Distance Freestyle Training by Dick Jochums (1997)



Every swim training program should be based upon an annual plan. I believe that such a plan has two seasons which consist of seven phases:


Pre-Season                September to October Early Season October to November 15th Season      November 15th to March

Taper                        March to April


Early Season             April to May 15th

Season                      May 15th to August

Taper                        August

These dates can’t be locked in stone due to the ever-changing United States Swimming Calendar, but an annual plan is still a necessity for a realistic long term gain in swimming performance. It’s my experience that each of these seven phases must happen on a yearly basis for long term success. Also, I strongly believe that only one pre-season element is necessary each year, but it is a key to the repeating cycles of Early Season, Season and Taper. Further, I believe that this formula is not only the key to season goals, but more importantly, the basis for a swimmers’ career goals.


When I first started to swim back in the early days of time, September was the month we started back to school everywhere in the country. It was also the time after summer vacation that swim programs started back into the water. During this period, no swim meets were held until late November, if then; so the month of September became, throughout the United States, the time that we introduced or reintroduced swimming skills. It was, and in my program, still is the easiest month of the year. We hold one hour workouts stressing stroke technique. The first week we do freestyle, and then add a stroke each week for a total of four weeks of technique drills. All my swimmers participate in these drills, with the older and better swimmers becoming captains of their lane, helping the younger and weaker swimmers. This blending of groups for a month builds team unity, teaches a common technical vocabulary that will be used at all levels and gives responsibility to the more experienced to help the new or weaker swimmers.

The month of September stresses the following principles in order of importance::

  1. swim technique stroke drills teaching proper fundamentals
  2. proper training procedure
    1. organization set up lanes, circle swimming, proper order, streamlining
  1. kicking: single file, no talking, proper grip on board, proper turns
  1. pulling tubes, hand paddles, pull buoy
  1. starts and turns

In freestyle, stroke drills are designed to stress five (5)

fundamentals: press, push, recovery, catchup, and roll.


This is the hand entry or the front end of the freestyle stroke. The natural swimmer has an ability to feel water and begin the body moving through the water. The rest of us must develop this skill. Quite simply stated, this ability is nothing more than the ability of the person to find resistance as the hand begins to press back, down, and out as it enters the water. The idea is for the hand to stand still while the body moves through the water, past the hand’s point of entry. A perfect pull, which is impossible because water isn’t a solid obstacle, would have the hand’s entry point and exit point be the same point. The person’s ability to feel water, that is finding resistance and then maintaining this resistance, is the fundamental that must be stressed. This accounts for the first twelve to eighteen inches of the hand movement.

NOTE: The ability to feel water is the difference between the natural and average swimmer. The beautiful thing about the sport of swimming is that this is a skill that can be learned It doesn’t come easy, but if the person is willing to concentrate and focus enough, a feeling for the water can develop. If this is true, and I have had many who have proven this to my satisfaction, such as Tini Shaw and George DiCarlo, then the advantage of being a natural can be overcome by the average person. This is what makes this such a special sport!


This is the follow-through or back-end of the hand movement in the freestyle stroke. The hand accelerates to a full extension of the arm as the hand pushes through the back to the surface of the water. Basically this is the same place the hand would naturally hang at the side if standing. This accounts for the last eighteen inches of the stroke or hand movement.

NOTE: The push phase is to swimming what the follow through is to throwing a ball or putting the shot. The ball or the shot have left the hand, but because of follow-through, the throwing or putting motion have more speed. Follow-through creates a greater range of motion that allows greater velocity through the power phase. Parry O’Brien, in taking the world record in the shot putt from fifty-four feet to over sixty-four feet (before drugs), accomplished this through the technique of increasing the range of motion in the way the event was performed. He simply transferred momentum from one leg to the other with a crossover after the shot had left the hand, increasing the world record by over ten feet in a relatively short time. This allowed him to double the speed through the power phase.

SPECIAL POINT The press and push are not part of, nor do they produce power. The power phase is the hand movement that is the distance the hand travels between the press and push. Shorten either of the two fundamentals, and you shorten the power phase. The press sets up the power phase, while the push allows and accounts for the hand speed through the power phase.

NECESSARY AWARENESS The key element that accounts for fast swimming is the distance one travels through the water per stroke. Only with a proper press and push does a person get maximum distance per stroke. This is what is meant by efficiency of stroke or efficiency of motion. Once a person feels water and maintains this feel all the way through the push, an S-pull happens, which is what is supposed to happen during the power phase of the freestyle stroke. Too many times I have seen coaches attempt to teach an S-pull, through explanation of what it should look like, rather than in terms of how it should feel an what makes it happen. Don’t waste time teaching something that is accomplished by teaching something else. TEACH THE FUNDAMENTALS and good things will result!


