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.

COACHES: Yuppers–we do team orders of “Conquer the Pool” which include a team discount as well as complimentary branding (your club logo on the cover of the book) at no additional charge.

Want more details? Click here for a free estimate on a team order of CTP.

Leave a Reply

7 Comment threads
22 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
20 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Ol' Longhorn

The only title of the article more frightening than this one would be if “Gregg Troy” were substituted for “Eddie Reese.”

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Thanks for posting this, I always like to see what sets swimmers at elite schools are doing in practice. I remeber seeing a SwimSwam video at the Cal alumni practice about a year ago. They talked about an old Nort Thornton set…60 x 100 LCM fly on 1:30. Yikes.


I’m sure everyone clicks on this article kinda expecting some sort of secret formula from arguably the most decorated coach of all time, only to see some of the simplest aerobic sets you can find…… Goes to show that you don’t need to try too many new tricks to be great *coughs* USRPT *coughs* keto diet *coughs* kaatsu


While the last time I checked, records are breaking and kids are getting faster. Nothing wrong to try new and better ideas.


I don’t get you guys. You got a fantastic swimmer in Michael Andrew, and a fantastic personality, and still you enjoy bashing him. Many countries would be happy to have this guy. He does things his way, may work, may fail, who knows and there is no way to really know. Why do some people feel entitled to ridicule what he does?


It’s bizarre. I was late on the MA train because he went pro so early, which worried me. To me it looked like a decision made by overbearing parents, especially when they would say things like (paraphrasing) “He wouldn’t be going to college anyway because of the liberal education in American schools.” But he’s turned into a pretty remarkable young man, and it seems like my assumptions about his family were incorrect. I think his career is pretty exciting, and though his training at this point doesn’t seem like it’s the best way to get those big time drops and massive swims at the big meets, it’s pretty awesome to see an american making a living with the “international model”… Read more »


No one mentioned Michael Andrew. This debate over capacity training versus race pace training, quality versus quantity or any other names you want to give them has been going on literally for decades. In reality the vast majority of champions have come from programs that have a capacity training philosophy and understand how to use race pace training to the necessary amounts. “New tricks” are great for motivation, and nothing wrong with that, but the basics are the basics because they work.


the cough remarks at the end were absolutely meant to indicate he was talking about Michael Andrew specifically.

Mr Piano

Who from Texas is faster than MA in any 50?


but did he win anything in worlds? lol



Which is all that Texas won as well.


Correction. RELAY- singular. he didnt make the cut for the other relays

Ol’ Longhorn

Did anyone from Texas (excluding relays)?


sorry but he did – 100 IM 2016



*aims to be fastest swimmer in all strokes of the 50s
*wins NOTHING on worlds

I bet he wont make the olympic team either

Jabroni Pepperoni

Wasn’t he the first man to final in all four?


That is a remarkable achievement. Nothing but admiration for Michael and his family here.


nice flex haha. he can also have the award of “first man to shave in all of his meets”. i just feel MA is the biggest famewhore in swimming. all talk, too overrated


I think he has a pretty good shot in the 50Fr…..Maybe that big 200IM he swam at the end of last season……how would he train for that?


Sorry for the backlash but i just dont get why MA is so full of himself. He thinks he’s so fast and do everything, his mom even made a team in the ISL (lol why). Dude, prove yourself first, you even havent even swum in the olympics yet. Stop trying too hard to be relevant as you seriously look pathetic to many eyes.

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 …

Read More »

Want to take your swimfandom to the next level?

Subscribe to SwimSwam Magazine!