both the first and second rounds.

The final three swimmers had the task of cleaning up the deck (equipment, etc.) before leaving.

Overall, it was a fun (and agonizing for some) way to finish practice.

The 2050 Challenge

Coach Gwynn Harrison, Bridgewater College

This is a test we do at least 1/season (often 2).  I keep all results and have an all-time spread sheet of overall time and times for each effort.  This way, swimmers can compare progress from 1st-2nd semester, as well as over course of career at Bridgewater.  It started as a way to get the swimmers more comfortable on the blocks, and more able to swim back to back events during dual meets.  Mostly, its a mental challenge because it is all the individual events of a college dual meet (short order) back to back, all best effort.  I try to do it toward the end of our overload training period to mark the occasion 🙂  Though they complain about it – it occupys a positive tradition in our program

800 Free

200 Free

50 Free

200 IM

100 Fly

100 Free

100 Back

400 Free

100 Breast

**All 100’s + 50 free are done from dive in heats / all others are from push

*We are short course meters pool, so the distance events are 800/400 instead of 1000/500

*We go a 50 recovery after each effort and take an additional 1 minute between efforts

Alex Trebek Memorial Jeopardy! Set

Coach Ethan Leach, Burris Laboratory School

Swimmers will be separated into “teams:” each lane is their own team after reading the answer aloud, whoever buzzes in first may give the question if correct, that lane gets to do the “easy” option (200 K), everyone else does the “hard” option (200 Fly) if incorrect, another lane gets the option to give the correct question. this continues until one lane gets it correct, or all get it wrong categories were built around our high school’s team history, coaches trivia, and the colors of our rival schools, to name a few.

Jeopardy! game show - Fonts In Use

● Burris Swimming History
○ Historical trivia related to our team
● Setting the Record Straight
○ Naming the time or holder of certain team records
● How Old Do You Think We Are?
○ Coaches trivia
● Sing the Burris Fight Song…
○ I will read a line of the school’s fight song, they give the next line
● Seeing Red
○ Name the colors of a rival school
○ Completing a Vine quote

Answer Values:
● 4 x 25
● 4 x 50
● 100
● 4 x 75
● 200
Below are some of the answers I gave:
● “This was the year I graduated from [our school].”
○ “What is 2013?”
● “The name of the man who holds the boy’s 100 Butterfly record, set in 1960.”
○ “Who is Larry Schulhof?”
● “Road work ahead?”
○ “What is Uh, yeah! I sure hope it does?”
● “Yorktown High School.”
○ “What are green and white?”
And don’t forget: responses must be
given in the form of a question!

Rest in peace, Alex. Thank you for everything.

Steal the Underwater Bacon

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

Swimmers are divided into an even number of lanes with each lane serving as a team.. Lane 1 competes with Lane 2, lane 3 competes with Lane 4, etc. On the coach’s “go,” one swimmer in each lane pushes off to begin an underwater dolphin kicking length. As they push off, a coach throws one of our orange hockey pucks (we frequently use as bottom markers, but you can use anything that rapidly sinks) into the pool between each pair of lanes. The swimmers in each pair of lanes race dolphin kick to the puck and try to grab it off the bottom first. If you have the swimmers evenly matched by dolphin kicking ability you will get some excellent races!

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The Guessing Game

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

We played the guessing game the other day at practice. One of my favorite conclusions to practice. On this particular day, had three athletes training long after others who were tapering were out. We did 5 x 100 before achieving the necessary 6 points for the group. One athlete guessed her time exactly to the tenth of a second. Original idea from Gregg Troy.

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Butterfly Jeopardy

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

We did this set as a fun twist on our tradition of doing a fly Set today. The secondary goal was to expand their knowledge of times (and encourage them to memorize theirs).

One swimmer picked a category and distance. I then asked them for the correct question (this is Jeopardy, remember) to go with my answer.

