Power Burst Workout: The Speed You Need for a Great Swim

By Colin Izzard and Jim Rutberg

After long hours of diligently staring at the black line at the bottom of the pool, you’re finally getting ready to break out of the natatorium and get into competition. But do you have any speed, or are you just a slow and steady diesel engine? Well, even though you might not be aiming to be the first racer out of the water, we can guarantee your race will be a lot more fun if you have a bit of sprinting power.

Sometimes you just need a burst of speed. It’s necessary for getting a good start as hundreds of bodies surge into the water, and then later in the swim leg when you have to get around a slower swimmer or move out of a cluster of flailing arms and legs and into clear water. Fortunately, you can develop the speed and power you need without disrupting your long-range training progression; and as an added bonus, incorporating the following workouts into your program can actually lead to faster pace-per-hundred performance (a common measure of maximum sustainable swimming pace).

How it works
Intensity is the key to making the Power Burst Workout effective and successful. Many triathletes are accustomed to swimming at a quick but sustainable pace, but not an all out, gut-busting, lung-scorching intensity. But that’s what it’s going to take to inject a significant amount of speed into your swimming with a relatively small number of workouts.

At the same time, you have to be careful not to forsake the foundations of a solid swim leg for some added power. This workout should not be an additional session in the water, but rather should replace an existing one. If you’re swimming twice a week, be sure to focus on doing drill work during your warmup and cooldown, and your other session in the water should be an endurance/pace set focused on building your aerobic engine and maximum sustainable swimming pace. If you swim three times a week, it’s important to take the intensity of the Power Burst Workout into consideration. As a result, your third swim of the week should be a very light workout that incorporates drills and recovery swimming.

The Power Burst Workout

Warm up

200-400 yards warm up. Mix this up with 50% drilling and 50% swimming

Main Set

 

 

 

 

Week 1

8×25 yards all out
Rest is equal to the time to swim the 25 yards
100 yards easy, 25 drill/25 swim

Week 2

4×50 yards all out
Rest is equal to the time to swim the 50 yards
100 yards easy, 25 drill/25 swim

Week 3

2×100 yards all out
Rest is equal to the time to swim the 100 yards
100 yards easy, 25 drill/25 swim

Week 4

2×100 yards all out
Rest is equal to the time to swim the 100 yards
100 yards easy, 25 drill/25 swim

4×50 yards all out
Rest is equal to the time to swim the 50 yards
100 yards easy, 25 drill/25 swim

8×25 yards all out
Rest is equal to the time to swim the 25 yards
100 yards easy, 25 drill/25 swim

Depending on your level of experience/fitness go back up the ladder.
So 2×100, 4×50, 8×25, 4×50, 2×100

Cool Down

200-400 yards warm down. Nice and easy swimming

Make it a double

When it comes to integrating the Power Burst Workout into your overall training program, it’s a good idea to schedule it for the same day as a hard running or cycling workout. One of the challenges triathletes face is finding enough time for recovery between hard efforts, a problem complicated by adding more intensity. However, we’ve found that even though the Power Burst Workout is strenuous, athletes are typically able to complete a high-quality running or cycling workout – including intervals at and even above their maximum sustainable pace or lactate threshold – on the same day. Combining these workout tasks should open up space in your training schedule for more complete rest or active recovery the following day.

The final question that needs to be answered is when to start incorporating this four-week progression of workouts into your training schedule. The kind of swimming speed and power you’re building develops relatively quickly. In other words, these four swim sessions will give you a boost, but it will be short-lived so you better use it while it lasts. Start the Power Burst Workout progression five weeks out from an event you’d like to have some added speed for, leaving one week for recovery before your race.

Colin Izzard is the head coach at Carmichael Training Systems-Brevard in North Carolina and a USA Swimming coach. Jim Rutberg is a Pro Coach for CTS and co-author of Chris Carmichael’s latest book, “The Time-Crunched Triathlete”. To find out about Official Ironman Coaching and Camp offerings, visit www.trainright.com/ironman

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