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How should you plan test sets into your season?

I don’t think coaches give test sets enough merit or follow through with a purpose. I will outline a series of test sets that lead up to goal times(race pace for the year) for championships. Begin by establishing goals for your swimmers which will also set race pace training for the season. Remember to be flexible as goals and race pace training should be adjusted accordingly throughout the season. Document every time on every swim.
Plan your test sets to end before championships. You can plan the last test set in this series early in the week prior to the championship meet you wish to focus. There are a total of 10 progressive test sets that build upon each other. Don’t feel that test sets are easy and take away from training. They are a very important training tool to help teach our athletes about quality of training and maintaining race pace. You will be very happy with the results at the end of the year if administered correctly. This tool will help you plan and adjust your workouts each step of the way.
Assumptions:
1. You have established goal times and race pace needed to achieve.
2. Swimmers are consistent with training through the season.
3. This series of test sets are oriented to the 100’s of two strokes. For this article I will use the 100 free goal time of :50 and the 100 stroke time of :56. You can expand for all strokes. I will work on test sets for 200’s above for future articles.
4. Swimmers have to understand that maintaining race pace throughout the set isn’t an option but a requirement.
5. Plan each progressive test set with enough time to train between.
6. Completing a proper meet warm up before starting each test set.
I organized practices so swimmers time each other which enables you to administer each set in about an hour. Make sure you study each set and adjust your following workouts as needed. You will be able to determine if more kicking is needed or certain mechanics should be your focus. Push your swimmers to maintain race pace!
Test Set #1

Please remember to set the stage for race pace for all 25’s.

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24 x 25’s on 1:15 @ 100 race pace freestyle, holding 12.5’s

12 x 25’s on 1:15 @ 100 race pace stroke, holding 14’s. (maintain the same stroke for each progressive test set) If you have time you can expand the stroke test sets to mimic freestyle throughout.
Test Set #2
The amount of rest is reduced and the second half of each set the swimmer must finish the 25 through the turn to their feet. If you feel it is necessary you can work in some recovery swimming after the first half of each set. Please remember that holding race pace is the purpose of these sets.

24 x 25’s on 1:00 @ 100 race pace freestyle, holding 12.5’s. The first 12 to a touch and the second 12 to the swimmers’ feet. The turn must be performed fast with quality!

12 x 25’s on 1:00 @ 100 race pace stroke, holding 14’s. The first 6 to a touch and the second 6 to the swimmers’ feet. The turn must be performed fast with quality!

Test Set #3

The amount of rest is reduced one more time. You can require the last third or half of the set to be performed through the turn. Add recovery if needed maybe once during the set.

24 x 25’s on :45 @ 100 race pace freestyle, holding 12.5’s.

12 x 25’s on :45 @ 100 race pace stroke, holding 14’s.
Test Set #4
Now we begin to adjust the distance of the test sets. The first half of each set have your swimmers start from the block and the second half from the water. Have your swimmers on the second half of the first 6 finish through the turn(feet). Explain to your swimmers how to adjust race pace due to the blocks and have them hold the race pace times needed during their race. For example, The first 50 freestyle holding 24’s with the second 50 holding 26’s. Stroke race pace could be 27’s, 29’s by 50.

12 x 50’s on 3:00 @ 100 race pace freestyle holding 24’s, 26’s by 50. First 6 from the block with numbers 1-3 finishing to a touch and numbers 4-6 finishing through the turn(feet).  The second 6 are from a push all finishing to the touch. Add recovery swimming halfway through the set.

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6 x 50’s on 3:00 @ 100 race pace stroke holding 27’s, 29’s by 50. First 3 from the block having your swimmers finish one or two of them through the turn. The second three are from a push all finishing to the touch. Add recovery swimming half way through the set.

Test Set #5
All you will need to do here is reduce the amount of rest for Test Set #4. You decide what send off to administer. I would reduce the send off 30 seconds to 2:30 at a minimum.
Test Set #6

We are changing the distance again with broken 75’s. The first half of each set will be from the block with the second half from a push with all finishes to a touch. Please adjust race pace accordingly.

8 x 75’s on 2:30 @ 100 race pace freestyle. Each 75 is broken(rest) at the 50 for :15 seconds. 75’s 1-4, the first 50 hold 24’s with the following 25 holding 12.5’s. 75’s 5-8, the first 50 hold 26’s with the following 25 holding 12.5’s. Recovery half way if needed.

4 x 75’s on 2:30 @ 100 race pace stroke. As above, on the first 4, 75’s, the first 50 hold 27’s with the following 25 holding 14’s. 75’s 5-8, the first 50 hold 29’s with the following 25 holding 14’s.
Test Set #7
If you study the times of each swimmer you will see patterns in your training that help each swimmer on certain parts of the test sets. This will help you decide how to break the 100’s to help the swimmers maintain race pace. You can break the next test set where you see fit or add more rest if needed. I have swimmers break each 100 at the first 25 for :10 seconds and the 75 for :10 seconds both breaks finishing through the turn(feet). All of these 100’s are from the block.
This will be the toughest test set of all 10. Adjust send off, add rest and recovery as needed to maintain race pace. The total time should be the swimmers 100 goal time of 50 for freestyle and 56 for stroke. Document each split exactly and have the swimmer concentrate on the two 10 second breaks and finishing the 25 and 75 to their feet with a sprint turn. Example split for the freestyle @ 50 might look like, 25 @ 11, middle 50 @ 26, last 25 @ 13.

6 x 100’s on 3:00 @ 100 race pace freestyle broken as described above. Recovery if needed after number 3 or 4.

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3 x 100’s on 3:00 @ 100 race pace stroke broken as described above.

Test Set #8
You should all understand what times each swimmer should maintain during each part of the race and administer accordingly. Adjust send off’s if needed for this set. I would have the swimmers do this set once as a run through without telling them it is a test set. Do a nice recovery set then repeat. Do this set for all strokes.

6 x 25’s @ 100 race pace on :40

3 x 50’s @ 100 race pace on :55 (broken at the 25 for :10)

100 recovery swim then complete the following broken 100 within 3 minutes from finishing the 50’s.

1 x 100 from the block broken at the 25 and 75 for :10 each through the turn(feet).

Test Set #9
This time we are doing a few less 25’s and 50’s on a faster send off for all strokes.

4 x 25’s @ 100 race pace on :30

2 x 50’s @ 100 race pace on :45 (broken at the 25 for :05)

100 recovery

1 x 100 from the block broken at the 25 and 75 for :10 each through the turn(feet).

Test Set #10
If your swimmers have trained well and completed all test sets through the season then they are ready. Do a meet warm up as if preparing for the big swim. Break each 100 at the 25 and 75 through the turn for only :05 seconds. You could have the break at the 25 for :05 and the 75 for :10 if needed.

1 x 100 broken @ 100 race pace freestyle

Recovery set of at least 500 yards.

1 x 100 broken @ 100 race pace stroke

If you have any questions during the season about the sets, post your questions below or email me @ [email protected]
Good Luck!
Brad Burget

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