For instance, if a swimmer picked “Your best times (SCY)” for 200, I gave the answer “this is your best time in the SCY 200 IM. Swimmer would say “What is 2:01.26.” If he was within the range mentioned in the picture above, the group performed the 200 as 50 kick/100 drill/50 swim all fly. If he was incorrect, we did the 200 fly fast for time and a 100 ez free.

This picture below shows which swims we ended up doing fast (red X) and which we did as 1/4 kick, 1/2 drill, 1/4 swim. The swimmer who was the contestant selected the member of the group who went next.

There are of course tons of variations you could do on this theme. I printed up our best times, team records, and world records ahead of time, but I imagine this could also be fun to do with swimming trivia.

Medley Madness

Ryan Woodruff
Head Coach
Lynchburg YMCA

Recently, it was announced that for 2018 the TYR Pro Series would include a 200 IM where the stroke order would be announced right before the race.  That got me thinking about a name for all 24 possible stroke orders.  Here is what I came up with:

So I thought it would be fun to do a set with this concept.  Each round, I told the swimmers what the stroke order would be for the 200 IM about 10 seconds before they started.  It made for an interesting workout that many of them enjoyed.

FunSprint Set to Finish Practice

Ryan Woodruff
Head Coach
Lynchburg YMCA

This is a little set that we finished a long Saturday practice with.  In the outline for the workout I gave them before we started, it was called a “fun sprint set.” I think they agreed.

Swimmers teamed up with a partner to do all 18 x 25

Explanation of “partner slingshot” can be found here.

Have you checked out “One of the best ideas I ever had (or maybe stole)?”

Dryland Pictionary

Ryan Woodruff
Head Coach
Lynchburg YMCA

In order to keep dryland fun, competitive, and highly interactive, one thing we have done recently is have “Pictionary Dryland.”  We divide the group up into 3 teams of 6-8 people, each group with a whiteboard and dry erase marker.  I used this Pictionary word generator website for the clues,and show it to one artist from each team.  All 3 teams try to solve for the same word simultaneously.  The winning team gets the satisfaction of watching the other two teams do a dryland exercise (30 squats, 20 push-ups, etc.) immediately after that round.  Continue doing rounds of Pictionary and dryland exercises as long as you want.

An extra-awesome thing has started to happen… Sometimes, a few members of the winning team will do the dryland exercise with the losing team. Coach is mighty proud when that happens!

The Deck of Cards Practice

Ryan Woodruff
Head Coach
Lynchburg YMCA

Try this one for a little variety. Instead of writing specific sets, have swimmers draw playing cards from a deck to determine what stroke, distance (with instructions), and number of repeats to do. One swimmers draws the three cards, then the group does the set.  Repeat as long as you wish.

The first picture below is the layout for the conditions of the card picking.  The second picture explains the sets that we ended up doing in about an 80 minute practice.

The likelihood of getting 3 aces is about .018%, or 1 in 5,555.  But there is still a chance.

Bottle Flippin’ Relays

Ryan Woodruff
Head Coach
Lynchburg YMCA

My swimmers have recently been obsessed with flipping water bottles.  They toss them up in the air, trying to get them to land on the base.  We have spent countless hours at meets and even time at practice in between sets trying to successfully flip bottles.  Maybe you have seen the video sensation on youtube. 

So we decided to make it part of a workout.  We did a relay.  Before each swimmer dove in, someone on his or her team had to successfully execute the water bottle flip.  It made for a fun event.

