Eddie Reese’s Favorite Sets for Getting Swimmers in Shape

The man. The legend. The staggering number of titles. Here are some of legendary swim coach Eddie Reese’s favorite sets for getting swimmers in shape.

Eddie Reese is one of the winningest swim coaches of all time.

At the NCAA level, his accomplishments are without peer. Since taking over at the University of Texas in 1978, the Longhorns have captured fourteen national titles and eleven runner-ups. Reese has been NCAA coach of the year eight times, and the Longhorns have won 40+ conference titles.

Reese’s success has bled into the international scene, with Reese being selected to the United States’ coaching staff for the Olympics from 1988-2012. At the 2004 Athens Olympics, a full third of the US men’s team were Longhorn swimmers. 26 of his swimmers have gone to the Olympics [1], with legends like Aaron Piersol, Ian Crocker and Joseph Schooling swimming for Reese at one time or another.

Reese’s approach to coaching has always been one of humility and generosity. He focuses on coaching the person and works on helping his athletes improve, rather than succeed.

“We don’t talk about winning the NCAA championship,” says Reese. “We talk about what it takes for each individual to get better.”

The result?

Lots of improvement, and lots of championships.

Aerobic Training with Eddie Reese

The following swimming workouts were discussed at an ASCA presentation [2] that Reese gave back in 2009, the year after the Beijing Olympics, where he had been the men’s head coach for the United States.

Reese’s focus is on getting swimmers into a heart rate zone of around 155-160 BPM, and keeping them there for around 30-45 minutes.

All the sets and intervals below were done in short course yards.

Set #1

6-10 rounds…

  • 200 free @2:00
  • 175 free @2:00

Set #2

6-10 rounds…

  • 200 free @2:00
  • 150 stroke @2:00

Set #3

6-10 rounds…

  • 200 free swim @2:00
  • 150 kick @2:00

Set #4

Reese liked using this variation of the set with his sprinters.

8 rounds through…

  • 100 free @1:00
  • 75 free @1:00

Set #5

And Reese’s favorite short course set was the following…

2 rounds…

  • 5×100 @ 1:10
  • 4×200 @ 2:10
  • 3×300 @ 3:10
  • 2×400 @ 4:10
  • 1×500 @ 5:10

Take a two-minute break and repeat… but the intervals on the second round are 1:00/2:00/3:00/4:00 and 5:00.

Eddie Reese’s Tips for Getting in Shape

Want to make the most of these sets?

Here’s some more tips from Eddie Reese on maximizing your aerobic work in the pool.

Focus on personal improvement.

The thing that motivates swimmers more than anything to hit the pool is to see improvement. Reese’s advice for mitigating some of the dysfunction that comes from comparison-making is to have swimmers train for time and distance vs training for placings.

“Measure the distance they go, keep a record of it, and they can get better,” says Reese. It can be difficult not to get down on yourself when a teammate is beating you or you lose. “It is so hard in the competitive world that we live in … not to have swimmers feel bad when other people beat them. That is going to happen.”

When you show up to the pool work on hitting a faster interval, or swimming the same reps at a faster speed, or performing each lap with one or two less strokes.

As Reese notes, as long as you are improving, you are going to stay fired up to work hard and get your butt to the pool each day.

“You can be 30th in an event but if you swam 5 seconds faster than your best time, it’s like you won the event.”

Breathe every three strokes and extend your underwaters.

Swimmers—especially freestylers—have a dominant side. It’s only natural to bring the imbalance we have in regular life to the pool.

One of the ways that you can make your aerobic work harder without having to go faster is to breathe every three strokes.

Such a simple, basic concept, but breathing a little less makes it more aerobically challenging.

“We do a lot of breathing every three,” says Reese. “I do it to balance the stroke. I do it to cause the heart rate to go up without them having to go faster on a faster interval. Another way is to take three strokes off every wall without a breath or five fly kicks and three strokes without a breath,” says Reese.

Breathing bilaterally will help you even out those muscle imbalances (one of the leading causes of swimmer’s shoulder, by the way), improve aerobic capacity, and help you develop better breath control.

