Speed development tests for triathletes - Triathlon & Multisport magazine

Wayne Goldsmith makes a pretty good case for the need for speed on the swim leg of a triathlon.

1. 25 and walk

Swim 25 metres as fast as you can. Climb out of the pool and walk back to the start. Repeat six-to-10 times.

2. 25/25.

Sprint 25 metres as fast as you can then immediately swim a relaxed, easy 25. Repeat six-to-10 times.

3. Eight strokes and out

Push off from the wall and swim 8 strokes of freestyle as fast as you can. Then relax and swim slowly and easily to the end of the pool.

4. Partner sprints

Swim as fast as you can for 10 strokes. As you are swimming, have a teammate walk along the side of the pool and mark the distance you get to after the 10 strokes with a water bottle or pull buoy. Then swap over and try and beat your partner’s distance. Repeat 10 times – each time trying to go just a little further with your 10 strokes.

5. Speed builders

This set aims to help you develop the ability to sustain speed over longer and longer distances.
•    Swim eight strokes at maximum speed (no breathing if you can). Easy swim to the end of the pool/one minute rest
•    Swim 10 strokes at maximum speed. Easy swim to the end of the pool/one minute rest
•    Swim 12 strokes at maximum speed. Easy swim to the end of the pool/one minute rest
•    Swim 14 strokes at maximum speed. Easy swim to the end of the pool/one minute rest
•    Swim 16 strokes at maximum speed. Easy swim to the end of the pool/200 easy swim
•    Repeat the above two-to-three times.

6. Power sprints.

Similar to Speed Builders, this set helps you to sustain speed over longer and longer distances using seconds rather than strokes as the variable.
•    5 x 10 seconds at maximum speed – aiming to go a little further each repeat. 20 seconds rest between each swim.
•    4 x 15 seconds at maximum speed – aiming to go a little further each repeat. 30 seconds rest between each swim.
•    3 x 20 seconds at maximum speed – aiming to go a little further each repeat. 40 seconds rest between each swim.
•    2 x 25 seconds at maximum speed – aiming to go a little further each repeat with a one-minute rest between each swim.
•    1 x 30 seconds at maximum speed

7. Half on/half off/half on.

Swim fast for the first half of the lap then relax and swim easily to the end of the pool. Rest for 30 seconds. Reverse it on the second lap. Start swimming slowly. When you reach half way swim fast to end of the pool. Rest for 30 seconds then repeat six-to-8 times.

8. Speed ladders.

Swim 10 strokes fast, and then swim easily and slowly to the end of the pool. Rest 30 seconds. Swim 12 strokes fast, and then swim easily and slowly to the end of the pool. Rest for 30 seconds. Swim 16 strokes fast. Then swim easily and slowly to the end of the pool. Rest for 30 seconds. Then reverse the above, i.e. 16 strokes, 12 strokes, 10 strokes.

9. Cold swim

Before you start the actual session, stretch lightly for five minutes, making sure to loosen all the important swimming muscles in your back, shoulders, neck, arms, chest and legs. Then at the very start of the session, sprint 25 metres as fast as possible cold, i.e. without a pool warm-up. This is a great technique for developing speed because your body – particularly your nervous system – is capable of generating great speed when you are fresh (just be careful not to try it if you are carrying a muscle or tendon injury).

10. Minimax set
This is a great set because it combines both speed and DPS – distance per stroke. Swim 25 metres as fast as you can noting both the time and the number of strokes you take to swim the 25 metres. For example, if you swim 25 metres in 20 seconds and you take 15 strokes, your score is 35. Rest for one minute. Now repeat the 25-metre swim again measuring both time and stroke count. Aim to achieve a score of 34 – i.e. by swimming faster or taking one stroke less. Rest for one minute. Repeat until you can no longer reduce your score.

Looking for more training advice? Find out how to improve your performance on race day and get all the latest nutrition tips.

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