This is the movement of the hand and arm from the back-end position to the entry position of the freestyle stroke. At the end of the push phase, just as the hand breaks the surface of the water, the arm is lifted from the water, lifting with the elbow. The elbow is always above the hand and arm through this phase.

NOTE: A high elbow is a fundamental for two major reasons. First, lifting the arm and hand with the elbow uses a completely different set of muscles than are used to power the hand and arm through the water. This allows the muscles needed in the power phase to relax and recover. Second, the high elbow position helps keep body part movements inside the flowline. Physical law states “that any action must be countered by an equal and opposite action.” Therefore, any swing of the arm must be countered by an equal swing of the legs in an opposite direction. By keeping the hand directly below the elbow minimizes this arm swing and therefore minimizes the leg swing.


This is the coordination of both hands at the front end of the freestyle stroke. As one hand is passing through the press phase and before it gets halfway into the power phase, the opposite hand must begin entry and the press phase of the stroke. This must be balanced on each side. That means, the catchup (getting close together, not actually catching up) must be the same on both sides.

NECESSARY AWARENESS Freestyle is the most efficient stroke due to this ability to overcome dead or still spots with the catchup technique. This gives the freestyle stroke constant power. If the stroke is swam right, the result is constant momentum that the other strokes can’t duplicate. All other strokes have breaks in power that result in loss of momentum in the water, that then must he overcome in each power phase of that stroke. For this reason the freestyle stroke is the fastest stroke swam on top of the water at any distance. This speed and efficiency differential, to make my point, increases the further one swims.


This is the movement of the entire body through the water from shoulder to shoulder in the freestyle stroke. As a hand enters the water, the person rolls onto that shoulder. A person flows through the water going from one shoulder to the other, depending on which hand is entering the water. A person rolls through the water as if he is on a barbecue spit keeping a straight body line or flow line that can’t be bent. No “Hula” dancing allowed.

NOTE: The body’s naturally streamlined position in the water is on its side. When we roll through the water we are going from streamlined position to streamlined position. We can’t stay only in one streamlined position because of how our arms are attached to our body. When tied to the high elbow recovery, the body flows through the water rather than plows through the water. The recovery and roll, when properly and repeatedly performed, result in all body parts staying within the body’s flow line, making for a most efficient stroke.

NECESSARY AWARENESS This fifth fundamental is natural in all swimmers to one side. All swimmers roll onto the shoulder away from the side they breathe over. The key is to see that they roll equally back onto the shoulder they take the breath over.


Drill #1 Viking

Action: Push off the wall in a prone glide position using the proper flutter kick. As air is required, take one arm pull and breathe to the side of that arm. Take as many one arm strokes as required, based upon one’s need for air, while maintaining a six beat kick.


  1. Press the finger tips down, back, and out feeling for resistance in the Stress that the hand stands still while the body moves. Maintain kick during arm stroke.
  2. Push hand through back-end, accelerating hand to the surface of the
  3. Recover hand and an-n by lifting at the Keep hand below elbow and as close to the body as possible.
  4. Enter water at front-end, finger tips first, by placing fingers on the wrist of non-moving arm. As fingers touch wrist of the other hand, slide that hand on top of the stationary

Goal: Repeat this drill until perfect. Keep body in straight line.

Drill #2 Slide Crawl

Action: Same as above drill except you first use one arm, then the other arm, and repeat over and over again.

Instruction: Press, push, recovery, catchup on each side starting the next stroke as soon as the proceeding arm finishes a stroke. Only breathe to one side and maintain steady kick.

Goal: This drill is only taught after the kicking drill has been perfected. This is intermediary freestyle that keeps us in a straight line position, gives us a six beat kick, teaches proper breathing technique, allows us to stress four of the five fundamentals but breaks the roll fundamental. When we actually catchup, we are flat in the water. For this reason, this drill is introduced and broken the same day by the actual freestyle stroke drill.

Drill #3 Freestyle

Teach  slide crawl, don’t actually catchup, stress flowing through the water from shoulder to shoulder.

Comment: You don’t teach a skill but rather you help your swimmer to understand what they are doing by feeling what is happening. This can be accomplished by having them tell you what they are doing rather than you telling them. Only when they come to know what is taking place can they make the changes that come naturally to the gifted.


For senior level swimmers, this is the start of two-a days. This is the time to give swimmers the required base that the Season and Taper depend upon. I don’t ease into this phase but jump into it for a couple of reasons. First, most other programs have already been going full bore while I was being a stroke coach. Secondly, I just love the shock value that goes with going from nothing to maximum yards in a day. It toughens people and makes those who do it properly, psychology able to handle the real hard work that is to come. This is boat camp, plain and simple. Just like boot camp, you can make points and build what you want ‘into young people during this period of time.