A video posted by Lynchburg Y Swimming (@lynchburg_y_swimming) on Aug 1, 2016 at 8:35am PDT


Distance With Drills and the Freeway Set from Coach Edie Rogers

Edie Rogers
Charlottetown Bluephins
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada

1. Distance with drills

4 x 500 free on 7:30 SCM
#1 All open turns with no breathing for first 2 cycles
#2 Every 4th length long arm dog paddle
#3 Easy down, fast back
#4 Flip mid-length and no breathing for first 2 cycles after the flip

2. Freeway set:
Start 3 swimmers in a lane at 2 second intervals. Swim continuously for approx 400 metres or any length you like. The third swimmer must pass the 2 ahead before getting to the wall. The lead 2 swimmers must slow their pace to let this happen, the last swimmer is then the leader for the next length, and so on……

6 Motivational Tips for Swim Coaches

Mystery I.M. Transitions

Ryan Woodruff
Head Coach
Lynchburg YMCA
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Swimmers do fly continuously at first (for an unknown distance). When coach blows whistle, swimmers accelerate to the next wall (still butterfly) and then perform a 50 back at 200 IM race pace. Upon completing that 50, swimmers swim smooth breast until completing the 300. Concept could be used for any IM transition.  I like working this fly-back transition because it is the one that is physically hardest to make. The coach can decide whether swimmers will do anywhere from 25 to 225 yards of fly.

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The M & M Set

Ryan Woodruff
Head Coach
Lynchburg YMCA

This is a fun concept for practice you can do any time, but I like to save it for a special occasion.  In this case, we did it on New Year’s Eve.  I buy a bag of M & Ms, and write a set on the board that corresponds with each color in the bag.  I pick a swimmer to pull an M&M out of the bag (without looking) and then we do that set.  Then, I replace the set with another one in case the same color gets pulled by the next swimmer.  The sets can be anything you want, but I like them to be creative, different, or at least something that we don’t do very frequently.  Use it as an opportunity to be creative.

The Blind Goal Workout

Ryan Woodruff
Head Coach
Lynchburg YMCA

Do you want to get a group of kids motivated and swimming fast 100s at practice? Try this workout for a psychological test.

? x 3 x 100 for time

Before practice, the coach writes down a goal time for each swimmer for 100y of one of their prime strokes. The goal time should be extremely challenging (i.e. their lifetime best practice time or maybe even a true lifetime best in some cases). The coach does not reveal the goal times but instead folds it up and pins it to the bulletin board. The group performs fast 100s in groups of three on 4-5 minutes of rest, with ez 200y swims between rounds. For each goal time met, the group receives a point, and the set continues until a group point goal is met. Coach reads the swimmers’ times after each 100 and states whether or not they have reached the goal time, but does not reveal the goal.
You will find out how psychologically strong your team is if you set the goals high enough. If they experience some early success scoring points, they will be more motivated. Should they hit a drought, some group members may give less than their best and no longer strive to swim really fast. If this happens, you may reveal the goal times and then give the group a final opportunity to achieve them. Seeing the goal times will help some athletes and others may be discouraged.

Regardless of how it shakes out, you are bound to get some fast swimming and some great fodder for discussion about goals (and how hard it is to not have them), expectations, and motivation.

If you give the Blind Goal Workout a try, please let me know how it goes.

Stopwatch Roulette

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

This is a fun idea to try at practice someday just for variety. Write a set that can be done in any quantities like the one below.  Start a stopwatch and hand it to a swimmer.  The swimmer stops the watch randomly and whatever digit is in the hundredths place is the quantity for the first part.  Repeat for as many times as you need.


Accepted or Rejected

Phil Kraus

Head Coach

Greater Pensacola Aquatic Club

I call it Accepted or Rejected and we typically do it on a recovery day.  I purchased a decision coin on a swim trip several years ago.  They have all kinds but this one has “Accepted” written on one side and “Rejected” on the other.  It is just as easy to do a regular coin with the words printed on a sticker or just call “heads” accepted and “tails rejected.

You need several (say 20) 3 X 5 note cards.  You have 2 options either write a set on it yourself or hand it out to the swimmers and they write a set on it.  Once a set is written on the cards you shuffle them like a deck of cards (review cards for knucklehead submissions).

You then turn over a card and read the set.

