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Workout Directory

This page contains links to workouts and related information. Each workout is based on a theme that is introduced at a weekly group workout. If you are swimming three times a week, try to make the group workout that introduces the weekly theme, and then perform two additional workouts as your schedule allows. To perform a recovery workout based on the weekly theme, perform all drill sets and either reduce the swim set distances by 50% or perform the swim sets at the EN1 pace (long slow distance pace). To perform a key workout based on the weekly theme, reduce the number of drill repeats by 50% and increase the swim set pace.

If you are new to this program, see the following:

If you are new to group swim workouts in general, see the following:

Weekly Workout Focus

Focus Description Updated
Navigating Crowds Now that the pool is set up for long course, we can practice open water skills under more realistic conditions. May 9, 2011
Stem-to-Stern Balance Swimming well is a balancing act. With good stem-to-stern balance you can move through the water like a sleek kayak. With poor stem-to-stern balance you move like a wounded guppie. May 2, 2011
Swimming Golf Checking your swimming golf score on a regular basis is one way to track stroke efficiency. 2011-04-18
Pace Control During a race your first focus should be consistency - same pace, same stroke length - and that is hard without a wall to bounce off of every 25 yards. This week focus on learning to maintain form (strokes per length) at race pace while increasing distance. 2011-04-18
Sensory Images

Swimming is so complicated that we can easily get too focused on a hand or a foot or some other bit player in the whole-body stroke. Sensory images can help to organize the whole thing without worrying too much about the parts.

Body Position

All expert distance swimmers have one thing in common: great body position. They organize their body into a sleek displacement hull, and then balance that hull right at the surface.

Timing Part 2

Whole body stroking coordinating the kick with the arm stroke (with the balance shift).

Timing Part 1

Balance shifting: coordinating the recovery arm with the stroking arm. (Because it don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing.)

EVF Catch and Pull

Drill progression to work on the EVF (early vertical forearm) catch and pull - the favored catch and pull for distance swimming.

Arm Stroke Setup

If you don't get the arm stroke setup right, it's hard to get an effective stroke.


Focus on the arms using half-bad drills (where you exaggerate a flaw for half a length, and then correct for the second half of the length).

Kicking It's true that you don't need to kick much for distance swimming, but you must kick right - otherwise your legs will become a hinderance. 2011-02-14

Get good, even rotation, especially on the non-breathing strokes.


Beginner Program

This is based on the Breakwater Freestyle 1 Swimming Program (links are to pages on that site).

Focus Description Workout Date
2: Balance On the deck, review swimming posture and kicking; add streamline and side balance. In the pool, review floating skills, front and back balance, and dynamic balance. Learn extended back balance, back-side-back balance, and practice kicking in side balance. May 9, 2011
1: Fundamentals Introduction to swimming posture, relaxation in the aquatic environment, and kicking. Begin to master floating skills, front and back balance, and dynamic balance. May 2, 2011
10: Review
Review all drill progressions. Review how to practice mindfully. 2011-04-25
9: Connect the Kick
How to connect the kick to the whole body-body stroke. 2011-04-18
8: Backstroke
Review floating, setup, catch and pull, timing, open turns. Introduce backstroke and combination freestyle/backstroke drills to refine long axis swimming skills. 2011-04-11
7: Open Turns
Review floating, setup, catch and pull, timing. Introduce streamline from the wall and open turns. 2011-04-04
6: Balance Shifting Review floating, setup, catch and pull. Introduce drills to focus on timing the stroke with the balance shift. 2011-03-14
5: Catch and Pull Review floating exercises, sculling, and arm stroke setup. Introduce the early vertical forearm catch and pull. 2011-03-07
4: Setup Review floating exercises, balance drills and swimming breathing. Begin moving the arms. Add arm stroke setup and sculling drills. 2011-02-28
3: Breathing Review floating exercises and balance drills. Add swimming breathing to the extended side balance drill. 2011-02-21


Focus Description Updated
Thick Water

Once you've got your catch, think of your hand, wrist and forearm as an anchor, and learn to pull your body past that anchor using your core, not your arm.

Sighting Practice sighting technique at the pool, so that the extra head movement disrupts your body position and timing as little as possible in open water. 2010-11-08
Hip Driven Freestyle Progression Learn to drive your endurance freestyle stroke from your hips by mastering all of the drills in this progression. 2010-11-01
Early Vertical Forearm (EVF) The catch and pull arm motion used by most endurance swimmers and many sprinters is called the Early Vertical Forearm - EVF for short. 2010-10-25
High-Elbow Recovery

Many coaches say that the arm recovery is the least important part of the freestyle stroke. That may be true for sprinters, but nearly all successful open water swimmers and triathletes use a high-elbow recovery. You should, too.