In reality, this is the second easiest period in the training process because it’s quantity, not quality swimming, especially the first two weeks. In two weeks, young people adjust to whatever you are doing, once again live a normal life, and become a normal person.

Stroke technique is still stressed in all elements of this phase, just as it will be for the entire year. The pace clock is set up and operating, sets are planned and explained, and off the swimmers go. The job of the coach on the deck now becomes that of not merely being a timer but a motivator. What better way to motivate than look like you know what you are doing by talking stroke. Never stop sets to do stroke work, but rather correct stroke technique in sound bites during the set. This will help keep your swimmers focused. If you aren’t using some of your deck time doing this, then in reality all you are is a traffic cop.

NOTE: What about injuries if you do it your way? I don’t accept this! It’s my belief that injuries come only from poor technique and not repetition. Sore muscles, muscles cramps, etc., that doesn’t really hurt anybody. In fact it gives them something to complain about. Complaining, as far  as I am concerned is just a form of bragging and coaching wouldn’t be any fun if I couldn’t cause a little of it. If you don’t want to lose swimmers to injury, see that they train perfect stroke.

My workouts are all based upon a workout format. The format consists of a warm up, minor sets, a major set and a warm down. The warm up is the loosen or stretch out swim used to get ready to work out. Minor sets are everything that isn’t the warm down, warm up, or major set. The major set is the thing you want to accomplish that day. It’s always a swimming set and you might want to call it a test set. Once it’s done, both the coach and swimmer have indications of where they are, and how far they have left to go. All kicking and pulling sets are by this definition minor sets, as well as any other swimming sets done that day. The warm down is an easy swim to loosen the shoulders before a swim or the last swim before going to the shower.




Warm up 800 swim  
Kick 20 X 50 2 50 seconds 1800 Minor Set
Pull 400 Lung Buster 2200 Minor Set
  8 X 400 @ 5 minutes 5400 Minor set
  400 Lung Buster 5800 Minor set
Swim 200 loosen 6000 Warm down
Swim 20 X 75 @ minute 7500 Minor set
Swim 500 loosen 8000 Warm down
Warm up 800 swim    
Kick 5 X 200 @ 3:15 1800 Minor Set
Swim 200 loosen 2000 Warm down
Swim 32 x 100 5200 Major Set
  8 @ 1:20 Form    
  8 @ 1:15 Form & Fast    
  8 @ 1:10 Faster    
  8 @ 1:05 Fastest    
Pull 400 Lung Buster 5600 Minor set
  8 x 200 @ 2:30 7200 Minor set
  400 Lung Buster 7600 Minor set
Swim 100 loosen 7700 Warm down
Swim 4 x 200 IM 3:00 8500 Minor set
Swim 200 loosen 8700 Warm down
  Kick 20 X 50 @ 45 seconds 2300 33 minutes
The morning session is totally minor sets. The purpose Swim 200 loosen the shoulders 2500 36 minutes
of the morning workout, in my program, is to get stronger in Swim 4800 set 7300 102 minutes
the water. The emphasis on pulling is my version of weight Pull 400 Lung Buster 7700 108 minutes
training. We do a thousand yards or meters of kicking each Pull 2400 set 10100 130 minutes
workout. I believe if your legs are in shape, you’re in shape. Pull 400 Lung Buster 10500 136 minutes
Instead of calling a specific warm down set, you could use Swim 100 loosen the shoulders 10600 140 minutes
the last few seventy-five’s in the morning workout to accom- Swim 10 X 75’s @ minute 11350 150 minutes
plish this. When I coached college swimming, we  always Swim 300 Warm Down 11650 160 minutes


The focus of this workout for this day is the thirty-two hundreds. I want the swimmers to do more than survive the set. I want them to control the set, finish the set strong, and by the end to experience race pain. Each time I take five seconds of rest, they are required to swim faster. This is the goal for the day. This is the major set. I wanted to beat USC, so I might do the last four seventy-five’s as Trojan 75’s, “real slow.” Just a way to warm swimmers down and have a laugh while keeping people focused on an opponent.

