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Swimming for Fitness

Pool Swimming

Swimming Pool Gear

There is a significant difference between swimming in open water and swimming in a swimming pool. One of the key areas of difference is the equipment required, some of the equipment required for swimming in a swimming pool is outlined below:


The most important gear for pool training is a good set of goggles. Get goggles that can be adjusted across the bridge of the nose. The fog-free goggles work better than they used to, but they do lose this quality relatively quickly under hard use and are much more expensive.


A kickboard is a floatation aid used to develop a swimmer’s kick action.

A kickboard is essential. They come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, but all do basically the same thing.

Hand Paddles

A hand paddle is a device worn by swimmers during training. It consists of a plastic plate worn over the swimmer's palm and attached over the back of the swimmer's hand with elastic cords. The plate is often perforated with a pattern of holes.


A unique and expensive short fin, the Zoomer is helpful but not essential. This special fin is designed to allow the swimmer to use flip turns during pool training sessions with minimal interference with technique. Other short fins may be substituted, notably the short, surf fins.

Nose Clips

Many individuals develop low grade nasal reaction to pool water. Use of a nose clip will allow a swimmer to complete some of the backstroke drills presented in this unit much more comfortably.


The pull buoy is a basic piece of swimming equipment used to improve a swimmer's power. A buoy is typically held between the thighs to float the hips and legs at the surface of the water. The action of swimming with a buoy is called “pulling” because only the arms are used for forward momentum.

Pool Training: Building Strength and Endurance

The major reason to use a pool is the quality of training. Swim sessions may be closely monitored and are safe. Controlled interval workouts used in pool training sessions provide good feedback; the pace clock doesn’t lie. Pool sessions allow you to design workouts that vary in intensity and emphasis, which is not possible in open water.

Pool training and acquisition of improved stroke skills are elective elements of many athletes training program’s.

Before starting your swim workout, it is vital that you warm up. Warming-up should consist of at least 400 meters of swimming, along with some kicking and pulling drills. Warming-up is essential for swimming to avoid developing problems of the shoulder joint and upper back.

During your warm up your target heart rate during warm-up should be about 60% of maximal.

Interval Training - Swimming

Interval training is the backbone of a swimming workout.

Interval swim training will significantly improve endurance. Interval training sets (for both strength and endurance) are generally comprised of repeated swims lasting 45 seconds to 4 minutes. Basics of interval training include the following:

For anaerobic training, sets should be performed until repeat times can no longer be held. There is no magical number of repetitions for a set, but the distance is typically 50 to 100 meters, or a time of about 45 seconds.

Swimming at a prescribed intensity pace for as long as possible is most important. When desired pace can no longer be sustained, the set should be terminated.

Work:recovery ratios play an important part in the type of adaptation that occurs. A 1:1 work:recovery ratio would be to swim 45 seconds and rest 45 seconds, whereas a 1:2 ratio would be to swim 45 seconds and rest 90 seconds.

Interval Training – Swimming (Continued)

To stimulate endurance adaptations, recovery intervals between repetitions should be less than 30 seconds. For maximum benefit, it is best to keep the interval less than 15 seconds.

For anaerobic adaptations to occur, recovery intervals should be in excess of one minute and up to at least twice the duration of the repetition swim. These effects occur independent of the repetition distance or pace.

The longer the rest interval, irrespective of the distance being repeated, the greater the use of the anaerobic system. With long rests, it takes considerably longer for the aerobic energy system to be reactivated. Short rest intervals keep the aerobic system functioning, particularly during initial recovery.

Energy Systems Used During Interval Sets

The illustration below shows how the different energy systems can be trained in an interval workout. Swim 1 is a hard effort, short distance and a lot of rest; this type of effort builds the anaerobic (CP) and transitional (Lactate-CP) energy systems. The second swim consists of fewer sets at a longer distance and with shorter rest intervals; this swim would challenge the aerobic system.

Lactate-CP System

Swim 1: 10 X 100 m with 45 sec. rest

10 = Repetitions (Sets)

100 m = Distance in Meters

Aerobic System

Swim 2: 5 X 200 m with 5 sec. rest

5 = Repetitions (Sets)

200 m = Distance in Meters

Swimming Interval Workouts - Endurance

Listed below are a range of interval workouts that can be performed in a swimming pool, each will have great benefits on your overall endurance.

