A Sneak Peek into a Tennessee Workout – Part 2

Commit Swimming provides you the platform you need to take your training to the next level. With Commit you can write, track, and analyze your workouts on any device. Commit is the #1 digital workout journal designed specifically for swimming, used by thousands of coaches and swimmers every day. The Tennessee workout discussed below was written with Commit.

Always wondered what a D1 college workout looked like? Curious what the purpose and rationale is behind each and every set? Earlier, we took a deep dive into a University of Tennessee workout. For some background, we recommend reading that article first. Today, we go even deeper into analysis mode with Clive Rushton providing the commentary on the workout.


Again, before we dive in, I want to thank 3 people that made this article and part 1 possible. First I’d like to thank Matt Kredich and Lance Asti from the University of Tennessee for contributing this workout and providing their notes on each set. Second, I’d like to thank Clive Rushton for his incredible analysis and contribution. Everything below is written by Clive, and any deviation from his exact words was only made to increase the fluidity of this article.

Clive’s Intro

Before I get started, I just want to say that Matt Kredich has produced some great results since he took over and Lance Asti has been an integral part of that success.


The first thing that struck me was the sophistication of the whole workout design, right from the warm up through to the ‘warm down’. Detailed instructions are given for each set; not simply the reps, distance and repeat time, which is often the norm. Also included are breathing patterns and prescribed stroke counts, as well as descriptions of preferred kinaesthetic sensations. Not only are the details of the specific instructions described for the whole group(s) but there are individually personalized instructions for selected swimmers. It’s attention to detail that does not always show up. It obviously does at Tennessee.


There are also quite a lot of esoteric phrases and abbreviations, such as ‘Uh20’, ‘harmonic’ and ‘HH’. Many coaches will be ‘flumoxed’ (there’s an old English esotericism to keep you amused) by those. Uh20 is underwater. The other two are terms used by adherents to the aquatic explanations of Bill Boomer/Milton Nelms.

Harmonic denotes a form of coordination where the frequencies of the stroke elements and their respective rhythms are integer multiples of the overall stroke pattern. In plain English, that’s delightful swimming. Fluid. It has ‘flow’. It’s like pouring cream. One stroke flows seamlessly into the next one. It brings a smile to your face when you watch it.

HH is an acronym for ‘Hand Hits’ which simply means hand entries into the water or, even more simply, strokes. I always think simpler is better. But not too simple.


The primary focus was anaerobic capacity development. In a previous analysis I outlined a model for estimating suitable total distances for each type of workout for a variety of swimmer levels and I had 2,700m per hour for international level swimmers and 2,450m for national level when working on ‘speed’ components. This 2 hour 1 minute workout (see the precision!) is 5,450 yards which converts to a rate of 2,471m per hour. That’s not to say these swimmers are not international level because we have to assume there are very few restrictions on pool time or swimmer availability; it’s not a club program.

What that number does reflect is the additional time allocated to clear explanations and clarifications and also to adequate rest intervals to allow the next swim to be right.

Check out the very first set…

Set #1:


           15m Dive and Glide in the well @ 2:00

           2 x 50 in 50m pool (under lane lines) Uh20 for distance…then breast 1 pull 2 kick

A dive 15 takes, what, seven seconds max? It’s glide, not even swim, so the effort is low. On 2 minutes? Really? Seriously? Well, yes. Because it has to be done correctly. And it has to allow for reflection time. My guess is the start needn’t be exactly ‘on the top’ like you would demand with young age group swimmers for organizational reasons. These swimmers deserve a chance to prepare, even for a dive 15 in the diving well.

Then they move to the racing tank and they’re going long course with the pool set up short course. This is one of the greatest breaststroke exercises ever devised. With lanes set at 2.5m width it forces the swimmer to hold 2.5m stroke length. I’m a little confused by it because it says ‘Uh20 every other lane’ so it may means 5m per stroke. Awesome. And the 2 x 50 are on 1’30” so, again, time for thinking.

Set #2:

     2 x 25 line up on board w/ best posture @ :40

     4 x 100  50 Free 3 stroke slide for distance 50 Choice Drill/Swim @ 1:40

     2 x 25 line up on board w/ best posture @ :40

     4 x 200 Pull  o: free w/ 7 strokes (M) or 8(F) @ 3:00  e: Back/Choice by 50 @ 3:20

All the warm up is very short distance stuff so the ‘sprinty’ type muscle activation is well catered for and the neurological stimulus and kinaesthetic awareness is accented throughout: the 4 x 100 includes 50 free ‘stroke slide for distance’ and the 2 x 25 ‘line up’ on board with best posture encourages straight body line and helps eliminate the hills and valleys from the upper and lower back. The whole workout is saturated with rich stimulus.

The 200s with pre-specified stroke counts are described as, very challenging for most of our athletes.” Well, exactly. Challenge is what great coaching is all about. Comfort zones are about falling asleep – ask the Tiger Lilies in Alice Through the Looking Glass. Matt and Lance say, the 200s are, “designed to make them uncomfortable,” (this is a reference to part 1 found here and the hallmark of a great athlete is the ability to be comfortable being uncomfortable, right? Of course.