In summation, I look at both workouts in a day as one workout. We do one major set each day with that being the emphasis for the day. The example shows 16,700 yards for the day. During early season, the percentages are pretty close to those illustrated:


Kicking 15%
Pulling 45%
Swimming 40%


Monday Friday


AM Swim 800 Warm Up 800 10 minutes
Kick 20 x 50 @ 45 seconds 1800 25 minutes
Pull 400 Lung Buster 2200 31 minutes
Pull 3200 set 5400 68 minutes
Pull 400 Lung Buster 5800 74 minutes
Swim 100 to loosen shoulders 5900 77 minutes
Swim 1500/1800 series/group of sets 7700 115 minutes
Swim 300 Warm Down 8000 120 minutes
PM Swim 800 Warm Up 800 1 0 minutes
Kick 10×100@1:40/5×200@3:15 1800 27 minutes
Swim 200 to loosen shoulders 2000 30 minutes
Swim 3000/3200 set The Major Set 5200 70 minutes
Pull 400 Lung Buster 5600 76 minutes
Pull 1200 set 6800 92 minutes
Pull 400 Lung Buster 7200 98 minutes
Swim 100 to loosen shoulders 7300 101 minutes
Swim 800/1000 series/group of sets 8100 116 minutes
Swim 300 Warm Down 8400 120 minutes

NOTE: This illustration is for yards and two, two hour workouts. Saturday one workout

Swim               800 Warm-up                               800    1 0 minutes

Kick                 500                                               1300     18 minutes












The morning workout has the same first eighteen hundred yards or meters each day. An eight hundred swim or ten minutes, whichever comes first, followed by twenty, fifty yard or meter repeats, kicking with a board on a set interval. I never change the warm up. If this bores them, I tell them to count it backwards. If they wait the whole ten minutes to get in, then that becomes their problem because everything else will be on a watch, and we change to other sets in less than a minute. Workout starting times are like a train schedule. Once the train starts to pull away from the station, you either catch up to it or wait for the next train. If they have had a great week up to that point, I might on Thursday or Friday morning, break the kicking set in two by letting them kick a five hundred and then ten fifty’s on the set interval.

Pulling series always start and end with a Lung Buster (one breath per stroke first fourth, one breath per two strokes second fourth, one breath per three strokes third fourth, and one breath per four strokes fourth fourth). This is not to do breath control but rather to ease the body in and out of the hard pulling efforts. Breath holding in this drill helps them concentrate on proper technique and actually eases the shoulders into and out of the middle drills. Early Season means four thousand or more yards pulling each morning workout. The following are examples of sets we do with our better swimmers:

  • 32 x 100 8 on 1:20 fast; 8 on 1:15 faster; 8 on 1:10 faster;

8 on 1:05 fastest

  • 4 x 800 on 10:00; 9:30; 9:00
  • 8 x 400 on 4:40
  • 8 x 400 2 on 5:00; 2 on 4:502 on 4:40, 2 on 4:30
  • 12 x 200 on 2:30 4 fast, 4 faster, 4 faster, 4 fastest
  • 2 x l650 on 19:00 42 faster than #1

The set is only limited by one’s ‘imagination. What works for me, is to keep it simple and do basic sets over and over again. This outline is about distance freestyle, so all pulling is freestyle. Every set has instructions that go with it. Only during the warm up, loosen swims, and wan-n down do we simply go up and down a pool. Every other movement during workout has things to be accomplished and is so described in the instructions that are given that starts the set.

If you are like most of us, two hour morning workouts during the school year just don’t happen. We have ninety minutes in my program and I hold to the above routine through the pulling drills. We are at fifty-eight to six thousand yards in an hour and fifteen n-minutes. We then always loosen a hundred, swim something hard, let them warm down and go to school. Given a short period, I do treadmills, descending fifties, seventy-five’s, underwaters, locomotives, etc. Given the full two hours, we would do more with some variety as to stroke. The following are sets I use with my present team:

Ten to fifteen minutes remain:

  • 16 x 50 4 on 45 fast; 4 on 40 faster; 4 on 35 faster; 4 on

30 fastest

  • 10 x 75 on minute each done form, build, hard.
  • 800 every other length IM order IM hard
  • Locomotive up to four, repeat four, and back down (1

form-1 fast; 2-2;3-3;4-4; 4-4;3-3;2-2;1-1)

  • 800 Treadmill 200 no pain; 200 little pain; 200 lot of

pain; 200 unbearable pain

Half hour or more:

  • 2 x 800 IM on twelve minutes 91 straight; #2 broken at

75 by 10 seconds

  • Locomotive up to six, repeat six, and back down (1 form

1 fast; 2-2;3-3;4-4;5-5;6-6;6-6;5-5;44;3-3;2-2;1-1)

  • 1650 leapfrog swimmer at back of lane moves to front

of line each length

  • 800 Treadmill; 100 loosen; 400 Treadmill; 100  loosen;

200 Treadmill; 100 loosen; 100 Treadmill

Once again, you are limited only by your imagination, goals, and time.

The evening workout has the first two thousand yards or meters the same each day. The warm up has already been explained. The kicking set will follow and will be either hundreds or two hundreds. Whatever happens Monday evening decides the set for the rest of the week. I never kick the same set two evenings in a row. The hundreds are a straight set, meaning that the first repeat is fast but the slowest, the middle eight will be fast and the same, while the last one is the fastest. The two hundreds are a descending set, meaning each repeat gets faster, with the last one all out. In fact, the last repeat, of any set we do, is always the fastest.

We loosen a two hundred after the kicking series to prepare for the Major Set for the day. It is always done here and during the Early Season is a three to four thousand yard or meter series. During the Early Season we alternate a day of Freestyle and then a day of Individual Medley repeats. Once again imagination is your only limit on what can be used here. The following are some of my basic sets:


  • 32 x 100 8 on 1:20 fast; 8 on 1: 15 faster; 8 on 1: 10

faster; 8 on 1:05 fastest

  • 4 x 1000 11:00; 10:30; 10:00
  • 8 x 400 on 4:45
  • 8 x 400 2 on 5:00; 2 on 4:45; 2 on 4:30; 2 on 4:15
  • 16 x 20 on 2:15
  • 15 x 200 5 on 2:30; 5 on 2:20, 5 on 2:10



  • 4 X 800 IM @ 12:00 minutes (#1 straight; #2 broken 10 seconds at 200, broken 10 seconds at 100; broken 10 seconds at 75)
  • 8 x 400 IM @ 5:30 minutes
  • 4 x 100 @ 1:20 8 times
  1. 50 Fly/50 Back
  2. 50 Back/50 Breast
  3. 50 Breast/50 Free
  4. 50 Free/50 Fly
  • 16 x 200 IM @ 2:45 six reverse order descend; six normal

order descend

This listing could be expanded, but gives you an idea of what I do. Each set must have a goal, the goal must be explained to the swimmer, and the set must be made to happen as planned. There must be more to a set then ‘just going up and down a pool. What you call should make the swimmer better; therefore, each workout must be designed to be a successful experience for the swimmer. One must learn what works and what doesn’t for each person. Only in this way will the workouts achieve what they should achieve.

The intervals that I use above are for my better swimmers. I use slower ones ‘ or cut yards for my weaker swimmers. Whatever I call must work, and I do everything in my power to make it work. The early season workouts really control quality of effort by interval. The purpose of this phase of training is to build base fitness that is necessary to do some real work or as the scientist say, power. I have found that by alternating Freestyle training days with IM training days is a great early conditioner. Still, I can’t stress enough that even in this early period of training, one must take real time and effort in every set that they call.

NOTE: In my opinion, you short change everyone in your program if you don’t aim high enough. To accomplish this, the goal of any program should be to allow each person in it to reach their full potential You don’t accomplish this by aiming your program at the lowest or average performer, but rather basing your workout puts off the best swimmers. You will be surprised by how fast all your swimmers learn to live at this level.

The Saturday workout is the eleventh and last workout offered each week. It’s a combination of the one workout concept already seen in my two-a-day workouts. The minor sets are tied into the one major set as seen in the above example. Two of my favorite sets for a Saturday morning during Early Season are:


12 x 400 Freestyle               2 X 50 fly @ 45 seconds

3 @ 5:00 minutes Fast         1 x 100 Free @ 1: 15

one minute rest                    2 x 50 Back @ 45 seconds

3 @5:00 minutes Faster       1  x  100  Free  @ 1:15 six times

one minute rest                    2 X 50 Breast @ 50 seconds 3 @ 5:00 minutes Faster   1 x 100 Free @ 1:15

one minute rest                    2 x 50 Free @ 40 seconds 3 @ 5:00 minutes fastest      1 x 100 Free @ 1:15


The transition from Early Season to season is a gradual one. The three elements that make up the changes are:

  1. Total emphasis on Freestyle in the major
  2. Quality determined by effort and not
  3. A lowering of the pulling percentage of total workout and increasing the swimming

This increase in the swimming percentage by itself results in an increased workload. Now add the fact that you are controlling speed in workout by effort, not merely by the interval, and the increase m actual work output is dramatic. The key ingredient that determines actual work output is speed. How far you go in workout is in reality a small part in how much work you actually do. A small increase in the speed those yards are swam, will result in a disproportionate increase in a swimmer’s actual work output. Thus, the Season is the period of the training program in which we continuously attempt to increase speed in workouts. This ever faster swimming each week dramatically increases our work output with no increase or even less yards being swam.

To this very day, only one physiology principle has met the demands made by scientific research to be labeled a truth. The principle is called SPECIFICITY S’ Simply stated: you must train just like IMP, you race, race like you train, or your program is wasting time and effort. This means that the swimmer’s program should incorporate actual stroke, distances, speed and effort used in the race one is training for.

For the distance freestyler, this means training as close to actual speed, distance, and time as will be required in the race. To accomplish this, I have standardized my week over this training period. I have three major sets for the first three days of the week. On the fourth day, I choose one of two major sets. I do the same set every fifth day. On the sixth day, I do whatever will work that is specific to one’s race. And on the seventh day, I rest, unless of course we are at a meet.


