Eric Talsma, Hamilton (MI) Swimming

This is a fun set that we do. Or we use it as part of a larger set. Great for getting the kids to push each other and make each other suffer a bit.

We call it simply FOWLI which stands for First Out When Last In. No time interval, they just leave based on how fast those around them are swimming. We usually do it as 25’s but you can do it for any length repeat.

Generally set up with between 3 and 6 swimmers per lane. The fewer the swimmers the tougher the set.

When the last swimmer touches the wall, the first swimmer leaves. We want them to be leaving at about :02 intervals so they are really pretty close to each other. We encourage them to pass if they can but they must hang on to the feet of the person in
front of them.

Each swimmer leads between 1 and 4 repeats. The fewer repeats before rotating the lead the tougher the set. After the leader is done they go to the back of the lane, giving them between 6 and 12 seconds extra rest, everyone else moves up one spot shorting them on :02 or so of rest.

Some variations that we like: w/ zoomers or fins, pulling, stroke, IM order rotating lead every 4, as a lead in to a set, in the middle of a set, at the end of a set, etc. We like to mix it in to a workout once a week or so. We encourage them to push each other and steal their lane-mates rest.

Hope you like it. Let me know if you have any questions.

I’ll try to get you some others that we like to do. I really appreciate the site. It has spurred some good conversations and some good thinking on workout ideas.

Captain Jack 100s

Ryan Woodruff, North Carolina Aquatic Club

“Me? I’m dishonest, and a dishonest man you can always trust to be dishonest. Honestly. It’s the honest ones you want to watch out for, because you can never predict when they’re going to do something incredibly… stupid.” -Captain Jack Sparrow

This set was inspired by the scene from Pirates of the Carribbean when the pirates trek across the bottom of the ocean. Thought it would be a good challenge to run across the bottom of the pool.

This set is best performed in 6 to 8 feet of water. Have swimmers each grab weights or weight belts (10-20 pounds per person should do) and place them 12.5 yards down the pool.

Perform the following in rapid succession (no rest)
1) 12.5 yards sprint from a dive
2) Dive down and pick up your weight from the bottom, holding it and “running” along the bottom of the pool for 12.5 yards to the opposite side, dropping the weight by the wall.
3) Perform 5 press-outs on the pool edge.
4) Swim a 50 fast
5) Pick up your weight from the bottom and “run” it along the bottom back to the middle of the pool. Drop your weight.
6) Push off the bottom and sprint the final 12.5 yards to a perfect finish.

Rest and repeat as you wish.



Michael Kraeuter, Blue Wave Swim Team

This works best in a short course pool and if you have an even number of swimmers.

Put half your swimmers at one end and the other half at the other about the same numbers in each lane.  When you say “go” one swimmer in each lane will begin. When that swimmer reaches the other side their teammate gives them 5 seconds from when their feet leave the wall and then they push off chasing them down the pool. Their teammate on the other side will do the same for them, then the chaser becomes the chased and so on and so forth.  

If you get caught as the one being chased or you don’t catch the one you are chasing you have 5 push-ups for each.  This keeps going for as long as you would like and you can use any of the strokes.  I find it works on a few things; it makes the swimmer work both parts of the 50 it also works on their mental state of chasing someone down or being chased by someone in a race and still pushing through while staying focused on the task at hand.  They get more rest between swims depending on how many swimmers you have placed in each lane.  Fun but very hard set!

The Deck of Cards Dryland Set

Ryan Woodruff
Head Coach
Lynchburg YMCA

The concept for this workout was given to me by Ron “Sticks” Ballatore, head coach of the NCAA Champion 1982 UCLA Bruins men’s swimming team.

Using a regular deck of 52 cards, have the swimmers take turns drawing a card for the group. Perform the number of reps according to the card drawn.

Hearts = Pull-ups
Diamonds = Pike-ups on a physio ball
Spades = Push-ups
Clubs = Do all three exercises above

Jack = 11
Queen = 12
King = 13
Ace = repeat the reps of the previous card drawn.

Thus, a 3 of hearts means everyone performs three pull-ups. A 9 of clubs means 9 pull-ups, 9 pike-ups, and 9 push-ups. Keep going through the deck for as long as you can take it.

