top of page

Spice Up Your Swim Sets

Updated: Jan 29, 2021

Tired of your traditional main set of 100s and 200s repeats? Looking to spice up your swim training a little? Try these creative main sets that will not only pull you out of the monotony but challenge your fitness. Give yourself a break from those psychologically painful fixed distance sets you detest.

A main set is a commonly used swimming term that refers to the bulk of the hard swimming in your workout. Precede each of these main sets with a warm up incorporating easy swimming, drills and some isolated kick. The warm up can last 10 to 30 minutes depending on your swimming background. Finish up with 5 to 10 minutes of easy paced swimming of your choice after all these sets to bring your heart rate down and help remove the lactic acid from your muscles.

Shane Gould 50s

Shane Gould was an Australian swimmer who won five medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics and retired at age 16. We’re not sure why this workout is named after her but we’re hoping it wasn’t the cause of her early departure from the sport. If you do it properly you may start to consider an early retirement yourself. You will need a coach or someone at the end of the pool who’s handy with a stop watch for this one.


This set consists of 50 yard or meter efforts. For the first one, pick a very easy send-off interval for you, say 70 seconds if you’re a +25 minute 1500 meters swimmer or 60 seconds if you swim 1500 meters in less than 25 minutes. Each 50 you will take one second off your send-off interval. So in this example you will have 69 seconds to complete the second 50, 68 seconds for the third 50, etc.

You will keep doing 50s until you don’t make the send-off interval anymore.

Succeeding at this workout will depend on how well you can pace yourself through the easier intervals. The greater the number of 50s you complete the better your fitness and pacing. Try this workout every few months as a test of your fitness.


Pyramid workouts are a great way to get a variety of speeds, intensities and heart rates all in one set. You can either keep the rest constant for both the ascending and descending sides of the pyramid or, for an extra challenge, reduce the rest on the “way down” the pyramid and try and maintain the same pace.


50, 100, 150, 200, 200, 150, 100, 50. Take 20 seconds rest between intervals after each of the first four intervals and then reduce that to 10 seconds after the next four.

The shorter intervals (50s) should be a faster pace than the long intervals (200s) but see if you can try to maintain the same pace for each interval that you achieved on the way up the pyramid.

Up and Outs

Some winter mornings it’s hard enough to get in the pool so the thought of getting in and out of the water multiple times during the workout might not sound appealing at first. But, it can be a lot of fun once you’re into the workout and remind yourself that you’re getting your strength training in at the same time. In fact, just the movement of pulling yourself out onto the side of the pool is a great strengthening exercise for the pull through motion of your freestyle stroke.


25 fast.

Pull up out of pool. 10 jump squats. Dive back in.

25 fast.

Pull up out of pool. 10 dips. Dive back in.

25 fast.

Pull up out of pool. 10 push ups. Dive back in.

25 fast.

One minute complete rest.

Repeat 4-8 times.

Broken Ladder

Long aerobic sets of intervals can be a drag on the concentration and motivation. You can vary your long interval work by breaking them up with short rest intervals. It doesn’t allow you to recover fully but it keeps you alert and the intensity high. It’s also a nice excuse for triathletes not to avoid a flip turn.


10 x 50m 5 seconds rest between each

50m very easy backstroke or breastroke

8 x 50m 5 seconds rest between each

50m very easy backstroke or breastroke

6 x 50m 5 secs rest

50m very easy backstroke or breastroke

4 x 50m 5 secs rest

As shown, after each set of 50s go immediately into a 50 of an easy, active recovery. Aim for each set of 50s to be at a progressively faster pace. Each set you have less work to do before getting a big rest.

After a customized swimming plan? Get swim plans and expert coaching here.

66 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page