Coach’s Intel: Casey Charles of the Freshly Minted East Carolina Gators Shares a Broken 400IM Set

  26 Olivier Poirier-Leroy | August 26th, 2013 | Coach's Log, Featured, Training, Training Intel

Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer based out of Victoria, BC. In feeding his passion for swimming, he has developed YourSwimBook, a powerful log book and goal setting guide made specifically for swimmers. Sign up for the YourSwimBook newsletter (free) and get weekly motivational tips by clicking here.

Casey Charles of the freshly minted East Carolina Gators shares a broken 400IM set  in today’s Coach’s Intel:

I used (and continue to use) set ideas like this for my former swimmer Matt Houser who was a 3:46 400 IMer coming out of HS.  We are also the home club of Olympic Gold Medalist Lauren Perdue. Our Carteret branch developed Open Water World Champion Chip Peterson under the banner of the Carteret Currents.

I love IM training and I love for my swimmers to swim at race pace at some point in nearly every practice. I try to stress speed, technique, and transitions during all main sets.

I believe in 25s at high rates of speed as well as FR swims at distance being held under that strokes goal time (if you can’t consistently do it FR in practice – it’s probably not going to happen stroke in a meet).

I have submitted short 18-20 min sets that can be combined or done in multiple RDs… Intervals can and will vary by ability level.  The intervals submitted are pretty general.

Broken 400 IM Set #1 [19 minutes per RD]

1 x 25 FL From a Dive – Strong – Establish technique and tempo @ :40

1 x 50 FL Build off of established tempo to fast @ 1:00

1 x 25 FL Maintain Fast @ :40

2 x 50 BK D1-2 @ 1:00

2 x 50 BR D1-2 @1:00

1 x 25 FR Best Effort – Strong kick – tempo up with the arms – control breathing @ :40

1 x 75 FR Finish @ 1:30


1 x 200 IM – Drill/Swim by 25 @ 4:00


16 x 25 IMO by 4s @ :30 – Best Average – Race all 25s


Broken 400 IM Set #2 [18 minutes per RD]

1 x 50 FL from the block

1 x 100 FL/BK by 50 – FL is Fast – Backstroke – establish technique – drive hand speed

1 x 100 Bk/BR by 50 – BK – Best effort, BR – establish technique – long up top finish kick

1 x 100 BR/FR by 50 – BR – Pick up tempo, FR – AO effort – fast feet and hands, fast low breaths

1 x 50 FR Best Effort

 [50s @ 1:00 and 100s @ 1:40]

6 x 25 IMO by 2s [No FR] @ :40 – Perfect Stroke/Recover

1 x 400 FR under 400 IM broken time from above @ 6:00


Broken 400 IM Set #3 [19 minutes per RD]

1 x 50 FL – Strong, good body position, but ultimately easy speed

1x 75 (50 FL/25 BK) – Fly is build, faster hands; BK – establish body position, 3 underwater dolphin kicks, catch as much water as possible

1 x 50 BK – Build Kick and hand speed, 3/4 kicks off of each wall

1 x 75 (25 BK/50 BR) – BK – 5 kicks or more off wall, fastest hand speed; BR – strong pull-outs, 5 strokes on the first 25, 6 strokes on the 2nd 25

1 x 50 BR – Continue building speed through stroke count, 7 stokes on the 1st 25, 8 on the 2nd 25

1 x 100 FR – Swim should be at 400 IM FR Goal Pace

[50s @ 1:00, 75s @ 1:20, and 100 @ 1:20]

1 x 200 IM D/K @ 4:00 – Reinforce body position and general feel

16 x 25 IMO by 4s @ :30 – Best Effort


Broken 400 IM Set #4 [19 minutes per RD]