The Tag Relay

Ryan Woodruff, North Carolina Aquatic Club

The Tag Relay is a fun challenge for your team that can help develop teamwork and flat-out speed.

If you are in a SCY pool, space out 4 to 8 swimmers along the lane in a circle-swimming pattern. For LCM you will need a few more (maybe 12-18). The first person will dive in, sprint to tag swimmer #2, who sprints to tag swimmer #3, and so on. You can do this for any distance and any stroke. Try having them go in medley order for fun. You will be surprised at how fast they can go when they touch hand-to-foot and get to practice it a few times. Try to break the national age group, American, or World records.

MoCo 50s

Ryan Woodruff, North Carolina Aquatic Club

MoCo 50 = MOmentum COnservation 50

A MoCo 50 is an exercise in body position, streamlining, and efficiency. The idea is to conserve your momentum (keep it for as long as you can!) by using terrific body position. Here’s how to perform a MoCo 50:

1. Dive off the blocks with your best streamline.
2. Glide until you come to a stop (no kicking).
3. Immediately sprint into the wall and turn at full speed.
4. Streamline and glide until you come to a complete stop.
5. Immediately sprint into the wall with a perfect finish.
6. Slowest time and/or least distance swum wins!

The Perfect MoCo 50 = 1 stroke swum into the turn and 1 stroke swum into the finish).

Can you do it?

Teammate Slingshots

Ryan Woodruff

This exercise builds off of the Teammate Drag. It is best done for a 25 at a time. Here is how it works. Swimmers are partnered, with one swimmer pulling (sprinting) and the other being pulled. Somewhere between the 15m marks, the trailing partner pulls the leading partner’s leg, attempting to slingshot to the lead. They then sprint to the wall. The kids love this exercise, and it really got them going pretty fast.

Here’s a video example:

9 Ways to Train I.M.

Ryan Woodruff

We all know that I.M. is a great way to put some variety into your training. Here are some ways to put a little variety into your variety.

#1 – Reverse I.M. A commonly used version, simply swim the strokes in reverse order.
#2 – Free I.M. Good for masters swimmers who are fly-reluctant or for any time that you want to get good back, breast, and free training without the butterfly. Simply substitute freestyle in for the butterfly portions of the I.M.
#3 – Inside-out I.M. Swim the strokes in the order Back-Fly-Free-Breast
#4 – Fat I.M. – Do these for lengths that are 25% longer than your standard I.M.-125s, 250s, 500s, etc. Double up on one of the strokes (this is the Fat stroke). A 250 Fat I.M. (Back) would thus be 50 Fly/100 back/50 breast/50 free.
#5 – Lemon I.M.
#6 – Emily I.M.- For swimmers with knee injuries/pain or whose breaststroke is not a focus of your efforts for improvement. Swim backstroke double the normal distance and leave out breaststroke altogether. Yes, this is named after a swimmer.
#7 – Baltimore I.M.s
#8 – Skinny I.M. This is the opposite of Fat I.M.s Swim distances like 175s, 350s, etc. Cut the distance of one stroke in half.
#9 – Gator I.M. Alternate stroke and free. A 300 Gator I.M. would be 50 fly/50 free/50 back/50 free/50 breast/50 free.

Do you have any other interesting or creative ways of training I.M.?

Twenty Ways to Do 20 x 25 – #17

Ryan Woodruff, North Carolina Aquatic Club

#17 – Racing A Teammate

You’ll need a teammate who is generally about the same speed as you. Do your 20 x 25 @ :30, swimming side-by-side and racing to the finish each time. The winner of #1 receives 1 point. The winner of #2 receives 2 points, and so on, all the way up to 20 points on #20. The winner of each 25 chooses the stroke for the subsequent 25, but must choose a different stroke than the length just completed AND the one before that. In other words, if you swim free on #1, back on #2, and swimmer A wins them both, then swimmer A must choose between breast and fly for #3. Done this way, there are a total of 210 points, so the first person to 106 points is the winner. For an extra wrinkle, allow each swimmer one “steal,” i.e. one occasion during the set where he can choose the next stroke even after losing the previous 25.