Same thing on the next preparatory set: “You can’t hide from the kick sox.”

Set #3:


           4 x 10m turns w/ kick sox @ :20 + :30 extra rest after 4

           2 x 25 @ 1:00 Fast Kick w/ kick sox

           2 x 50 Strong Prime or Prime/Free by 25…LEG FOCUS (no sox) 2F1 & Desc.

And on the next preparatory set: “This wakes them up and sharpens them for the next set.”

Set #4


           4 x 25… 8 HH free or back  4 HH Fly or Breast…Should be MAX Tempo. Desc Distance 1-4 and 2nd round FARTHER than first

           1 x 200 Free Pull.  Breathe 2 or 3 times per 25


The preparation is extensive and finely detailed.  It leads into two anaerobic capacity sets, the first of which is ‘simply’ 10 x 25 @ 30. ‘Simply’ is complete and utter coach-speak sleight of hand. This set prescribes speed (time), tempo (stroke rate), stroke count (stroke length) and kick count. That’s not simple. The only things it doesn’t specify are heart rate and lactate level and both of those are total irrelevances. It’s a classic example of what I call ‘layered complexity’. 10 x 25 is simple. 10 x 25 @ 30 is simple. They are ingredients. Anyone can do it. It contains no stress, no challenge, no discomfort whatsoever. Add the other four layers and you have yourself a fine recipe. Cook them correctly and you have a cordon bleu dish.

10 x 25 Prime @ :30 Must be at T-100 Time, tempo, stroke count, Uh20

If you miss 2 in a row, you are done.  Goal is to do all 10. Work with a partner to eyeball times.

Then go…

6 x 150 o: Alpha Free, Desc Prime, White Free  e: Kick

The target time is not particularly onerous; that’s not what makes the set challenging. It’s the other layers that set the bar high. But what if the bar is set too high? What if the swimmers fail? You know what? They get a reward. They get to be done with the set. Think about that. Usually it’s fail and you start over. Not here. Fail and you are done. Beautiful. D-1 swimmers are motivated. They want to get it right; to be tough; to be the best. If the set is too much, or too long, then move on; come back another time and get it ‘righter’.

The second of the ANC sets is another of my favorites:

12 x 50 w/ paddles and fins @ 1:30.  o: FAST  e: Recovery

These Paddles+Fin sets should always be very short distance – 50m is probably the maximum, 25s are good for learning. They enable the swimmer to move through the water faster than they can naturally do. Because of that they learn how to deal with the increased drag – more speed, more drag. The rest intervals need to be big because you want them to swim fast, very fast. 50s on 1’30” is perfect. But how fast is fast? The rule of thumb is at least 10% faster than they can go without the fins and paddles. So a push 22.5 female should be aiming at very low 20’s possibly sub 20.0 with fins and paddles. The U of T men were 18 low and the women 20 low. If it’s not that fast then something is wrong. Maybe 12 x 50 is too many? In fact the first time you do this set 1 x 50 may be too many. The speed is the important thing; if they can’t repeat at 10% or faster, then stop. There is no point doing any that are slower. Build them up 1 x, 2 x … after years, yes, years, you may reach 20 x, but 1 x 50 at the right speed is better than 20 x 50 at the wrong speed.

Paddle size makes a difference. If the paddles are too small the swimmer cannot generate enough power to go fast, if they are too large then they can’t handle the power they generate. Simple solution: the size that enables them to go fastest is the right size.

And that brings us to the ‘warm down’:

400 White…no kick off walls…balance up in a line…top arm BO

300 White…o wall, shape first, then harmonic.  e: walls fast uh2o

200 White…Fastest possible rotations on wall.  Hold landing position

100 White…Beautiful turns.

The workout finishes with a very structured warm down at a specified speed and with a focus on specific aspects of turns.

Oh, and you can tell that Lance was a sprinter back in the day because he says “The distance guys probably did a broken 20k or something.” 

To read more of Clive’s commentary on workouts, go to Commit’s blog and check out the “WoW” posts.


Commit makes logging workouts simple and fun. Matt Kredich and his team at Tennessee use Commit every day to write workouts like the one analyzed above.

Coaches – Sign up for Commit’s 14 day FREE TRIAL (no credit card required)

Swimmers – Sign up for Commit’s FREE BETA.

Commit’s team consists of 2 kinda slow swimmers (Dan Dingman and Nico Gimenez) and 1 very slow swimmer (Dan Crescimanno). The team is passionate about the sport and is building innovative applications for both coaches and swimmers.

Contact them anytime at [email protected] with questions, feedback, or just to say hi. You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or subscribe to their newsletter.

About Clive Rushton

Clive has over 50 years of experience at every level of the sport. He is a former Olympic swimmer and Olympic coach with an extensive background in exercise physiology and the biomechanics of swimming. Clive has worked with and helped develop over 200 international swimmers including world record holders and Olympic champions; his swimmers have broken national and international records and his clubs have won national team championships at the age-group and senior level. To learn more about Clive, visit here. To read more of Clive’s commentary on workouts, go to Commit’s blog and check out the “WoW” posts.

Swim training is courtesy of Commit Swimming, a SwimSwam partner.



Leave a Reply

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments