Find Your Sweet Spot

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

This set was adapted from‘s Ramp Test
The Sweet Spot Test Set
Using a Tempo Trainer
12 x 50 LCM @ 1:20
Begin at a tempo you know you can hold (if you are doing freestyle, try something between 1.50 and 1.80). Hold that tempo as precisely as possible for the entire 50m. Have a friend or a coach count your cycles and record that info. On each subsequent 50, lower your tempo by
.10 until you reach a tempo that you are unable to hold. After that failure point, take your tempo back up to near where it started, and bring it down again. Also make note of your effort level on a scale of 1-10.
At the completion of the set, you should have a range of tempos, cycle counts, efforts, and times. Look for effort levels in the 8 or 9 range. If you are well-conditioned, these should roughly approximate 200 pace. The range of data that you find will be your “Sweet Spot.” Train in and around this sweet spot as often as possible to improve your ability to sustain this pace or even to improve upon it.
This post originally appeared on this blog on May 26, 2010.

Breaststroke Set Working Race Tempo

Ryan Woodruff
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This set is intended to help breaststroke swimmers build and maintain their tempo during a race.  We use Finis’ Tempo Trainer Pro.

2 rounds:
3 x 50 Breast with flutter kick @ 1:00
4 x 50 Breast, Build the tempo @ :50
  100 EZ Back or Free
3 x 50 Breast with dolphin kick @ 1:00
4 x 75 Breast, Build the tempo for the first 50, hold it for the last 25@1:20
  100 EZ Back or Free
3 x 50 Breast 3 kick-1 pull drill @ 1:00
4 x 100 Breast, Build the tempo for the first 50, hold it for the last 50 @ :50
  100 EZ Back or Free
All out 200 Breast from dive (2nd round do a 100 instead of a 200)

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"Beat the Beep" Race Pace Set

Ryan Woodruff

This set uses the Tempo Trainer Pro to help our swimmers swim at race pace for 200 yard events.  The beauty of using the Tempo Trainers is that the swimmers can focus on tempo, technique, etc. without having to listen for times.  They simply listen for the beep and try to keep up with it.

We set the Tempo Trainers for a swimmer’s average pace for a 25 in a 200 yard race.  Use the pace cards to find your race pace.  This means that the swimmer will hear a beep at the beginning and end of each lap swum at pace.  We call the time between beeps a “segment.”  Thus for a swimmer whose best 200 time is 2:00, 1 segment equals either a 25 swim performed in :15 seconds or :15 seconds rest.

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Can You Spot Me?

Ryan Woodruff
Head Coach, Lynchburg YMCA

This set uses yesterday’s Sweet Spot Test

Warmup w/ fins
400 smooth swim B3
4 X 100 build @ :20 rest
4 x 50 choice 15m sprint then ez

Main set using a Tempo Trainer

3x through:

1 x 50 @ 1:20 in sweet spot range
1 x 100 build @:10 rest
1 x 100 ez @ :10-:20 rest (leave on next multiple of 10)
1 x 50 @ 1:20 in sweet spot range
1 x 50 @ 1:10 in sweet spot range
1 x 100 JUST GO FAST @ :10 rest
1 x 100 ez @ :10-:20 rest (leave on next multiple of 10)
1 x 50 @ 1:20 in sweet spot range
1 x 50 @ 1:10 in sweet spot range
1 x 50 @ 1:00 in sweet spot range
1 x 100 JUST GO FAST @ :10 rest
1 x 300 25 drill/25 swim

On the JUST GO FAST parts, use the Tempo Trainer as a guide, but do not worry if you cannot hold it.

Back and Free Tempo Set

Ryan Woodruff, North Carolina Aquatic Club

This set can be done backstroke or freestyle, and is meant to challenge the athlete’s ability to hold tempo. Use a Tempo Trainer and be sure to establish your Threshold Tempo (TT) first.

5 x 100 @ :20 rest (includes time to adjust your tempo trainer)

#1 – Hold TT + .30 for as long as possible, then swim perfect technique for the remainder
#2 – Hold TT + .20…
#3 – Hold TT + .10…
#4 – Hold TT…
#5 – Smooth perfect technique (recovery)

Perform multiple rounds if desired.

After the set, use The Swimming Calculator and your Cycle Count to determine what a reasonable time goal you could achieve if you were able to sustain your tempo longer than you did on the above set.

Sub-Threshold Tempo Set

Ryan Woodruff, North Carolina Aquatic Club

Try this set for a little tempo and technique work. Tempos should work well for free, back, or fly.