Monday Saturday AM (1-1/2 hours)

Swim 800 warm up 800 10 minutes
Kick 20 x 50 @ 45 seconds 1800 25 minutes
Pull 400 Lung Buster 2200 31 minutes
Pull 2400 set 4600 61 minutes
Pull 400 Lung Buster 5000 67 minutes
Swim 100 to loosen shoulders 5100 70 minutes
Swim 1000/1500 sets 6600 88 minutes
Swim 100 warm down 6700 90 minutes

Monday Wednesday

(Thursday is modified and Friday is over after Major set)

PM (2 hours)


Swim 800 warm up 800 10 minutes
Kick 10 X 100 @ 1:40 or    
  5 X 200 @ 3:15 1800 27 minutes
Swim 200 loosen 2000 30 minutes
Swim 2000/3000 set The Major Set5000 63 minutes
Pull 400 Lung Buster 5400 69 minutes
Pull 1200 set 6600 85 minutes
Pull 400 Lung Buster 7000 91 minutes
Swim 100 to loosen shoulders 7100 94 minutes
Swim 1000/2000 set 8100 116 minutes
Swim 200 warm down 8300 120 minutes
Swim-Pull-Kick    Swimmer tells me when they’re

ready resembles a swim

meet warm-up.                              15-25 minutes

Swim                     1200/4800 set                               25/63 minute



Monday Wednesday

Set #1 20 x 100 5 @ 1:15 fast; 5 @ 1:10 faster; 5 @ 1:05

faster; 5 @ 1:00 fastest

Set #2 3 x 1000 @ 11 minutes, descend

Set #3 10 x 200 @ 2:15, straight set


Set #1 20 x 100 every other one all out

4 (g 1:15; @) 1:30; 4 @ 1:15; 40@ 1:30; 4@ 1:15

Set #2 5 X 200 @ 3:00, descend pulling set

10 x 100 @ 1:30, descend go home!


Only Set 5 X 400 @ 5:00, descend

Saturday (Don’t ask for it unless it will work! Here are some sets I’ve used.)

200’s descend, 2:30; 2:20; 2:10; 2:00; 1:50 = six 200’s

3 x 400 intervals of 4:00 and 3:45, last one is fastest

3300 for time

2000 for time

2 x 1650 on 16:30 second one faster than first

The key to this phase is that the first two phases get done correctly. If we are going to swim fast in this phase, then we must be swimming great technique and have built the base to be fit enough to do the work. This work output should continue to increase during this phase because each week is designed to increase the ability to swim fast. Everything is adjustable in this program based upon what the coach sees happen each day. Time intervals, individual goal standards for each set for each swimmer, the balance between fast and form swimming, and yardage totals can be adjusted by the coach to generate the desired results.

The key for the distance swimmer, in my opinion, is to get as much short rest work at race pace. The intervals that are shown in the examples in this text are ones I use for my best swimming. Not all my distance swimmers can do this work. For those who need more rest, adjust the interval or the distance to be swam, but not for your top people, Let your best swimmers do the dictating, not your average swimmers, You will be surprised, given some time, that some of those average swimmers won’t stay average for long. Someone has to help them see the beauty of extension of self.

NOTE: My best people kick 50’s on forty-five second intervals, holding thirty-nine seconds or better. Most couldn’t do that at the beginning, so we started them at fifty second intervals. When they consistently were sub forty seconds for the set, then we changed their interval. Meanwhile they were going nine hundred yards while others on the fastest interval were kicking one thousand yards.

To help in the development of champions, the coach must call sets that do what they are designed to do. The standard set keeps both me and my swimmers informed of where we are and how much farther we have to go. The key is in setting up each day’s work out to get maximum, understand what maximum performance is on each day for each person, and to build a two-sided trusting relationship.

My favorite set is the twenty descending hundred set, that goes from a minute fiftieth to a minute interval. This set gives me and the swimmer a lot of ‘information. Here’s my progression to get where I want to go with the set.

FIRST                                 SECOND


5 @ 1:30 65 5 @ 1: 25 65 64
5 @ 1: 25 64 5 @ 1:20 64 63
5 @ 1: 20 63 5 @ 1: 15 63 62
5 @ 1: 15 62 5 @ 1:10 62 61
THIRD 1st goal then then then then then move/4th
5 @ 1:20 64 63 62 61 60 59 level
5 @ 1: 15 63 62 61 60 59 58  
5 @ 1: 10 62 61 60 59 58 57  
5 @ 1:05 61 60 59 58 57 56  
FOURTH 1st goal then then then then then then
5 @ 1: 15 59 58 57 56 55 54 53
5 @ 1:10 58 57 56 55 54 53 52
5 @ 1:05 57 56 55 54 53 52 51
5 @ 1:00 56 55 54 53 52 51 50


goal                     move to                     goal 1     goal 2     move to 2nd level                                            3rd level

hundred yards a week, or less than ten percent. The change in percentage of pulling now in favor of swimming is much larger and approaches over a twenty percent change in training tactics.

