how to get faster in the water (on 3 swims per week)

How To Get Faster in The Water on 3 Swims a Week

Posted admin Training

We’re down to the final post of the series on getting a faster freestyle! This is part 3 of 3.

How do you get faster in the water? Easy. You swim more! Ok we’re done here.

Just kidding. 🙂

Getting in the water more frequently, however, will increase your “feel” for the water, improve your endurance, and, if you do the right ratio of drills to intensity, your speed.

However, not everyone can get to the pool 8-10 times a week, nor can they fit in the necessary distance in the time allotted. Unless you own your own pool, swim hours and trips to the pool are tight and precious. If you are one of the lucky few who can manage 4 or 5 swims per week, go for it. But if you are like the rest of us, it becomes even more important to use the time you have to the fullest.

Having said all that, intermediate level swimmers can still gain a tremendous amount of fitness and speed by only swimming 3 times a week.

We know you’re excited to find out how to get faster, but before you read on, if you haven’t gone through parts 1 and 2, you may need to get through these drills and trainings before implementing what is in this article, depending on what level you are currently. These are a starting point for your foundation in freestyle. (You can get the full program at

Getting Faster In The Water With Efficiency

Focus and flow are two important elements here. We’ll explain what we mean by that below.

A few things to note. You can usually make more gains on 4 days a week. If you have the time, and really want to improve quickly, add in that extra day in the water.

Also, it is important to be doing enough volume if you are training for a longer distance race, such as an Ironman, which involves a 2.4 mile swim. You will want to be nearing or surpassing that distance if you are 8 weeks or so out from your event.

Ok, let’s get back to getting faster in the water on 3 swims a week.

First, each swim workout has a specific purpose with no junk laps, thus optimizing your time in the pool. Each day hits upon a single weakness that many swimmers face: strength, high end endurance, and speed.

The first of these three weekly swims is called “Mega Muscle Mondays”. Hey let’s not take this stuff TOO seriously! 🙂

So Mondays are strength and endurance days. You get to rest your legs a bit and do a mix of paddle work/arm isolation, and of course, drills.

But these drills are targeted and focused…again nothing “junky” about them.

These drills will give you a workout, not just help your form. We’re talking about:

  • Doggie paddle freestyle
  • Fist drill
  • Ankle bands (pulling)

It’s important to include some intervals on Mondays, with the goal of making your intervals.

Here’s a sample workout for a Muscle Monday:

  • WARM UP:
  • 300 Loosen Up
  • DRILL:
  • 6x75s done as 50 with your hands in fists, 25 swim :10 rest in between each 75
  • 4x50s done as 25 doggie paddle, 25 swim :10 rest in between each 50
  • MAIN:
  • Do this set 4 times though:
  • 2x100s free on a challenging interval
  • 2x50s with ankle bands*. Rest 15-20 secs between each 50.
  • 200 Easy swim
  • *If you don’t have bands, do your best to keep your legs from kicking.

Next Up: Endurance

swim-workoutEndurance is commonly misunderstood as being able to go all day but at a slow pace. At Tri Swim Coach, we don’t understand the point of that!

You can get a sample of our online swim lessons for free here.

You are not going to be racing at a “comfortable pace”. Endurance, therefore, is being able to go at a moderately fast pace for long periods of time without fatiguing or having your form fall apart.

This day, the second training day of the week, will focus on race paces for distances of 400 and above.

To design a workout around endurance, you want to first choose a distance between 400-1600. Then choose a number of reps; you should target or exceed the distance of your “A” race. If you are racing an Ironman™, for example, then you would want something like 10×400 compared to an Olympic for which it would be better to do 5×500 since you want to overshoot the distance a little.

Next, you need to set a pace to hold. Find a speed that isn’t “all out”, but still challenges you and is close to your goal race pace. You also need to be able to hold that time for each and every rep.

If you are going off of base times from a time trial, you will want to add 5-7 seconds per 100 to your time trial pace.

Pacing is critical- you do not want to go too easy, but at the same time do not want to kill yourself or wear down on the first rep and then “die” by the end of the set. Try to keep your times within about 5% of your initial pace.

Also keep your rest at 15 seconds or less. This will give you enough time to catch your breath, evaluate your pace, make adjustments, but not give you a full recovery.

Here’s a sample workout:

  • WARM UP:
  • 300 Loosen Up
  • DRILL:
  • 6x100s Fist/Swim by 50
  • Rest= :10 between each 100
  • MAIN:
  • 4x400
  • Rest: Take your 100 base or cruise interval and multiply by 4. For example, if you can make 100s on 2:00 with about 10 seconds rest, try 400s on 8:00.
  • 200 Easy swim
  • *If you don’t have bands, do your best to keep your legs from kicking.

As you cycle through each training block try to repeat the workout you construct to track improvements. Aim not only to get faster but also to be more consistent in your splits.

The Need for SPEED

IMG_0789Ok we’re finally here! We all need speed, but this is where many endurance athletes get tripped up. They may be able to hold a slow, moderate pace for long periods of time, but that pace is far from their race pace. So when they get into their race, they fatigue quickly.

Therefore, working on those “top gears”, combined with practicing the other two areas we have covered, will assure that you have done everything you can to prepare for faster swimming in a race.

Like the endurance work from day #2, the distance of the main set(s) for this workout (day #3, or “Fast Fridays”) should be around or greater than the distance of the event with the exception of a full Ironman. Today, we keep the rep distance under 200, as after that you are venturing into endurance land. Reps should be high. For example, you could do 10×200, 15-20×100, 20×50, or a combination of all three. When you cut down the distance, try to cut down your times as well.

The key to “Fast Fridays” is to not hold back. Rests are usually longer than the first two days’s workouts, since the point is to go all out- so you will need that extra recovery time.

This is also where a faster cadence comes into play. Your hands should always be in motion. Not gliding, and do not shorten your extension or hip rotation. Shortening either or both of these will actually make you slower, while tiring you out more quickly.

Here’s a sample Fast Friday workout:

  • WARM UP:
  • 300 Loosen + 100 build to 80%
  • DRILL:
  • 10x50s Alternate Doggie Paddle drill/Free by 25
  • Rest= :10
  • MAIN:
  • 15x100s
  • Rest= An interval that gives you about 1:00 rest in between
  • 200 Easy swim
  • *If you don’t have bands, do your best to keep your legs from kicking.

Remember: Fast Friday workouts are meant to wear you out, but it’s important not to count yards/meters on this day. Instead, just measure your effort. Maybe you were only in the water 30 minutes, but if you gave it your all, you will feel it! Just be careful exiting the pool. 🙂

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