3 x  RD1 – FL, RD2 – BK, RD3 – BR

1 x 25 Strong @ :30

1 x 50 Build @ 1:00

1 x 25 All-Out @ :30


After RD 3 – 1 x 100 FR best effort @ 1:30

1 x 100 EZ @ 2:00


3 x 25 FL D1-3 @ :40

1 x 50 FL/BK – FL – Best Effort, BK – Fast Hands @ 1:00

2 x 25 BK #1 – Fast Hands/Build Legs, #2 – AO BK @ :30

1 x 50 BK/BR – BK = AO, BR – Strong – think technique @ :50

3 x 25 BR D1-3 @ :25

1 x 50 FR AO @ :40

2 x 25 FR AO @ :20


1 x 100 EZ @ 2:00

Got a set that you would like to share with the swimming community? Send it on in to Olivier at [email protected]

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26 Comments on "Coach’s Intel: Casey Charles of the Freshly Minted East Carolina Gators Shares a Broken 400IM Set"

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EC Swim Champ
3 years 2 months ago

Worst set I’ve ever seen, you can’t swim 400 yards by training 25’s and Matt was a much better swimmer at UVA. Who to my knowledge do a little more than just 25’s

3 years 2 months ago

All male athletes should get better in college.
UVA certainly used to train more than 25’s.
25’s beyond race pace can certainly help a 400im – we do sets like this and have athletes getting second swims at OT.

3 years 2 months ago

Matt Houser
Senior year hs 3:46.82
UVA best time 3:45.89
You can compare some of his other improvements at UVA by using a simple search on USA Swimming. There are many ways to reach a kids potential and you can argue that endlessly, but I would say coach Casey had a pretty significant role in Matt’s development.

Just sayin...
3 years 2 months ago

I’m pretty sure Houser was 346 in HS with his club coach and 345 with UVa… 422 in the 400 m IM in HS…. Didn’t get faster with UVa…. He was 147.0 in the 2IM in HS…. Considerable time drop with UVA to 144… And 2fl was 145 in HS and 144 with UVA…. Look up the career year he had with Charles in 2009… One of the best years by any prep swimmer ever in terms of versatility… They were obviously doing something right…

3 years 2 months ago

Clearly you’ve never seen a Dave Salo practice…

Why don’t you step up troll, sign your real name on a practice you’ve written and see how it stacks up.

Some of these sets seem like a real challenge, especially if you go multiple rounds. Shorter distances equals better technique, sustained over longer periods of time is far more productive then doing straight 400IMs in practice…

Not sure why I just wasted my time on you, but congrats. You’ve succeeded on your goal.

EC Swim Champ
3 years 2 months ago

Clearly you’ve never heard of Gregg Troy, who has more 400 IM’ers at the olympic level than anyone

Lochte isn’t doing 25’s!

3 years 2 months ago

Served! WWRLD!!!

3 years 2 months ago

You gotta train a lot harder than that to reach potential in the 400 IM. Sets likes these aren’t going to take you quite far enough. Houser was good, but why wasn’t he great?

Use your head
3 years 2 months ago

This is 4 sets. Surely there was much more going on. 346 and 20.3 in the 50 coming out of HS is pretty good… Not sure why you would bash a swimmer and fellow coach over 4 20 min sets… I guess you’re just so “hardcore”

3 years 2 months ago

But how talented is Houser? How fast could he have been if he was training a little harder? How fast could he have been if he and his coach were a little more hardcore? All I’m saying is that you’ve gotta train hard for the hardest event in swimming. You’re not training hard if you’re swimming 25s all the time.

Use your head
3 years 2 months ago

Does the article say all the time.I think it says something like speed is something implemented in every practice. Houser was not a huge kid. Maybe like 6’1″ 175 lbs in HS. Why am I responding, you’re obviously a troll.

3 years 2 months ago

So you’re saying you agree with me?

Use your head
3 years 2 months ago

No one agrees with you. This is getting absurd. No more for you.

3 years 2 months ago

I suppose you also think sprinters should rest several minutes at a time…noob!

nice try casey
3 years 2 months ago

I think Casey is trying to pull one over on us. You don’t go 3:46 in high school in the 4IM by doing 25s all the time. This was probably his recovery. Based on how his 200 improved in college much more than his 200, he was obviously developing his endurance with a lot of distance IM.

Use your head
3 years 2 months ago

The trolls are out in force tonight. I see 4 pretty good set ideas. Better than probably every other set submitted to coach’s intel.