Triathletes and endurance swimmers often have sloppy kicking (or no kicking at all), which gets your body out of alignment and slows you down - so you need to work on keeping your kick compact, and keeping it out of the way.


When you've got your long-axis balance working, the next thing is rotation.

Long-Axis Balance

The one thing all styles of freestyle have in common is good long-axis balance. This week's focus is on the balance drills that should be part of your regular workouts for as long as you are swimming the long-axis strokes (freestyle and backstroke).


When you breathe, you can disrupt your posture, balance, aquatic line and timing. The trick is to minimize the disruption - especially when the breathing cycle is also your sighting cycle. Focus is on breathing and sighting.

Wall Starts and Turns

Review swimming posture and streamline on the deck. During main sets focus on wall starts and then optionally either open turns or flip turns. If you don't have a good, clean and consistent turn, it is very difficult to determine your CSS (critical swimming speed).


When you practice sculling regularly, you teach your hands and forearms to react to water pressure automatically. The goal is to learn to maintain even pressure, pressing back towards your feet, for as long as possible during the stroke.

Thick Water

Natalie Coughlin - one of the world's great swimmers - tries to increase her distance per stroke by making the water feel thick. This week's focus is on how to make the water you are holding feel as thick as possible.


Everyone is taking too many strokes per length. What's the right number of strokes per length for you? One less than your are taking now. To begin work on reducing stroke counts, this week we will focus on rotation.

Tempo 2

Last week we used the Tempo Trainer to swim smoothly, focusing on getting rid of dead spots around breathing and sighting. Now we will use the tempo trainer to increase stroke rate while maintaining stroke length.


As the Duke said, "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing." He was talking about swimming, of course. No, not Duke Ellington, the real Duke, Duke Kahanamoku - Olympic gold medal winner in swimming!


Focus on posture, alignment and breathing.


Focus on sighting, head position and breathing.

Drafting and Passing

More speed work and open water skills practice: drafting, passing and sighting.

Speed Work

One popular race strategy is to go fast for a while, then draft for a bit while getting some active recovery. This only works if you actually know how to go fast, and you know how to draft. This workout includes speed work and drafting practice.


For endurance swimming, the kick doesn't provide much propulsion. But that doesn't mean it's not important. Sloppy kicking (or no kicking at all) will you down - so you need to work on keeping your kick compact, and keeping it out of the way.


Practice surging (accelerating), as you would when passing one or more swimmers in open water. And practice finding your recovery pace - a temporary slower pace that allows you to lower your HR and quickly return to your critical swimming speed.

Crowding and Drafting

With fewer lanes and longer distances between the walls, it's a good time to practice swimming in a crowd and drafting.


When you breathe, you can disrupt your posture, balance, aquatic line and timing. The trick is to minimize the disruption - especially when the breathing cycle is also your sighting cycle.

Drill Baby, Drill

Say what you want about Sarah Palin. But when it comes to endurance swimming technique, she knows what she's talking about: Drill baby, drill!

