Professional Swim Workouts by Professional Swim Coaches

Coach Stuart on Ultra-short Distance Training

Ultra-short distance training – consists of 20-40 x less than 25 meter repeats, at race pace (50 meters), with no more than 20 seconds rest – ideally 10-15 secs.

Brilliant way for sprinters to tax their aerobic system – without the miles – and it indeed crosses over into the anaerobic system as the swimmer nears the end of the set. Also allows for a minimal fatigued state to perform desired race technique at a race-specific pace. Also a great way to increase aerobic capacity of children.

Must ensure the set is initiated at the beginning of the session, i.e. after the warm up and any low intensity/ low volume technical work to again ensure minimal fatigue – essential for learning and maintaining good form.

Warm up:
400 Own choice loosener (either Free or Back)

Warm-up continued + technical:
800 as: 50 Drill / 50 Swim Free

Ultra-short distance set:
20 x 12.5 m @ 50 m Freestyle pace + 10 secs rest
10 x 15 m @ 50 m Freestyle pace + 10 sec rest
10 x 20 m @ 50 m Freestyle pace + 15 secs rest


Additional Comments:
The 12.5 & the majority of the 15 m parts of the set may, for some swimmers, be part of their underwater phase – this is fully acceptable – when underwater they should aim to go at the pace expected for the 50m performance they are aiming for.

Swimmers should be moderately fatigued at the END of the workout – set should be adjusted either by time or number of repeats (+ or -) to reflect this, i.e. increase reps/ reduce time, etc.

Question by Coach Sevastiadis from Greece

I don’t understand something in these sets. If the pool you are training is 25 meters, the first 12,5 would be with a push from the wall and the second not? How you will pursue the same speed if you don’t have the same variables? And if the pool you are training is 50 meters, you can only do this set in 50s?

Good question! Well firstly, I should have stated that once the less than 25m distance has been sprinted, e.g. 12.5m, the rest of the swim should be done as easy – this allows for a slightly improved recovery as the rest period will include both a passive rest (the set time at the wall) and an active recovery (the easy swim to finish the 25m).

In a slight twist to the set you could get the swimmers to stop bang on 12.5m and, therefore, every 2nd sprint would be a start without a wall adding a power element to the swim. The set can also start in the middle of the pool and could be modified into a ‘turn’ set, whereby the swimmers sprints the ultra-short distance in and out the wall. Indeed, the same modification can apply to finishes, i.e. starting from mid-pool and swimming to the wall.

With regards to your point about carrying out the set in a 50m pool, two solutions can be sought.

  1. A little ‘out-the-box’ thinking is required – using the width of the pool is an ideal way of accommodating for ultra-sprint training,
  2. Of course, that latter is not always possible, my only solution for those who are unable to use a 25m pool or utilise the width of a 50m pool is to swim the given ultra-short distance and use the remainder of the pool as an active recovery, however, it would be suitable to then reduce the rest to the lower end, i.e. 10 seconds; perhaps not the most ideal situation but you have to ‘do the best with what you’ve got’ as they say. Again, the power element could be considered for this and/or swimming in and out of the walls.

This free workouts was provided by Coach Stuart Dustan.

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About Stuart Dustan

Coach Stuart is currently studying medicine and has a huge interest in the science of swimming, in particular the physiological aspect. [Full Bio]

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