All the wins.


Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer. He’s the publisher of YourSwimBook, a ten-month log book for competitive swimmers.

Conquer the Pool Mental Training Book for SwimmersHe’s also the author of the recently published mental training workbook for competitive swimmers, Conquer the Pool: The Swimmer’s Ultimate Guide to a High Performance Mindset.

It combines sport psychology research, worksheets, and anecdotes and examples of Olympians past and present to give swimmers everything they need to conquer the mental side of the sport. Including building a bullet-proof process.

Ready to take your mindset to the next level?

Click here to learn more about Conquer the Pool.

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Bruce Drake
1 year ago

I’m reading ‘aerobic’ but these sets look to me like you would be pushing into the anaerobic zone. Am I wrong? I know these are for elite College level and Olympic level swimmers, but still. Also, anaerobic work is key for swimmers. Just want to see the correct terminology used.

1 year ago

There’s a video floating around somewhere on the internet showing the Texas men doing something like 3x 300 on 3:00, 3x 275 on 3:00, 2x through. Wish I could find it. Someone goes a 2:35 or so on the last 300…good stuff.

Coleman Hodges
Reply to  TINY HANDS
1 year ago

I’m gonna go ahead and need that link… please.

Reply to  Coleman Hodges
1 year ago

it’s an old Flo video, i believe..

Reply to  TINY HANDS
1 year ago

Found it: https://www.floswimming.com/video/5628100-texas-set

Actual set was:

300 on 3:00
250 on 3:00

100 on 1:00
75 on 1:00

300 on 3:00
250 on 3:00

100 on 1:00
75 on 1:00

300 on 3:00
250 on 3:00

100 on 1:00
75 on 1:00

Last edited 1 year ago by TINY HANDS
1 year ago

When Eddie speaks, everyone should listen. The man is GOLD!

1 year ago

Thank you for posting this. great stuff!

The Texas program has world class swimmers and MA is a world class swimmer. Thank goodness in the USA we can try and do different ways to get kids to the top. Texas swimmers need to do what it takes to help them to their best and MA has to do what he needs to do.

Listening to MA on the swimswam interview….he is doing a lot more training too. I believe 12 swim workouts a week plus weights and dryland. He said he had to modify the USRPT model to make it work. That’s great. His coach is helping him evolve to meet the demands of his events. If he is… Read more »

tea rex
1 year ago

Ugh, I guess I’ll try breathing every 3. Hate it though – 4 breaths a lap? Not enough for a busted old Masters swimmer.

NOT the frontman of Metallica
Reply to  tea rex
1 year ago

If you swing it like Paltrinieri you could get 6 breaths in there, just sayin 😉

3 years ago

I love that 7000 yard main set. Light 2000 yard warm-up and go….. Let me know how you feel an 1:15 after you start. LOL

3 years ago

Many elite swimmers breathe to just one side when racing. I am consistently telling my swimmers in practice to breathe every three to balance their stroke and challenge their lungs. Now that many races are easily viewed online, I will have kids respond “well (insert elite swimmer name) breathes every stroke” and I usually reply “I bet that’s not what they do in practice!” Feeling moderately vindicated that it’s something Eddie Reese also encourages. (Pats self on back 😂)

Reply to  Coachmommy
3 years ago

I really don’t understand the “breath every three to balance your stroke” thing. I totally get the hypoxic training aspect and have no problem with encouraging swimmers to breath every three. But, if their stroke is uneven, why not teach them how to even it out without breathing every three? The two are not mutually exclusive.

Reply to  John
10 months ago

The breathing action forces the rotation and builds the Muscles for it.

I’m sure there are other ways for it but this seems the simplest.

3 years ago

200s on 2:00.

Absolutely brutal setting the interval at Townley’s in season PB.

Reply to  Togger
3 years ago

This comment takes the cake

Reply to  SwimDawg
3 years ago

“Takes the cake? Where? To the bakery, to see other cakes?” (George Carlin)

Reply to  Togger
3 years ago

But, seriously… how can someone down-vote that? Very funny, Togger.

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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