Posture Getting back into our wetsuits can make us sloppy with our posture. It's too easy to drag our hips and legs as if we are doing a pull-buoy set. But we don't do pull-buoy sets! 2010-04-26
Pace Control During a race your first focus should be consistency - same pace, same stroke length - and that is hard without a wall to bounce off of every 25 yards. This week focus on learning to maintain form (strokes per length) at race pace while increasing distance. 2010-04-19
Long Strokes To be sure you are staying efficient over longer distances, you need to check the clock from time to time, but you also need to count your strokes. 2010-04-05
Wet & Dry
Another way to practice the EVF. Each lane will spend 20 minutes in the Vasa Ergometer lane. In that lane you will practice the EVF dry for a bit on the Vasa Erg, and then wet with your lane mates. 2010-03-29
Steady State It's not difficult to calculate your critical swimming speed or CSS, which is described elsewhere on these pages. But it's very difficult for most people to swim at that pace in an actual race. This week we will focus on how to control the almost universal tendency to go too fast and too hard at the start of a triathlon. 2010-03-22
Long Levers When you kick from the knees you are using short levers. When you kick with straight legs you are using long levers. For distance swimming, long levers work better. 2010-03-15
Snappy Hips The style of freestyle that we swim is called hip-driven freestyle. So don't forget to maximize your hip rotation and snap your hips - especially when using a two-beat kick, and especially when swimming at endurance pace. 2010-03-08
Forearms You need a paddle to hold a spot in the water while you lever your body past that spot. You can use your hand. Or you can use your hand plus your forearm. 2010-03-01
Get the UMPH!
Out Front
Getting an early vertical forearm catch doesn't do much unless you can apply force as soon you've got the catch. Applying force too late sacrifices propulsion. (And force too early sacrifices stroke length.) 2010-02-22
Arms General focus on the arms: wide entry, catch timing, early vertical forearm catch, and high-elbow recovery. 2010-02-15
Head Position How many times did your parents tell you to use your head!? What they meant was to put it to good use while swimming freestyle. 2010-02-08
Wall Work What you do at the wall sets the tone for the rest of your length of swimming. Because technique is so important for endurance swimming, it makes sense to start every length with perfect posture, line and balance. 2010-02-01
Longer Strokes While waiting for everybody to return, we will focus on lengthing our strokes. 2010-01-25
Posture, Line, and Balance It's (always) time to cycle through the most basic body position focus points. 2010-01-18
Speed You can't swim very fast without good technique, but good technique alone does not make you fast. You have to include speed sets now and then to swim faster. 2009-12-07
Drill and Swim Since this week's group swim is uncoached (while video is being collected), the focus will be on reviewing drills introduced during the fall. 2009-11-23
Kicking 3 Still more kicking, this time focusing on connecting the leg and arm movements by using different combinations of paddles and fins to feel the whole-body connection. 2009-11-23
Kicking 2 More work on the kick: connecting the rotational kick to the catch and pull. 2009-11-16
Kicking One myth of endurance swimming is that you do not need to kick. You do. You should master both the 6-beat kick and a 2-beat kick. (And maybe the 4-beat kick as well!) 2009-11-09
Front Quadrant Front quatrant timing keeps your hull form long in the water, makes it easier to perform the early vertical forearm catch, and maximizes your stroke length. This is all good for endurance swimmers. 2009-11-02
High Elbows Work on the high-elbow, early vertical forearm catch. 2009-10-26
Hip Rotation Endurance freestyle should be hip driven freestyle, so let's get the hip part of it right. 2009-10-19
EVF The catch used by most endurance swimmers and many sprinters is called the Early Vertical Forearm (EVF). 2009-10-12
Great Body Position Good body position produces good swimming. Great body position produces great swimming. Good body position never produces great swimming. This is one of those cases where the old cliché applies: good is the enemy of great. 2009-10-05
Feeling When you learn to feel the water, you will know when and how to apply pressure to your hands, wrists and forearms, so that you can slip through the water most efficiently. 2009-09-28
Floating Skills Your tight aquatic line (see below) needs to float at the surface. Most of us have poor floating skills, so we end up burning valuable energy to keep our boats afloat -- energy that otherwise could be used for propulsion. 2009-09-21
Tight Line Swimming tall with a tight line allows you to slip through the water at a higher speed, using less energy. 2009-09-14
Posture, Line and Balance

Mix posture, line and balance focus with race-intensity 300s. Push yourself above EN2 to a pace you can just hold for 300.

Video Session

During a typical video session, everyone is taped following the warm-up. (So get there on time!) You may be filmed at two or more angles, swimming at endurance pace. While the group continues the workout, each swimmer will be called out of the pool individually to review their clip(s) with the coaches.

Images Conceptual focus points can provide mental images or feelings that will improve your swimming. 2009-05-11
Kedging In swimming you set an anchor with your hand and forearm, and then pull your body to that anchor. 2009-05-04
Strong Arms Focusing on different muscle groups used during the catch and pull can help build a whole-body stroke. And it can help to distribute the pain equally on longer swims!
Race Preparation Sighting, crowding, drafting practice in the pool (when it cannot be done outdoors). 2009-04-12
Race Pace Longer swims at race pace can help us detect (and repair) technique problems that happen at longer distances or under simulated race conditions. 2009-04-06
Two more tricks to keep stroking in the front quadrant. 2009-03-29
Posture, Line, and Balance Every now and then you have to go back to square one, and cycle through the drills that remind you how important it is to master the fundamentals: posture, line and balance. 2009-03-26
High-Elbow Recovery For open water, most swimmers prefer a high-elbow straight-ahead recovery motion. It keeps that recovering arm out of trouble, and provides the best opportunity to recapture some of the energy spent getting that arm back out in front. 2009-03-15
Maintain SPL Maintain your strokes-per- length count (and hence your good endurance freestyle form) as you increase distance. 2009-02-09

Do you have a workout focus that has worked for you? Send Coach Bill a note and let him know about it. Thanks!

Copyright © 2011 Breakwater Sports