The coin is flipped.  Again 2 options, the coach flips or the swimmers can flip.

If the coin lands as “Accepted” the group does the set as written.  If the coin lands as “Rejected” the set not done and a new card is turned.  Another option we have done is that and “Rejected” set leads to a 100 EZ swim.

I try to keep the sets small and no more than 10 minutes but some are very short. Here are a few…

*2 x 300 on 4:30 Every 3rd Length FAST NO Free
*8 x 50 on 1:00  – Odd 25 Underwater/25 Overwater,  Even Back
*500 Swim Choice on 7:00
*12 x 25 Nasal Set on :30   Nasal Set is one breath for each number in the set so 1st 25 is one breath etc 
*500 Social Kick with Fins
*8 x 25 on the :20  Get Outs – Get Outs are Muscle up (hands to feet out of water, no knees no butts on ladders) and dive in on Interval
*Pull 300 BP 7 on 4:30, 200 BP 9 on 2:50, 100 BP 11 on 1:20 – BP = Breathing Pattern
*1 Round Sharks and Minnows
*9 x 50 Breast on 1:00  3 sets of 3 #1 BR with Free Kick work Tempo, #2 BR with Fly Kick work Undulation, #3 Normal BR
*50 Underwater Goal NO BREATH
*8 x 75 K/D/S on 1:20
*400 IM for time

The possibilities are endless.  The kids really get into it especially when a easy one gets “Rejected”

"The Guessing Game"

Ryan Woodruff,  Lynchburg YMCA

This set is useful for helping distance freestylers refine a sense of pace.

? x 100 freestyle @ coach’s send off

Continue until you achieve 3 points.

Earn 1 point by guessing your time correctly within .5 seconds
Earn 2 points by guessing your time exactly to the tenth of a second
Earn 3 points by guessing your time exactly to the hundredth of a second

Swimmers may swim whatever speed they wish.

I like to use the Guessing Game during taper, typically at the end of practice. Once a swimmer achieves his three points, he warms down and is done with practice.

Tip: Be sure to turn off your pace clock or have the swimmers turn away from the clock when you send them off. You don’t want them looking at it – there won’t be a pace clock at the meet!

This set was originally published here 12/3/2009.  Visit our archives for more excellent training sets and ideas.

Cone Kicks for Underwater Power

Ryan Woodruff
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I stole this idea from somewhere– I just can’t remember where. Cone kicks are performed by placing a medium-sized traffic cone over the front end of the swimmer’s streamline (make sure the cone is not big enough to come down over the swimmer’s face).   This serves two purposes:
1. Keeps the streamline intact
2. Provides extra resistance to the swimmer’s kicking effort.
4 rounds of:
4 x 25 Underwater “Cone Kicks” @ :40
1x 100 easy swim perfect technique, fast turns, and 4+ dolphin kicks @1:20
4 x 25 Underwater kicks without cones @ :30
1 x 100 same as above

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The Pyramid of Pain

Ryan Woodruff

This set provides some incentives for fast swimming.  The picture below explains the process of the Pyramid.  All swimmers begin with a 200 for time with the goal of being within 6 seconds of lifetime best (girls) or 8 seconds (boys).  100 easy for all, and then those that failed will do a broken 200 (75-50-50-25 @:10 rest) while those that succeeded in reaching the goal will do a broken 100 (50-50@:10rest).  The goal on the broken 200 is a lifetime best.  The goal on the broken 100 is within 2 seconds of lifetime best.  The second swim is followed by another 100 easy, and based on a swimmer’s success or failure he then completes either a broken 200 (75-50-50-25@:20 rest), a broken   100 (50-50@:10 rest), or an all-out dive 50.  The goals are a lifetime best, a best +3 or faster, and the starting 50 split for a lifetime best 100, respectively.  Success or failure on the 3rd swim leads to 10 push-ups or a “Hooray!”

We performed two rounds and saw many season-best practice swims.
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