How to Design a Swim Workout for Sprinters


Sprinters and distance swimmers place different types of stresses and demands on their bodies. Both require good aerobic fitness, but a sprinter's success is much more dependent on his body's anaerobic efficiency. Sprint training needs to incorporate a large amount of race-pace "power" training to build anaerobic fitness and help swimmers maximize performance at short distances. Every sprint workout should also include technique drills to help swimmers hone their stroke skills and eliminate technical flaws.

Determine the phase of the training cycle for which the workout is intended. Off-season workouts typically include more aerobic training, while workouts during the competitive season are weighted more toward building anaerobic fitness. Workouts planned for the "taper" period -- usually about a week -- prior to major events include lower training volume but a greater focus on high-intensity, or race-pace, work.

Begin every workout with a regular warmup routine. A proper warmup loosens stiff muscles to reduce injury, and raises the heart rate in preparation for more strenuous exercise. Start warmups with five to 10 minutes of dynamic stretches, followed by five to 10 minutes of moderately paced swimming. Conclude warmups for sprinters with 15 minutes of technique drills that focus on their race-specific skills.

Include endurance training early in the workout. All swimmers, including sprinters, need a high level of aerobic fitness in order to perform at their best. Timed swims at intermediate distances -- 200 to 400 yards -- with short recovery intervals help to build overall fitness. Plan for 1,600 to 2,500 yards in total endurance work, depending on the workout's point in the training cycle. Add variety to the workout by swimming intervals using different strokes. However, sprinters should swim the majority of their intervals using race-specific strokes.

Focus on specialized sprint training. Sprint races place a high anaerobic demand on a swimmer's muscles, and short, race-pace sets with longer recovery intervals train the muscles for higher energy production and faster elimination of metabolic wastes. Include sets at both 50- and 100-yard distances, with recovery times varying between one and four minutes. Plan for 800 yards to 1,200 yards in total sprint work, depending on the workout's point in the training cycle. Sprinters should focus entirely on their race-specific strokes during these swims.

Finish each workout with a regular cool-down routine. Cool down allows the muscles time to eliminate metabolic wastes, which reduces muscle soreness, and allows the heart rate to return to a resting rate. Swim five to 10 minutes at a moderate pace, then conclude the workout with five minutes of static stretches.