4 x 25 at threshold tempo @ :10 rest
100 ez swim at normal cycle count
4 x 50 at threshold tempo +0.20 @ :15 rest
100 ez swim at normal cycle count
4 x 75 at threshold tempo +0.30 @ :20 rest
100 ez swim at normal cycle count
4 z 100 – 25 at threshold tempo/50 at cycle count/25 at threshold tempo @ :20 rest

The Whatchamacallit

Ryan Woodruff, North Carolina Aquatic Club

1000 warmup – 150 free/100 no free

2 x 500 free pull B3 @ 5:50

5 x 200 free swim
#1@ 2:20
#2 @ 2:30
#3 @ 2:10
#4 @ 2:30
#5 @ 2:00

20 x 25 @ :30 prime stroke w/ Tempo Trainer
odd – build to Threshold Tempo
even – ez kick

5 x 200 @ 2:40, middle 50 is fast prime, the rest is ez free

2 x 500 @ 6:15, middle 100 is fast prime

1 x 1000 middle 200 is fast prime

12 x 50 @ 1:30
#1 – 35 m fast, then ez
#2 – 25 y UW kick fast then ez
#3 – 15m fast then ez
#4 – all ez

Twenty Ways to Do 20 x 25 – #9

Ryan Woodruff, North Carolina Aquatic Club

#9 – Hypoxic Freestyle Speed

The ability to swim fast while using little oxygen is a vital skill for sprinters. This set aims to improve that ability. For a little variety, do it with paddles and/or a buoy and fins. For a bigger challenge, do all max speed swims at your Threshold Tempo with a Tempo Trainer.

20 x 25
#1 – ez with 3 breaths or fewer @:30
#2 – max speed with 3 breaths or fewer @:20
#3 – ez with 2 breaths or fewer @:30
#4 – max speed with 2 breaths or fewer @:20
#5 – ez with 1 breath or fewer @:30
#6 – max speed with 1 breath or fewer @:20
#7 – ez no breathing @ :30
#8 – max speed no breathing @ :30
#9 – max speed unlimited breath @ :30
#10 – max speed no breathing @1:00

Disclaimer: Use caution when performing hypoxic restricted breathing sets. Do not push yourself too far or you risk blacking out. Do not hyperventilate in preparation for a swim. Only perform this set under the direct supervision of a coach trained in rescue techniques.

Twenty Ways to Do 20 x 25 #8

Ryan Woodruff, North Carolina Aquatic Club

#8 – Backstroke Tempo & Kick

20 x 25
Use a Finis Tempo Trainer and set it for your Threshold Tempo
#1- Backstroke, build tempo to threshold :25
#2- Fast backstroke swim at threshold tempo :20
#3- Backstroke spin drill at faster than threshold tempo :25
#4- Underwater streamline dolphin kick :25
#5- ez kick on back :30

Spin drill is sitting up “like in a chair,” with head still, very aggressive kick, and arms spinning at maximum speed. Don’t worry about holding water with your hands or moving quickly through the water. The entire emphasis is on tempo here.

Twenty Ways to Do 20 x 25 – #6

Ryan Woodruff, North Carolina Aquatic Club

#6 – Improving Breaststroke Tempo

In my opinion, kicking speed (specifically the recovery portion of the kick) is the limiting factor for most swimmers when it comes to breaststroke tempo. Speeding up breaststroke tempo thus must start from the legs. This set focuses primarily on kicking foot speed, and then works briefly on the pull, then finally on overall stroke tempo.

20 x 25 @:30
Perform the following sequence 4x:
#1-3: Br kick w/board & tempo trainer at Threshold Tempo
#4; Br pull w/ flutter kick, focusing on fast arm tempo
#5: Br Speed Drill (narrow pull, narrow kick, fast hands and heels)

Aerobic Tempo Set

Ryan Woodruff, North Carolina Aquatic Club

In order to do this set, you should have already established your Threshold Tempo. This set will help you train your neuromuscular abilities while enhancing your overall aerobic fitness. For your “prime stroke,” choose whichever stroke you would like to work. I particularly recommend this workout for backstroke, freestyle, and butterfly.

T-Tempo=Threshold Tempo

6 x 600 @ :20 rest
#1,3,5 – 25 prime stroke at T-Tempo/25 prime stroke drill/50 ez freestyle swim
#2,4,6 – 25 prime stroke smooth swim/25 prime stroke at T-Tempo/50 ez freestyle swim

This set requires significant discipline on the part of the athlete to hold the tempo under fatigue.

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.