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Swim Drills and RPE Table

In addition to everything you need to get faster on the bike, our Triathlon plans include swim and run workouts. Of course, your swim and run workouts will be done outside of the TrainerRoad application, but this article should help you better understand the recommended drills we assign you in the pool as well as rates of perceived exertion both in the water and on foot.

Swim Drills

 

  • Back Sculling (BS) - Keep your arms at your sides and point your fingertips back toward your toes as you propel yourself with those familiar figure-eight movements without moving your hands any wider than shoulder width.

    Video

  • Bilateral Breathing (BB) - Swim your regular freestyle stroke while breathing during every third stroke forcing yourself to discover and improve your weaker side. If this is challenging & uncoordinated at first, hang in there - your clumsy side will improve with practice.

    Video

  • Catch-Up (CU) - Your lead arm will remain fully extended in front of you until your working arm completes a full stroke. The working arm now becomes the lead arm and remains fully extended in front of you until your working arm completes its full stroke and "catches up".

    Video

  • Chest Sculling (CS) - With your chest facing down, bend your elbows and point your fingertips down while keeping your elbows high. Make the same figure-eight patterns with both hands to propel yourself forward, effectively repeating the center of the stroke.

    Video

  • Fastest Average (FA) - Swim each repetition at a pace that is as fast as you can sustain for the entire set, while still being able to complete all the repetitions at the given RPE. Aim to maintain a consistent time for each repetition throughout the set.
    For example: If doing 4 x 100m freestyle, it would be better to swim 1:20, 1:21, 1:19, 1:20 (with an average pace of 1:20 per 100m) than to swim 1:18, 1:18, 1:20, 1:28 (averaging 1:21 per 100m).

  • Fingertips & Thumbs (F&T) - During your normal freestyle stroke, keep your elbows high and lightly drag your fingertips across the water as your working arm recovers. Then, as your working hand exits the water on the release, lightly scrape your thumb against your thigh. These two actions can be done individually or combined. This is sometimes referred to as a "fingertip drag" drill. 

    Video

  • Fists (F) - Swim with clenched fists and focus on rotating your shoulders and bending your working elbow during the catch, creating a pull that's nearly as powerful as one done with an open hand.

    Video

  • Front Sculling (FS) - Stretch your arms out in front of you, fingertips pointed forward, arms no more than shoulder-width apart and use both hands to propel yourself forward by "sculling" in a figure-eight pattern as you simulate the catch over & over. Use a minimal kick and do this with your head up or down.

    Video

  • Half Catch-Up (HCU) - This abbreviated catch-up will bring the full catch-up drill closer to your actual freestyle stroke. Instead of waiting until your working arm reaches your lead arm, start pulling with your lead hand a little earlier when your working hand is even with your lead arm's elbow. This is sometimes referred to as an "almost catch-up" drill.

    Video

  • Kick & Rotate (K&R) - Begin kicking on your side for 3-5 seconds, then rotate onto your belly and "catch up" to your leading arm with the other arm bringing both arms out in front of you. Pull with the arm that was leading as you roll onto your opposite side. Kick for 3-5 seconds on this side, catch up with the other arm, and immediately pull the previously leading arm and rotate to the opposite side. Over time, try to spend only 2 seconds at a time kicking on each side. This is sometimes referred to as a "kick-switch" drill. 

    Video

  • Kicking (K) - Swim facedown using only your feet to propel you as you breathe just as you would during a freestyle stroke by rolling to the side and turning your head to catch some air. Focus on "pushing" your chest down while keeping your legs & hips up toward the surface as you practice balance & kicking technique.

    Video

  • Side Kicking (SK) - Swim on your side with your lower arm extended ahead of you and the upper arm resting against your side. Rest your head against your shoulder and look down, keeping your head completely submerged while using only your kick to propel yourself. Rotate your head slightly when inhaling and try to keep your hips & legs high throughout as you swim a full pool length before switching sides.

    Video

  • Sighting (S) - Instead of turning your head to the side to breathe, raise your head to look forward and "sight" a landmark toward which you'll swim. Breathe just as you would when turning to the side by inhaling before lowering your head, exhaling underwater, and learn to disrupt your stroke as minimally as possible in the process - eventually not at all.

    Video

  • Single-Arm (SA) - Restrict yourself to one arm’s use for an entire pool length by keeping the opposite arm extended in front of you or at your side (advanced). If necessary, perform these drills using fins until you improve to the point that you can eliminate them. Try to use a moderate kick and normal body positioning, rolling into your working arm.

    Video

  • Stroke Counting (SC) - Target your stroke efficiency by trying to reduce the number of strokes you use to reach the opposite side of the pool. Count your strokes on your first trip across, then try to reduce the number of strokes during the next 2-3 trips across the pool by taking longer, more powerful pulls, rotating more & gliding a bit longer. This is sometimes referred to as a "distance per stroke" drill.

    Video

    Swimming/Running Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Key

     

    RPE 2 Recovery Active Recovery
    RPE 4 Easy Warmup/Cooldown
    RPE 6 Easy-Moderate TR Endurance
    RPE 7 Moderate TR Sustained Power
    RPE 8 Moderate-Hard TR Threshold
    RPE 9 Hard TR VO2max
    RPE 10 All-Out TR High Power
    RPE N/A Sprint TR Burst Power

    Select the following link for more information on the RPE Table: Swimming/Running RPE Key Explained

Getting Your Swim Workout to the Pool

Looking to bring your swim workouts with you, but don't want to get your phone wet?

Here is our suggestion: 

  • Simply write down your swim workout for the day or copy and paste the workout and drill instructions into a document that can be printed. 
  • Next, go ahead and place your workout in a plastic baggie for safekeeping. 
  • When you get to the pool, you can then stick your workout on a kickboard for easy reference during your session. No phone needed! 

 

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