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:

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.


Full Workout with Stations and Quality Set

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

Most of the time on this blog, I publish single sets that we do within a larger workout. Today, I am publishing the entire workout how I have it written out for my group. You may need to zoom in a bit to see it well.

I usually start with a quote — sometimes we discuss it, sometimes we just get right in. Today we did our “Standard Warmup,” which we probably do for 80% of our practices. Our standard warmup is:

400 smooth swim choice @:20 rest

4 x 150 choice kick/drill/build by 50 @:20 rest

4 x 50 choice sprint any 20 of the 50 @:20 rest

Total: 1200m, ~18-20 min

For this workout, we combined 3 power stations with a set of 6 x 50 off the blocks. We did it three times through, meaning each swimmer did each station once and the 6x 50s set three times. It was a good day for us — team energy and spirits were high, performances were good, and we spent time during our subsequent dryland discussing the previous weekend’s meet.

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Breaststroke Deep-Water Speed and Power Set

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

We recently did this set in our approximately 10m-wide diving well. Our breaststroke group was nearly unanimous in their enthusiasm for this set, despite the dog-tired looks on their faces when they finished it.

3 rounds:

10 x 10m widths @:10 1 pullout and 1 cycle breast to make it to the other side.

:20 rest

1:00 vertical eggbeater kick, hands and elbows out of the water.

1:00 rest, hook up to stretch cordz

6 x 4 cycles cord-resisted sprint (no pullouts) and float back to the wall @ ~1:00

1:00 rest

For the cord-resisted sprints, we had a cord anchored to a chain link fence about 10 feet from the edge of the pool. This wasn’t quite enough resistance, so a coach held the cord to get enough tension so that the swimmers were only barely moving forward on the 3rd and 4th cycles sprint.

Power, Speed, Hypox…just FUN

Coach Ryan Lee
Shawnee Mission Northwest High School

2 Rounds of 7×25
*1st round w/ dragsoxs and fins (:50) 
*2nd round w/ fins (:40) 
25 (12 ½ fly, 12 ½ free) – max speed
25 (underwater dolphin)
25 (fly) – max speed
25 (underwater dolphin)
25 (12 ½ free, 12 ½ fly) – max speed
25 (underwater dolphin)
25 (free) – max speed

60secs in-between rounds 

The Bridgewater 6 x 6

Gwynn Harrison
Head Coach
Bridgewater College, VA

6 sets of 6 x 50 – All on 1:00 / 1:10 / 1:15) Drill / Swim
                        1 x 50 FAST …… 5 x 50 (25 Drill – 25 easy, form)
                        2 x 50 FAST……4 x 50 – 1 easy / (3 25 Drill – 25 easy, form)
                        3 x 50 FAST ….3 x 50 –  1 easy / (2 25 Drill – 25 easy, form)
                        4 x 50 FAST…..2 x 50  1 easy / (1 25 Drill – 25 easy, form)
                        5 x 50 FAST….. 1 x 50 Easy
                        6 x 50 FAST

****Maintain times as the repeats increase

Butterfly Quality Control

Ryan Woodruff
Head Coach
Lynchburg YMCA

With narrow lanes and lots of turbulence in our pool, I try to find ways for our swimmers to get in good quality fly sets without having to dodge teammates, do 1-arm strokes, or have to worry about getting hit in the face.  This set accomplished all of those objectives AND helped us deliver some fast performances at practice.  On the 25s, we were able to go :10 apart.  On the 75s, I would start the second heat when the first heat had finished about 60m (SCM pool).  For the 125s, the second heat would begin as soon as the first heat had finished about 110m.  This also produced a “chasing” effect that encouraged swimmers to finish their last 25 fast lest they get caught by a teammate in embarrassing fashion.

Broken 175s for Kicking Prowess

Ryan Woodruff

Lynchburg YMCA

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This set is designed to encourage swimmers to practice strong kicking through the middle and end of 200 events. Time the total round (50+75+50), with the goal being to beat one’s lifetime best 200 time. Typically, breaststrokers and flyers will have the easiest time achieving this goal.

6x through @ 4:00:

50 fast swim
:10 rest
75 fast kick with a board
:10 rest
50 fast swim

Backstroke, Free Pull, and Hypoxic Speed

Ryan Woodruff
Head Coach
Lynchburg YMCA
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