Coach’s Intel: Nebraska Coaching Legend Cal Bentz Submits a Race Prep Workout

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.

The following workout was submitted by Cal Bentz of the Greater Nebraska Swim Team. He has been a fixture of the Nebraska swim scene for over 50 years, starting coaching the summer after his sophomore year. He spent 24 years at the University of Nebraska at the helm of the swimming & diving program, where he had over 180 All-Americans, 21 conference titles, and over 20 Olympians from across the globe swimming for the Huskers under him.

Here is his swimming workout, which includes a number of notes and comments from Coach Bentz:

The workout below is two days out from our first competition of the 2013-14 short course season in the U.S.

My group involves 14 females and males who range in age 13 to 17 years.  They work out Monday through Friday 4:30 – 7:00 p.m.  and we do Test Sets on Saturdays from 8:00 – 10:00 a.m.  The beginning of our workouts are somewhat muddled as the swimmers come to the pool from across a city of some 250,000+ and from both public and private schools.  We usually manage to get them started in about fifteen minutes.  The pool we use is an 8 lane 25 yard pool.  We share the pool beginning each day made up with another group of high school swimmers who are in the pool when we arrive which takes up one of our lanes for the first half an hour.  During the rest of our time the pool is shared with a variety of other swimmers of varying ages and skill levels.

Prior to the formal beginning of the workout I encourage those who arrive early to participate in some strength exercises and various skill work…some days this works well and other days I have to put my foot down and get after them.  By in large, the work does get done.

40x [Pull Ups, Pull Outs + Breast Starts, Turns, Pull Outs and Break Outs + other assigned work. Focus on personal skills for the meet.]

Kick Set (1600y)

This kicking set is primarily focused on Skill, Power & Speed in preparation for the competition of the coming weekend. We do pretty good kicking each day with good high intensity work and usually from 1500 to 2000 total.

300 Kick Increase the effort as you go and include more than one kick!

12×50 Kick (1:10) Sets of 3x Kicks in I.M. order [1x increase 85% + 2x FAST!]

8×25 Kick (:30)…SUPER SPEED KICK!                   +              2x Stand Up!

150 Kick loosen 1 or 2 kicks of choice.

8×25 Kick Fins! (:30)…SUPER SPEED KICK!          +              2x Stand Up!

150 Swim – Your choice.

I like to do at least some high intensity, speed and power work each day, even if it isn’t too many yards…I believe these developing swimmers need to understand that in the end, if they can’t generate speed and power in the water, they are not going to swim as fast as they would like!


300 as

1st 100: PB-snorkel-fins at moderate speed focus on contact with the water, high elbow, FEEL, Distance Per Stroke, head and body alignment and how easily you move through the water.

Final 200: Gear OFF. Add the kick & Swim full stroke to finish. FOCUS ON YOUR STROKE & FEEL!

12×25 Swim (heats) No Push 25s  SUPER ACCELERATION!!!

4x of each Fly/Bk/Br snorkel (?) HIGH INTENSITY  to far flags

6×50 note:2x each Fly/Bk/Br TIMED! SPEED & POWER TO THE WALL!

8×25 Swim (stand up) Free (heats)    TIMED!    SPEED & POWER TO SWIM FAST!!!

 [Ed. Note: Heats = means the repeats are swum as heats in a competition, with one set of swimmers going at a time. Stand-up = from a dive.]

I also believe in body and head alignment so much of the work we do is done using a snorkel whenever we can to stabilize the head and maintain “the line”.  We often do this in our sprint and speed work and at slower paces when working on a variety of skills.

8×50 Swim (1:00) Odds at 85-90%…Skills and Speed!

150 Swim loosen with focus on Skills!

16×25 Pull/Swim/With Gear! SPEED – INTENSITY – POWER!!!

150 Swim loose choice

8×50 Swim (:50)                                         AT PACE!!!

200 Swim loosen and warm down!

I am an advocate of relaxed visualization.  I often ask the swimmers in my group from to relax and float in the pool  for several minutes as they visualize their up coming workout set or the coming meet or competition.


Got a workout or set you’d like to share with your fellow coaches? Send it on it to Olivier at [email protected]

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About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

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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