4 Weeks to Increased Power in the Water

After a winter 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 this early in the year? Even though you might not be peaking for your first event of the season, we can guarantee it'll be a lot more fun if you have a bit of sprinting power.

Sometimes in races you need to be able to produce a good 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.

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. Many triathletes are accustomed to swimming at a quick yet sustainable pace, but not at an all-out, gut-busting, lung-scorching intensity. However, 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 warm-up and cool-down, and your other session in the water should include 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. Consequently, your third swim of the week should be a very light workout that incorporates drills and recovery swimming.

The Power Burst Workout

Warm-up for all weeks 200 to 400 yards warm-up
Mix this up with 50 percent drilling and 50 percent swimming
Week 1 8 x 25 yards all-out
Rest is equal to the time it takes you to swim the 25 yards
100 yards easy as 25 drill/25 swim
Week 2 4 x 50 yards all-out
Rest is equal to the time it takes you to swim the 50 yards
100 yards easy as 25 drill/25 swim
Week 3 2 x 100 yards all-out
Rest is equal to the time it takes you to swim the 100 yards
100 yards easy as 25 drill/25 swim
Week 4

2 x 100 yards all-out
Rest is equal to the time it takes you to swim the 100 yards
100 yards easy as 25 drill/25 swim

4 x 50 yards all-out
Rest is equal to the time it takes you to swim the 50 yards
100 yards easy as 25 drill/25 swim

8 x 25 yards all-out
Rest is equal to the time it takes you to swim the 25 yards
100 yards easy as 25 drill/25 swim

Depending on your level of experience/fitness go back up the ladder.
So, the entire main set would consist of: 2 x 100, 4 x 50, 8 x 25, 4 x 50, 2 x 100

Cool-down for all workouts 200 to 400 yards cool-down, 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 that is 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 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. But at the beginning of the competition season, most triathletes lack the deep fitness necessary to support it for more than a few weeks.

In other words, these four swim sessions will give you a boost, but it will be short-lived, so you'd 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-Asheville 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, 5 Essentials for a Winning Life. To find out what CTS can do for you visit trainright.com.

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