NOTE: No matter how hard you work the pulling and kicking seems, they can’t duplicate the work you can do in the swimming series. Swimming uses the whole body while the pulling and kicking drills break the body in half. If this is true, then this change of twenty plus percentage, from pulling to swimming, can he mind boggling.


This progression will take some time, maybe years, but the fourth level with the last five on a minute is the set I and the swimmer are working toward. The third level is the one I would want for meters. First, I want consistency of performance at a level; then, we either change the level or the time goals in the set. If you get so you can do either of the last two sets (yards or meters) on a consistent basis, then you have a male swimmer who, if he has a brain, is about to break the American record for the five hundred or the world record for four hundred meters.

If this is done over a series of weeks and then years, the progression of a swimmer to world class performance can become a planned event. Great swims don’t happen by accident, but rather through a coordinated effort between a coach and a swimmer. There is a dream you sell to a young person, a plan of operation that can make the dream become something more than a dream, and then, in the majority of cases, a young person through guts, determination, and tough mentality makes his reality. Does your program offer each of your swimmers this opportunity?

NOTE: We have all had, seen, or heard of great workout swimmers who on meet day don’t live up to their workouts. The point is, that you as a coach must be setting up a program that accounts for the physiological needs as well as the psychological ones. I believe that the consistency that the above set demands, provides both kinds of training at the same time. If over and over again, a person performs something on a consistent basis that they can’t explain away, then we eventually end up with a meet swimmer.

Basic yardage and percentages of the type of work being done change from Early Season to Season.. As seen below, the basic yardage change is a decrease of only seventy-two

Early Season    Season

Monday                       16,000             16,000

Tuesday                       16,000             16,000

Wednesday                  16,000             16,000

Thursday                     16,000             14,400

Friday                          16,000             12,400

Saturday                      12,000             10,000

Sunday                        OFF                 OFF

TOTAL                        92,000/a week  84,400 a week


Early Season        Season Warm Up &   2,400   15%     2400    15%

Warm Down  
Kicking 2,000 12.5% 2000 12.5%
Pulling 7,200 45% 5200 32.5%
Swimming 4,400 27.5% 6400 40%

My season plan rotates the first three days so that no week cycle can be repeated for at least four weeks. This gives us a four week period before we begin to look for real improvement. Mondays, after a day off are usually outstanding workouts. Tuesdays, after a day of hard tough work, aren’t quite as good. On Wednesdays, tiredness is showing and we stress that the mind must take over the body. I still expect a great workout, but I do understand that time isn’t as important as effort. This understanding, I believe, is the start and major element of psychological training.

The Thursday workout, whichever of the two you use, is more sprint type work then distance type work. This uses a different physiological system that stresses the swimmer in a different way, The workout is usually quite fast and a very good gauge to measure how tired the swimmer actually is. Friday’s workouts, due to the different physiological stress used in Thursday’s workout, have allowed some recovery from the first three days of the week’s work, and the fact that the swimmers know that they get the rest of the day off after the major set, usually are great from the first week, and get better all through the season. If any of the workouts are terrible, this becomes an indicator of just how tired your swimmer is. You adjust the minor sets to allow for recovery as needed.

The Saturday set is determined by all that has happened during the week. It’s your chance to adjust to everything that has happened, reach agreement with the swimmer on what is going to be done, and then see that it happens just as planned. This sets up the next week, builds confidence between swimmer and coach, and establishes the fact that goals are something that you must do, not merely dream about.

NOTE: If this isn’t what psychology is all about, then I’m in deep trouble. You reach goals by setting everything up so that success is the result. This is done with both the body and the mind. We are mental beings. The mind is the key to swimming just as it’s the key to life. The mind and body can’t be separated at any time in anything we are doing. All training is psychological!


Pre-Season consisted of technical corrections and stroke adjustments. In reality, very little work output was required but a huge brain output was called for. Early Season continued to stress technique but added a huge increase in work output. It was a time of quantity swimming to build a base. The Season continued to stress technique and added an ever increasing work output as we went from quantity work to quality work. Ever increasing speed meant an ever increasing output of work. At least twice a year, both the swimmer and the coach come to the time to let it happen in a swim meet of choice.

