5 Epic Swim Sets You Should Try At Least Once

by Olivier Poirier-Leroy. Join his weekly motivational newsletter for swimmers by clicking here.

When it comes to swim sets things can get a little bit monotonous.

Doing the same swim workouts, repeats and intervals over and over again is boring and tedious. Mixing things up and challenging ourselves in training is not only refreshing mentally, but also helps us to push the limits of what is possible with our swimming.

Here are 5 epic swim sets that you should try at least once over the course of your swim career:

1. The (Other) Auburn Sprint Swim Set.

In terms of raw effort, I am not sure this one can be beat. A sprint swim workout that was originally written up by Brett Hawke over at Auburn, it features 100×25 of all-out swimming with a steadily descending interval and increasing rest between rounds.

The goal is to do 2,500 yards (I tried the set in meters) at or as close to your 100-race pace. By the last couple rounds you will be feeling an exceptionally thorough case of jelly shoulders.

Here is how it goes:

100×25 at your 100 race pace

(The distance outlined after the interval is the recovery swimming to be done at the end of each round.)

  • Round 1: 10 x 25 @:60 – 50 easy
  • Round 2: 10 x 25 @:60 – 100 easy
  • Round 3: 10 x 25 @:55 – 150 easy
  • Round 4: 10 x 25 @:50 – 200 easy
  • Round 5: 10 x 25 @:45 – 250 easy
  • Round 6:10 x 25 @:40 – 300 easy
  • Round 7: 10 x 25 @:35 – 350 easy
  • Round 8: 10 x 25 @:30 – 400 easy
  • Round 9: 10 x 25 @:25 – 450 easy
  • Round 10: 10 x 25 @:20 – 500 easy
  • Ouch.

You can read my breakdown of the swim set and how (well?) I fared trying out this lactate-maker here.

2. Josh Schneider’s Sprint-a-Thon.

NCAA and world champion Josh Schneider used this set to help power up his speed endurance. It features anywhere between 750 and 950 of high octane sprinting.

After a thorough warm-up:

6-8 rounds of–

2×50 @1 All-Out 

  • 50 #1 is from a dive.
  • Second 50 is from a push. “The goal is trying to get as close as possible to the time you swam on the first 50,” notes Josh.
  • 3 minutes rest between rounds.

And then…

3 x 50 All-Out from a Dive.

  • “The goal is to beat the results of the dive 50’s from the previous set,” says Schneider.
  • Long rest; 3 minutes between 50’s.

For more commentary from Josh on this sprint set read the full breakdown here.

3. Mike Alexandrov’s Favorite Set for Crushing the Competition

Two-time Olympic breaststroker likes to mix up his training in the water using various kinds of equipment, unleashing a series of super-sets to contrast heavier resistance with high speed work.

After a super-fun time warm-up that gets you primed and ready to rock and roll:

  • 300 pull (buoy and swim paddles) 25 choice, 50 breast @ :20 seconds rest (4th gear breaststroke)
  • 2 x 150 1st and last 50 breast, middle 50 choice @ :20 seconds rest (4th gear breaststroke)
  • 3 x 100 breast with paddles descend 1-3 @ 30 seconds rest (build each one and 5th gear on the 3rd one)
  • 4 x 75 swim (no gear) @ 40 seconds rest (1st 75 = last 25 5th gear, 2nd = last 50 5th gear, 3rd 75 all fast, 4th = find way to go faster)
  • 6 x 50 paddles descend 1-3 @ 30 seconds rest
  • 8 x 25 no gear 1 easy, 2 fast @ 30 seconds rest


3 rounds through:

  • 1st round, do the 300, 2 x 150s, 3 x 100’s and then JUST the 4 x 75’s.
  • 2nd round, do the 300, 2 x1 50s, 3 x 100’s and then JUST the 6 x 50’s.
  • 3rd round, do the 300, 2 x 150s, 3 x 100’s and then JUST the 8 x 25s.

To read the full breakdown on Mike’s favorite swim set read the rest of his commentary by clicking here.

4. Ryan Lochte’s “Brutal” Individual Medley Set

You don’t need me to tell you how grueling the 400m individual medley is. 5ish minutes of controlled sprinting that spans all four strokes, giving you all sorts of exhaustion and agony.

The only thing harder?

Training for said event.

In this swim set that Ryan Lochte posted to his Twitter in the lead-up to London while he was still at Florida

4 rounds through—

  • 2×100 butterfly from a dive all-out @1:30
  • 2×50 backstroke, 1 all-out, 1 cruise @:50
  • 100 freestyle @1:20
  • 400 IM all-out @5


  • The workout was done in long course meters.
  • Just the set was 3,200 meters.
  • Lochte’s times on the 400 individual medleys were as follows: 4:29, 4:29, 4:28, and 4:27.
  • If you weren’t hungry before this set, you will most certainly will be afterward.

5. 10ish Minutes a Day to a Faster Underwater Dolphin Kick

This swim set is certainly the easiest out of the five presented in this little list, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t super effective!

The importance of the underwater dolphin kick has never been so prevalent in the sport, particularly for you short course yards swimmers, with races that can be done up to 60% under the water.

This set, while short and sweet, will help add some turbo-boost to your underwater fly kick.

After you have gotten your legs loose and warm:

20×25 @:35

  • FAST underwater dolphin kick to 15m (12.5m okay for when not wearing fins)
  • Wearing DragSox for all of them.
  • Wear fins for the last 10.
  • Alternate on front and on back by 25.
  • Streamline must be tight and legit.

Your Turn

What “essential” swim sets would you like to see added to this list? What swim sets have you done in the past that were either epic or insanely effective at helping you become a better swimmer?

Let me know in the comments below!

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4 years ago

When I was swimming in high school, our coaches would often favor a set that kind of became ubiquitous with fear. Calling them “Spartan IMs,” the set would be around 6×300 IM, with the first 150 yards butterfly, then a 50 of each other stroke. Personally, this was one of the sets that really helped me gain confidence in my 200 IM, since I was swimming it a lot in some high-level meets. I dropped 16 seconds in my 200 IM over 4 years of high school, and I like to think that this set was a major part of it because it helped me (and some of my other IMer friends) to get over the fear of having to… Read more »

4 years ago

My personal “favorite” set was as follows.

30×50 @:40 at 500 race pace
It doesn’t sound so bad so far.

12×25 all out with at least 7 fly kicks off each wall.
If 5 people got caught doing less than seven, we would do the whole thing again. And sure enough we did the whole set again.

30×50 @:40 at 500 race pace
12×25 all out

This totaled 3700 yards at the end of an already difficult practice. As a sprint Breaststroker who’s worst events are the 500/1000/1650, you can only imagine how much fun i had in this set

4 years ago

Disappearing 400 IM short course you start out with a 400 IM on 5 minutes then take away a 25 free and do the 375 on 4:45 then 350 taking away another 25 free on 4:30 then 325 on 4:15 then a 300 that’s now just fly back breast on 4:00 and then take away the breastroke by a 25 after each one descending by 15 second intervals still then when it’s the 200 on 3:00 fly back you still take away the backstroke by a 25 each time but the interval goes down by 25 seconds now so it’s 175 on 2:35 then 150 on 2:10 125 on 1:45 and 100 fly on 1:20 then you keep taking off… Read more »

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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