Bowman Shares Pre-Olympic Michael Phelps Workouts At ASCA Convention

At the recent convention of the American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA), Arizona State coach Bob Bowman delivered remarks focused on how he prepared Michael Phelps for the Olympics in 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016. Bowman shared images of the hand-written workouts he prepared for Phelps (and some of his other athletes, such as Allison Schmitt) – 7, 14, 30, and 60 days out from each Olympics. A number of those workouts can be seen below.

In the course of his remarks, and during the Q&A session, Bowman shared a number of interesting nuggets:

  • Phelps’ best training was from 2002-04.
  • While training at the University of Michigan, from 2004-08, he was averaging 80,000 yards per week.
  • Going into the 2012 Olympics, Phelps only trained about 50% of the time and only came to two Saturday morning practices.
  • While Phelps narrowly lost the 200 fly at the London Olympics, he was pleasantly surprised (as was Bowman) by how well he swam, given how little training he’d done over the previous four years.
  • Following the London Olympics, his practices were never more than 6,000 yards.
  • Bowman said of Phelps, “We were 100% honest with each other all the time. That’s how we stayed together.”
  • Kicking is “incredibly important,” said Bowman, and should be done at full intensity. He 25 percent of his workouts will often be devoted to kicking, with long sets, like 2,000 yards for time.
  • Butterfly training, said Bowman, should be done with proper technique at all times.
  • A key part of success at meets is management – not the workouts. Thus he said his biggest job was to get his swimmers to do what they were trained to do amid the chaos connected to meets – travel, meals, equipment, etc.
  • “Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.”
  • He emphasized that a great facility is not needed to produce great swimmers, pointing to the crowded pool Phelps trained in at NBAC and the subpar weight room, which was actually outside (propane space heaters kept the swimmers warm during cold weather periods).

Jared Anderson contributed to this report.

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I am just a novice swim follower so what do the experts on this site say about his training regime in the slides?

I will always be disappointed that we weren’t able to see the times Phelps could have put up between 2008 and 2012 if he fully trained!


The slides show his taper workouts were real short. He was doing some sets to try to simulate his goal times.

Steve Nolan

I assume it stops 60 days out from London b/c that was the last practice he did.

Years of Plain Suck

My takeaway from this: if Phelps did 3/4 of the work in 2019-20 as he did in 2015-16, he could easily make the US team in the 200 IM. (I’ve also already factored in the age thing as well.) His knowledge of all the little things would make up for his loss of strength and endurance due to age. It would be like Jack Nicklaus winning the Masters at age 46 (in 1986) because he knew the course so well.


Swimming is not golf.

Years of Plain Suck

True enough, Caleb. But the mental part of both sports is huge. Phelps’s demeanor in the ready room before the 200 fly in Rio was worth at least a second over his competitors (especially Chad and Lazlo).


Yes yes, but even in 2016 Phelp’s turns for 200 fly were like an age grouper. I think he needs to be committed at his age to win gold. He doesn’t have the insane base that he for London. Just qualifying for the Olympic team and failing at Tokyo wouldn’t be what he wants if he were to swim again. Give it your all or nothing.

crooked donald

He’d need to give up the 200 fly. You’re right about the base he’d need. 200 IM, 100 fly (hope for a prelim slot). Just don’t see him doing much more. The other decay curve (beyond age) is the training decay curve that’s now going on 5 years.


Honestly I think how much he had to race in Rio is what did him in. His first race was a 47.1 100 free split. Yet later in the meet (his 11th race) he could only muster a 51.1 in the 100 fly, slower than the 51.0 he went at US trials. For Phelps, a 47.1 is probably equivalent to a 50.3-50.6 100 fly. I think he was just too old (or missed his taper) to perform well in 3 rounds of 200 fly, but I think if he’d only done the 200 IM he’d have been in the 1:53.7 range. IF (and for his legacy’s sake I hope he doesn’t) he went for a 2020 run, he should focus… Read more »


Eh he went 47.1 in London as well. We see terrible turns in Rio, as I said. I think he may have been able to squeeze a couple more days of taper though. He was having shoulder problems before Rio.


The most important part is he doesn’t seem to want to. A lot of athletes continue in their respective sports past their prime, ie. Venus Williams, Roger Federer, but it’s because they love it.


Well Phelps did love it. He did say he would probably go to 2020 if it wasn’t for his chance of getting injuried. He almost got injured for Rio. He had 2 cortisone shots.


Yes indeed, he gave 20 years of his life to swimming, and he did it !!! The Greatest swimmer of them all !!!
Phelps is the Champion for us and good example to all. He went in as working hard and talented person,
and human been please remember that, it is easy to talk about,the questions is do you have a gut to do it? And there no one will beat him only the time ……


You’re right– as he ages his margin for error increases dramatically


Have you averaged in his bad shoulder, bad back, and 1.3 kids?


Meet management is an important topic.

Phelps and Bowman really excelled at that in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics, where he competed just about every session. So many warm-ups, races, warm downs, and medal ceremonies to deal with.

I think Nathan Adrian said that the rest of the USA team hardly saw MP because he was being hustled around the whole meet with his heavy schedule of races.