Goal-based Quality Set for Age Groupers

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

This a good set for a group of 14 & unders who have improved a bunch over the course of a season. The main idea: have them swim repeat 100s with the goal being to beat their best time from the before the start of the season. The purpose is to show them how far they have come and to build their confidence heading into the championship season.

? X 100 @ 2 minutes rest (at least)

Print out a list of your group’s best 100 times prior to the start of the season or after the first meet and post it to the wall. Each swim performed under that time counts as a point for the group. Give them a point total to shoot for as group (maybe a clever incentive too) and then watch them destroy it!

Important: Do this with a group that has already seen great improvements, or have them do only 100s of the strokes in which they have improved.

Find Your Sweet Spot

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

This set was adapted from SwimSmooth.com‘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.

IM Cycles Set

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

The purpose of this set was to promote Cycle Count awareness while doing some strenuous IM work. For the 150, on the first 50 swimmers did 5 cycles fast fly, then 5 cycles fast backstroke on the second 50 and so on…

For the 300, it became 10 cycles for two 50s. For the 450, it was 15 cycles for three 50s.

On the 200s IM, counting the cycles and seeing how they varied from round to round was a great learning experience — our swimmers improved their understanding of how the strokes affect each other within that event.

Improving Open Water Sighting Efficiency

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

I am an Open Water swimming enthusiast. It’s fun, interesting, and brings a different dimension to the sport. For swimmers new to Open Water, one of the biggest curveballs is “sighting,” which is lifting your head to peek forward over the water to get your bearings from landmarks or buoys. Efficient navigation is important to avoid swimming farther than necessary but most swimmers are very inefficient at sighting when starting out. The keys to doing well are:

  • Avoid picking up your head higher than you need to.
  • Figure out how often you need to sight in order to stay on course. Less is better IF you stay on course.
  • When you do pick up your head, bring your whole body up by engaging the legs a bit more intensely than before and tightening the core.

Here is a set to test how well you are doing sighting:

9 x 200 free @:30 rest

#1 – no sighting – just swim at a moderately strong pace

#2 – sight once every 8 or 10 strokes. Try to keep your overall effort close to #1, and see how close your time is to #1.

#3 – sight once every 4 or 8 strokes, again at the same intensity. Check your time.

Repeat for #4-6 and #7-9.

The closer together your times, the better and more efficiently you are practicing your sighting.

Build-up 100s

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA


We did this quality set interspersed with some stretch cord work today.

The goal on the 35 and 65 was to get a total time faster than your best 100.

Goal on the 85 was to beat best 100 time by 4 seconds.

Goal on the 100 was simply AS FAST AS POSSIBLE.

I really liked how it demanded flat-out speed early on and then encouraged them to hold it for longer.

Always Working On The Details…

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

We use “peer coaching” (get a partner, grab your phone, and film each other) frequently when we want to focus on a particular technical aspect and get a lot of quality feedback in a short time. Our kids do a pretty good job of it — they like teaching each other. Today we focused on finishes. Here are my instructions on what to look for:

Breaststroke in a Short Pool

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

We have been making good use of our 10m diving well lately. I am enjoying getting creative with it. Here’s a set for breaststrokers:

4 rounds:

6 x 10m one pullout only @:20

:30 vertical eggbeater in streamline position

:10 rest

1 x 40 breast FAST @ 1:00 (add 1 x 40 each successive round so that round 4 = 4 x 40 FAST @1:00)

Build it up, then burn it down!

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

This set consists of two stations done twice through. This allowed us to have half of the group doing the set while the other half is doing the 50s with a specific technical focus.

The purpose of the 100s was to help the swimmers get in a groove during the first three (build it up!!!) and then be BLAZING FAST (burn it down!!!) the last three. We got some lifetime-best practice times with this set. FPA = Fastest Possible Average.

A Post-Meet Lesson

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

Following up on our meet last weekend, I gave our top group (mostly 15-18 year-olds) a challenge this morning. Each swimmer re-swam his or her worst performance of the meet (based on percentage off of best time). The goal for the group was to get 2/3 to swim faster than they did at the meet. The reward would be no dryland today.

We did this because I felt we were mentally less-than-focused over the course of the weekend, and I wanted to show our swimmers that they are capable of better.

The result: We came up just short of the 2/3 mark, but over half of the group achieved the goal. The lesson here was that we have to take advantage of our opportunities and bring everything to bear on each race. 99% effort and focus is not enough.

I am looking forward to seeing how well that lesson gets absorbed.

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.

Quality Set with a Psychological Twist

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

LCM. This set was a pretty standard one, but the little psychological twist we added at the end made it interesting.

4x (200 all out from dive + 100 ez free) @6:30

The twist: After #3, I thought we were doing well but not as good as we could be. I asked each swimmer to find an accountability partner and tell their partner their time goal for #4. The goal was supposed to be challenging but possible, a time faster than they had gone already. Then I informed them that the partner of each individual who failed to meet his goal would do 10 burpees. This led to a little extra buzz and encouragement before the last one.

What came next pleased coach the most. Approximately half of the group achieved their goals. Several who failed apologized (“no problem, I’m getting stronger” came the reply!!!). A few even got out and did the burpees with their partners even though they didn’t have to.

Overall, the twist led to some more motivated and faster swims, and some excellent displays of team spirit.