Freestyle Swim: 10 x 50m with only 5 sec. rest

Rest 5 seconds between each swim.

Start with efficient “stealth” stroke, work into distance race pace. Don't over- kick.

Try to match your 1000 meter pace with this set.

Freestyle Swim: 10 x 100m with 10 sec. rest

Rest 10 seconds between each 100 meter swim.

Swim smoothly and efficiently. This is the set where you may exceed your long, slow swimming 1000 meter time!

Breaststroke Swim: 50-50-100m - 5 sec. rest

Done like the freestyle 50-50-100 set outlined above.

Concentrate on keeping effort level up.

Freestyle Swim: 50-50-100m with 5 sec. rest

Swim 2 x 50 meters with 5 seconds rest, then swim 100 meters: Repeat 3X.

This set builds into a 100 meter swim where the swimmer tries to match the pace set in the 50 meters.

Back off of the 50 meters a little to save up for the 100 meters.

If you want, add an extra 15 seconds of rest between each 50-50-100 to keep the quality up.

A “buildup” set like this will do great things for your endurance and sense of pace.

Swimming Interval Workouts - Strength and Power

Listed below are a range of interval workouts that can be performed in a swimming pool, each will have great benefits on your strength and power.

Freestyle Swim: Freestyle Swim: 10 x 50m with 30 sec. rest

Begin at a strong pace. Build to race pace with a strong turn and an extra strong finish. Try to be within 5 seconds of your race 50 meters pace, usually equal to your race 200 meter pace.

At first, try just 5 x 50 meters with 30 second rest.

This is the most power-oriented freestyle set. It will also allow you to discover your true maximal heart rate. If you start to die off at the end, increase your rest a little to keep your pace.

If you are particularly strong and want to build more speed, do this set with zoomers.

Freestyle Swim: 10 x 100m with 45 sec. rest

Same pace approach as the 50 meter interval set. This is for advanced swim- mers with a refined stroke. It will build power, but this set should be used no more than once every two weeks.

The rest interval should be 45 seconds for this length of swim; adjust your interval accordingly.

Breaststroke Swim: 10 x 50m with 30 sec. rest

Like backstroke, work on hard swimming with about 30 seconds of rest. Breaststroke is very taxing when done hard but like bicycling it is easy to throttle back and have the appearance without the substance.

Integrated Workouts

For pool training it is necessary to integrate your sets into a comprehensive workout. At first you will want to limit your hard sets, but as your fitness improves, hard drills can be extended. It also worthwhile alternating between anaerobic and aerobic workouts. In this way your performance for combat swimmer operations should be optimized.

Sample anaerobic and aerobic workouts are outlined below:


600m warm-up

5 x 50m with 15 sec rest between each 5 x 50m with 30 sec rest

5 x 50m freestyle swim with 45 sec rest 200m easy swim

5 x 100m freestyle, 45 sec rest

5 x 100m freestyle with 90 sec rest 500m easy swim


400m warm-up

5 x 200m freestyle with 30 sec rest

10 x 100m freestyle, keep distance pace, 10 sec rest 200m easy swim

5 x 200m freestyle with 5 sec rest

10 x 100m freestyle, keep distance pace, 5 sec rest 400m cool down

Varying Your Workout

Swimming workouts should be varied between easy days and hard days. For competitive speed, it is good to swim at least four days a week; this will help keep stroke efficiency. Swimming days provide good relief for tight muscles generated by running and weight training.

Swimming has some specialized weight training techniques. The primary issue is that swimmers have full range of motion of their arms during exertion. Muscle contraction is fairly constant over the entire arm motion requiring balanced power throughout. Weight training must complement this fact, or muscle tightness develops that actually works against the swimmer

Pulley pulls are excellent weight training techniques for a swimmer. The classic is the lat pull-down station present in virtually all weight rooms and multi-station machines. Pulley pulls are “isotonic” and mimic the constant resistance of water. Weights should be kept on the low side, permitting high speed weightlifting of between 1-1.5 seconds per repetition.


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