Maintaining Your Stroke Technique At Faster Speeds

A skill that all great swimmers have is the ability to maintain their stroke technique at racing speeds, which requires strong concentration and great coordination. Here's a simple set that you can use to start to develop this yourself. We just ran it with the Swim Smooth squads in Perth and the guys loved the challenge!

Perform a short warm-up of around 4-600m and then kick off the following descending set of 21x 100m :

If Swum With A Tempo TrainerIf Swum Without A Tempo Trainer
3x 100m @CSS* + 2 sec3x 100m at 60% effort level
3x 100m @CSS + 1 sec3x 100m at 1 sec /100m faster
3x 100m @CSS3x 100m at 1 sec /100m faster
3x 100m @CSS - 1 sec3x 100m at 1 sec /100m faster
3x 100m @CSS - 2 sec3x 100m at 1 sec /100m faster
3x 100m @CSS - 3 sec3x 100m at 1 sec /100m faster
3x 100m @CSS - 4 sec3x 100m at 1 sec /100m faster
(take one beep rest between 100s)(take 20 seconds rest between 100s)

At first the 100s will feel very do-able so get into your stroke with a nice rhythm and concentrate on hitting the times as accurately as you can. Obviously as things get progressively faster they become more challenging so maintain your focus on holding your stroke together, not fighting the water. This combination of good pacing with good stroke technique under duress is very powerful for developing you as a distance swimmer.

Whilst swimming the set, it can be a good idea to pick a single area of weakness in your stroke and focus on it as things become harder. This could be maintaining a constant smooth exhalation into the water, avoiding crossing over the centre line in front of your head or stretching through your core to keep yourself straight.

Don't worry if you are quite new to freestyle swimming, its amazing what you can achieve when you challenge yourself and give this session a good crack. If you find you fatigue quickly, you can shorten the set by swimming 2x 100m at each speed.

* CSS is your Critical Swim Speed which is approximately the speed you can sustain for 1500m flat out. You might also know it as your threshold pace. Find out more about how to calculate it here:

Using Your Tempo Trainer Pro
Elite swimmers have an amazing ability to hold
their stroke technique when swimming quickly.

A Tempo Trainer Pro is a great tool for this sort of set because it helps you pace things out very accurately by beeping to you when you should be starting, turning or finishing a lap. You've just got to stay with the beep to complete the set! Our tips:

- Use mode 1 set to beep the pace to you every 25m or 25yd so you get pacing feedback during each 100m.

- Take one beep rest between each 100m. So finish a swim on a beep and then start the next 100m on the next beep.

- If you have the beeper set to beep every 25m then take off 0.25 seconds to speed up by 1 second per 100m.

- You might notice straight away that you have a tendency to start too fast over the first 25-50m of each swim and get ahead of the beep before dropping back again. This highlights that developing a better sense of pacing will be critical to moving your swimming forwards.

For more information about the Tempo Trainer Pro or to purchase yours see:

Swim Smooth!


Rudolf said...

Interesting post, worth giving it a try and perhaps stick with it until it's in me to swim like i would like to swim if i only could ......
But, i have another idea / suggestion that recently was brushed when i had a chat with the elite swimmer here at Dalplex, In Halifax, NS, Canada.

The "appres le swim" tretches!
Please make once a post dedicated to what you find to be the most effective stretches to relief tense shoulder, neck or back muscles, either right after the swim, or than later at home (not the stuff one needs an entire gym for).
The elite swimmer mentioned he never has any tense shoulders, exactly because he was doing some specific stretches afterwards, and that there are some good ones and some rather useless ones, but he did not have the time to give me details on what really works, and in writing, maybe with some photos or ilustrations this could be useful for many others?

Adam Young said...

Very good suggestion Rudolf, we've got something in the pipeline for that - watch this space!

Anonymous said...

I just did this set today, and I thought it was great. I know my form tends to break down as I get tired, and the short rests allowed me just enough time to mentally refocus. I'm sure my technique on the last 100 was better than if I'd swum 3 700s.

Adam Young said...

Nice work uprprof, it's a good session to do every 4 weeks or so to help dial in those stroke changes.


zackme said...

Hi I am struggling to see what a 60% effort level is.

Jeff Gross said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff Gross said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff Gross said...

Just ran this with my Carlsbad, California masters group. We all loved it. Question: It seems that this set needs to be adjusted by speed. Faster swimmers can handle the challenge of dipping into the well for more speed. Slower swimmers (2:00 base & up per 100m) do not have a very deep well, and have little difference between recovery effort and fastest speed, regardless of rest. Do you agree, or am I expecting too little of the slower swimmers?

Adam Young said...

Hi Zackme, it doesn't matter exactly as you're going to gradually get faster and experience your full range anyway! Use your judgement and swim at what you think is about 60% or 6 out of 10 level of effort where 10 is flat out and 0 isn't moving!

Hi Jeff, great to hear - glad your squad enjoyed it! Did you find your swimmers could have gone quicker? If so then please let them carry on. Yes, I think experience and depth are factors but also whether the swimmer is naturally sprint or distance orientated. You'd expect sprinters to have a larger range - but that may be partially offset by a slower rate of recovery between swims.

Cheers, Adam

Karl Stygn said...

I was looking for a set to get me ready for a half iron distance tri I am doing. This will give me the momentum to carry me through my taper. I'll do it 10 days out from my race. Looking forward to it.
Thanks guys.


Trigirl said...

is the 21st 100 supposed to be the fastest or only w/in each set of 3?

Adam Young said...

Hi Trigirl,

Each set of three is the same speed but is 1 second per 100m faster than the previous set of three. Does that makes sense?



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