Dizzy 50s

Dani Caldwell, SUSA Stingrays
St. George, Utah

Something we like to do with our newer swimmers (and sometimes the older ones, too, for fun and fundamentals) is what we call “Dizzy 50’s:”


We only do about 6-10 x 50 FR (depending on level and ability of swimmer) with a Streamline pushoff (7-kicks or 10 yards), then a few strokes, a somersault in the middle, continue to the far wall, do two consecutive flips, push off on the 2nd flip, SL to 5 yards, stroke, somersault in the middle again, then far wall.  We really emphasize turning in Head-Hips-Heels fashion and not lifting the head into the turn.  Make sure there is enough space so they don’t run into each other when they get “dizzy!”

See Previous Submissions from Coach Caldwell:
Hypoxic from Utah – December 16, 2009

Lumber Kicks

Ryan Woodruff

We use these exercises to building kicking strength, teamwork, and critical thinking skills. Plus, they are a bunch of fun!

You probably should first know what inspired this workout:

We use regular 4″ x 4″ x 8′ pieces of lumber that you can pick up at your local hardware store (be sure to measure the width of your lanes to know how long a piece of lumber you can use) Depending upon the strength and ability of your swimmers, I recommend putting between 2 and 6 swimmers on an 8′ log.

Exercise #1:

More to come in another post!

Workout Links for Christmas

Some web resources for swimming workouts:

50 Swim Workouts
– Self-described easy-to-moderate workouts
Swimming World Magazine – a good database of searchable workouts by ability, stroke, and duration
Four Focused Swim Workouts – from
Beginner Swim Workouts
U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forum-for USMS members only
USA Swimming – workouts from our national governing body

Follow The Leader

Andy Astfalck, Head Coach, International School Manila, Philippines

A set I have started using recently and is great for getting the kids to work together as a team.

It’s called Follow the Leader.
A typical set would be 25X100 FR on 1:30.

I have a group of 4 boys who have similar send off times.
The idea of the set is to take turns leading, once you have lead you go to the back of the line. Just like cyclist take turns at the front.The swimmers leave 5 seconds apart which means they work hard for 4 efforts then get to rest then join the group at the back of the line. The reality is they are swimming on a send off of 1:25 for 4 repeats then when they go to the back of the line their send off will be 1:50, they really get into it and wouldn’t dream of stopping or getting out for the bathroom, they work hard so they don’t let down their team.

Slot Water Polo

Ryan Woodruff
Slot Water Polo came about when I wanted a fun game for my swimmers to play that was safe, was easy to set up, didn’t have too many rules, and wouldn’t be overly physical while still demanding their effort. It is similar to traditional water polo in several ways — it has a ball, two teams going in opposite directions, an out-of-bounds area, etc. Here is what makes it different:

1. Play with a physio ball (swiss ball). This makes the game slower and less dangerous (it doesn’t hurt to get hit in the face).
2. Swimmers wear fins. Makes for a great lower body workout.
3. Swimmers must stay in their lanes (slots). At the beginning of the game, swimmers must choose their slot and remain in it until a goal is scored. A swimmer may reach outside of his lane, but his waist may not cross the lane line.
4. The goal is a traffic cone placed on each side of the pool. A goal is scored when a cone is knocked over.
5. If one team is camping out defensively, the coach may move the cone to another lane at any time during the game. This also adds an extra element of strategy to the game.
6. For a more interesting game, play with two or three physio balls at a time.

The Guessing Game (For Sprinters)

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

The concept here is similar to yesterday’s post – The Guessing Game. For a sprint or non-freestyle version of the Guessing Game, I like to do 50s, and have the swimmers guess within a 0.2-second range. They also have to be within a certain range (like 4 seconds) from P200. I use the same points system as in the regular Guessing Game.

I actually had a swimmer recently who guessed his 50 time to the one-hundredth of a second exactly on his first one. He was thus done with practice and the rest of his teammates seethed.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

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!

Lemon I.M.s

Ryan Woodruff, North Carolina Aquatic Club

Here’s a fun way to do some IM swims. I call them “Lemon I.M.s” because you are squeezing the strokes together.

For instance, a 200 IM could look like this:
175 fly, 8 back, 8 breast, 8 freestyle (for simplicity’s sake, we’ll equate 8 yards to 1/3 of a pool length). The swimmer simply changes strokes rapidly mid-pool.