3 years 2 months ago

Dude, did you see Goldberg’s ladder? Come on…

3 years 2 months ago

Great comment on the illustrious ladder.

As to Matt Houser, credit to Casey Charles for developing Matt (20.3/139fr and 55/2:00br as well as the other aforementioned times) along with Lauren Perdue. They were clearly doing a lot of things right.

This was 2009 and the suits were in full force. Compare the 2009 suit-aided with Matt’s eventual UVA times and credit to Matt for continuing to work and improve. Those improvements are significant when accounting for the suits.

Swimming at and beyond race pace while fatigued is key to improving and these sets, if done correctly, accomplish that. Certainly Matt was doing other sorts of training to prepare his body to handle these sort of sets.

This is merely a frame, not the entire movie.

3 years 2 months ago

Wow! Lots of colorful commentary here. Gave me a few good laughs! Some are tongue and cheek hopefully… I hope we have smarter coaching members in the swimming community.

Matt was helped by the suits – there’s no doubt about that. When I first started with Matt (around 14), I trained him for the mile. A good amount of yardage, but nothing too crazy (we can only train six 2-hour sessions per week). As he got older, we did a little bit less yardage and got more precise with turns, underwater kicking, and putting the entire race together.

By his senior year, he was (suit-aided), 20.3, 44.5, 139 (unshaved), 4:27 in the FR; 55.4, 1:58.8 in the BRs; 48.4, 1:45 in the FLs; 49.1, 1:46.4 in the BK; 1:47.0 and 3:46 in the IMs… His most impressive night of competition SC was at the Sectional meet in 2009 where he went 2:00 2 BR, 1:45 2 FL, and then finished the night with a 500 FR that was under 4:30 I think…

Matt truly worked for every swim he ever swam, which is a testament (as someone mentioned before) to his drops in time at UVa without the suits and with a totally different training philosophy.


3 years 2 months ago

Nice set ideas Casey. Maybe we can talk IM training sometime soon, because I’ve been coaching some fast IMers too. You’d probably like some of my sets I use for my IM studs. I might do these same sets with the distances doubled since my swimmers are a little older and tougher.

3 years 2 months ago

I think the whole point of posting these sets is to see what others are doing and if there is something we like, we try fitting it into our scheme…if we don’t like it, don’t use it. It is a fact that everyone has their favorite recipe for chocolate chip cookies and they aren’t the same. Not sure why you need to bash someone else’s “recipe”.

If you look at world class 400 IMers here is the basic formula…

Fly – how fast can you get out without mortgaging the rest of the race…usually around 2-2.5 of their best 100.

Bk – Negative split 50s

Brst – Negative split 50s, crush the pullouts; the key having a strong free leg is to make sure you build the momentum in that 2nd 50 heading into free.

Fr – come home faster than your fly; it is all about being tough

So the question is – do these sets above address what we want to see in the 400 IM?

I think they do.

3 years 1 month ago

I like the phrase “mortgaging the rest of the race.” I may steal… stolen.

3 years 1 month ago


I love this workout. I truly believe in rotating all types of sets into a swimmers workout. It keeps them from getting bored (unlike when I swam back in the day) and helps them think about things in a different way (better turns, stroke technique, underwaters, etc.). Although I am relatively young coach (only 33), I work with some top ranked 11-13 year olds in the country and if I can keep them interested and motivated, I am totally for it. Mixing this workout in with mid and long distance sets is perfect; it helps with the speed and thought process on how to swim a 400 IM. My swimmers constantly are asking “how they should swim their races” and swimming sets like this in practice answer the question for them. I would love to see more Casey! 🙂

3 years 1 month ago

Great! Thanks, Casey! I will contact you later this week! I am excited to share ideas; I am a full time coach with Nation’s Capital Swim Club (formally Curl Burke and home to Katie Ledecky). 🙂

2 years 11 months ago



About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 he was thrown in the water at the local pool for swim lessons and since then has never wanted to get out. A nationally top ranked age grouper as both a …

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