Organizing a Swimming Workout For Maximum Benefit

Before you start to plan a workout you need to know what it is you want to achieve that day. For example:

  • Which stroke will be the focus.
  • Will there be any specific aspects of that stroke to work on.
  • Will the emphasis be on sprints or endurance.
  • Will there be any kicking components.
  • Will any starts or turns be practices.
  • Will it be an easy or a hard workout.

Good coaches have a season plan, along with charts, so they stay on track and so they can be sure the cover everything they want to cover as they go along. Poor planning will lead to poor results. Always allow room for the unexpected. In addition, not all your swimmers will be at the same level so you have to be able to change your expectations. You should probably even have 2-3 variations of the same workout with different expected times.

There are 3 parts to a workout. The warm-up, the main training, and the cool-down.

The purpose of the warm-up is to increase the body's temperature in order to improve circulation, increase heart rate, and prepare the body for something more vigorous. The warm-up should start easy and become progressively harder. If you want to incorporate stretching into the workout it should be done after the warm-up or at the end of the workout. Do not have them stretch before warming up as this has the potential for injury. Some ideas for the warm up are light kicking, practicing flip turns, practicing starts, maybe some double arm back. Then you can move into stroke specific components. For example, if freestyle is the main stroke of the day then do some easy freestyle drills. The time length of the workout should be about 5-10 minutes, pending of course on the entire workout time you have.

The main body of the workout should comprise of what you want the swimmers to work on that day. It is very tempting to try and work on too many things in one workout. As coaches we sometimes forget that there is a limit to how many things swimmers can grasp at once, especially young swimmers. At most you should only have 1-2 main things to work on. For example, proper underwater, and or good body roll. If you try to work on too many things in one workout the swimmers will forget what they've learned when you move on to the next thing.

If you are going to work on something totally new, or something that the swimmers need a lot of work on, do it first before they get tired. Once the swimmers are tired it is much harder to practice new skills effectively. After this you can work on speed or endurance (pending on your workout plans).

The purpose of the cool-down is to gradually reduce the heart rate and to psychologically indicate that the workout is almost over. By this point most swimmers will be tired so there really is no point in being too critical of technique. You can have the swimmers to similar things such as in the warm-up, but it should be getting easier towards the end. For most swimmers the best way to end the work out is with some kind of game or maybe a relay race.

Some other things to keep in mind:

  • Always give feedback to your swimmers so they know how they are progressing.
  • Always give lots of praise, especially to young and/or new swimmers.
  • Make sure the workout is both challenging and fun – age appropriate. If these 2 things are missing they will get bored.
  • Keep track of all the workouts for your records.
  • Ask the swimmers to give YOU feedback on the workout. They were the ones that swam so they will know if it was a good workout or not.
  • If there is a meet coming up make sure you practice meet components.
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