Or a 200 IM could look like this:
8 fly, 8 back, 8 breast, 175 freestyle.

You get the idea… “Squeeze” two or three strokes together into a 25 or a 50, and leave one stroke out to swim the majority of the distance. It provides some variety for the swimmers, and those mid-pool transitions are really something to watch!

The Rectangle Warm-Up

Ryan Woodruff, North Carolina Aquatic Club

Don’t be a square. Try it!

This is best done if you have the whole pool for your one workout group. Start one at a time, swim 25 yards in Lane 1. Then push off from the side of the pool and streamline dolphin kick across the pool width, underneath the lane ropes to the last lane. Swim 25 yards back to the starting end and kick width-wise again to return to where the rectangle began. Do as many revolutions as you like.

For extra motivation for your swimmers to complete the entire width without surfacing, do this set while all of the lanes in the middle of the pool are occupied with swimmers working out.

The Ken Ryan Tribute

Ryan Woodruff, North Carolina Aquatic Club

If you know him, you are no doubt amused at how appropriate the title is.


This set can only be done at afternoon practice.

20 minutes. Do whatever you want to prepare yourself to swim fast, just be READY TO GO at the end of the time.

4 x 15m sprints from a dive for time @ 2:00
Time to the head crossing the 15m mark

200 ez social swim

4 x 25 yard sprints from a dive @ 2:00

200 ez social swim

4 x 35 yeter (25 yards + turn & back to the near 15m mark) sprints @ 2:00

200 ez social swim

1 x 50 yard sprint for time

Loosen down until you feel REALLY, REALLY, GOOD.

Get out and go home.

Freedom Fridays

Ryan Woodruff, North Carolina Aquatic Club

Do you want your swimmers to take more personal ownership of their swimming? Do they need a better understanding of exactly what it is that they do to become fast? Here’s a solution for you.

I call it Freedom Fridays. Ask your swimmers: “If you had 20 minutes at practice to do whatever you thought would make you a better swimmer, what would you do?” Have them write down their own set (no copying from teammates) on a 3 x 5 note card. It can be anything they want, but must involve 1)being in the water 2)becoming a better athlete and 3)take about 20 minutes. The set can be easy or hard, require a coach’s help or not, but it MUST be directed toward getting better and they should be able to explain what they are doing.

Collect the cards and then allocate time each week to do their set. We do it on Friday and call it “Freedom Friday.” It is a great way to end the week. Freedom Fridays promote critical thinking on the athlete’s part, foster a sense of ownership of their training, and are just plain fun too. Give it a try with your Senior kids. I think you will like the results

Twenty Ways to Do 20 x 25 #5

Ryan Woodruff, North Carolina Aquatic Club

Dryland Strength and Aquatic Speed

20 x 25

10 pushups, right into:
#1 – No breath sprint @ :20
#2 – Sprint @ :25, beat time from #1
#3 – Sprint @ :30, beat time from #2
#4 – EZ swim

Repeat for 5 sets of 4 with different dryland exercises with each set:
Before #5: 10 fast squats
Before #9: 5 pullups
Before #13: 10 switch lunges
Before #17: 20 pike-ups on a physio ball

Payin’ the Price for Your Partner

Ryan Woodruff

Just a fun and challenging set that encourages the swimmers to support each other and swim fast.

4x (all with fins):
12 x 25
#1 – fast UW kick @:20
#2 – fast no-breath swim @ :25
#3 – easy swim @ :30
#4 – fast no-breath swim @ :25
#5 – fast UW kick @ :20
#6 – easy swim @ :30
1 x 50 all out (rotate stroke IM order by round)
1 x 100 easy swim

Time the 50 and have them remember times. Don’t give them the following part of the set until you get to this point. Get a partner.

One partner swims an all out 50 without fins while the other partner waits. For every full second that partner #1 swims slower than his time from the previous set, partner #2 must do a pullup (2 pull-ups for each second for guys). Then switch roles – partner #2 swims and partner #1 has to do pull-ups based on #2’s time.

Occasionally you will get a clown who swims slow thinking that he will really stick it to his teammate. Surprise him and the rest of the group with multiple rounds of this and he may start to realize that the more pull-ups his partner has to do, the slower his partner will swim.