The Taper, for the distance freestyler, is basically a two week period of rehearsal and rest. The ever increasing output from the Pre-Season through the Early Season and Season will now be allowed to show results. Set up properly, the swimmer finally gets rid of that tired or heavy feeling, which should result in considerable improvement in his season’s performance.

I have each swimmer treat this phase as if we were at a swim meet. They do a meet warm up (kick, pull, and swim), then come through the coaches watch just the way we do at a meet. I time them in something (rehearsal), they tell me how much and what they have done; and I tell them what I want them to finish up with before they get out of the water. I continue two-a-days during the Taper. After all, meets have two sessions and we plan on swimming twice-a-day at the meet. We start by cutting the yardage at least in half and then proceed down to almost nothing.

Once again, I treat the two-a-day workouts as one. ‘Me major set for the first eight days is three one-hundreds descend with ten seconds rest one day and eight one-hundreds at distance pace with ten seconds rest on the alternate day.

The morning workout times are either three seventy-five’s on a minute or fifty’s on forty-five seconds, depending on whether or not the meet is meters or yards. After these first eight days, we begin to get specific for the first race. At this stage we cut the work to an actual meet warm up.

Much more is accomplished then merely timing the swimmer. The times are important, but so are the swimmer’s head, stroke rates, stroke techniques, and making what is happening a rehearsal and not work. The purpose of the Taper is to allow the body total recovery so all that training we have accomplished will result in great performance. You can “just one more” this whole process to death. When you have done what you have planned to do, and things don’t quite look like you want them to, still stop. Let rest take over. Just one more repeat never stops at one, and this undermines the whole concept of how a taper works.

Rehearsing means swimming repeats at speeds and efforts that will be used in the race. To get this ultimate speed it takes time, rest, and technique work. I use stroke rate and count as a tool during this phase. During the Season, with heavy work outputs, the turn over or stroke rate tends to be slower than when rested. If proper technique is stressed the entire year and the swimmer uses an efficient stroke, the person would usually have a set stroke count (number of strokes taken per length) that he would race at. The way to increase speed is to maintain distance per stroke while at the same time speeding up stroke rate.

NOTE: A person takes sixteen strokes per length at a stroke rate of 7.5 seconds for five strokes. Duping the Taper the person maintains sixteen strokes per length but over two weeks brings the rate to 6.5 seconds per five strokes. His time for the length must have dropped by one point six seconds.

In my program, the Taper is the time to rehearse race speed, set stroke rates that will result in this speed, and make sure the swimmer understands the concept At the end of one of the hundred repeats, the swimmer will be given the following information:

“53.1 27.2 6.5, 6.5, 6.5, 6.5.”

What I just told the swimmer and what they will learn is, that the time for the hundred was fifty-three point one seconds. The middle fifty was twenty-seven point two (which translate to a fifty-four point four hundred, feet to feet) and the stroke rates were six point five seconds for a five stroke cycle for each length. That’s a lot of information. The person knows what pace they’re holding and the stroke rate says just how hard it is.

Stroke rates must be based on distance per stroke. Each swimmer has his own rate that is most efficient for him. It takes time to get the stroke rates tied to distance per stroke. I’ve never ever seen it done than less than ten days, because the key to it is total muscle recovery that comes from rest. When I see stroke rates down to where they are wanted too quickly, simply count strokes for a whole length and you will find that the swimmer has added a stroke or two.

Finally, two hundred plus yards in the morning and either three hundred or eight hundred yards in the evening over the first eight to ten days of the Taper aren’t work. When you have been going two to three thousand yards a day at race speed during the Season, then this reduced level at race speed pace is indeed rehearsal.


AM 3 x 75 @ minute form, build, hard. Form          Build   Hard  Time

2 14 13 12 39 once  consistent,  then move

3 -13









1 -15    14       13      42       once  consistent, then move to




PM3 x 100 @ 10 seconds rest descend

  • 59 58 57 Set goal to start at, then once done continue
  • 58 57 56 to come down to the right set for your 3 55 54 53

4 54 53 52

5 53 52 51

6 52 51 50

7 51 50 49

or 8 x 100 4 10 seconds rest pace

1 59, 59, 59, 59, 59, 59, 59, 58

2 58, 58, 58, 58, 58, 58, 58, 57

3 57, 57, 57, 57, 57, 57, 57, 56

4 56, 56, 56, 56, 56, 56, 56, 55

5 55, 55, 55, 55, 55, 55, 55, 54

6 54, 54, 54, 54, 54, 54, 54, 53

7 53, 53, 53, 53, 53, 53, 53, 52

8 52, 52, 52, 52, 52, 52, 52, 51

9 51, 51, 51, 51, 51, 51, 51, 50

Set goal to start at, and then each day bring it down. Remember, the last repeat is always the fastest repeat. (Fastest, not hard, still pace, Just faster than the other seven.)

The actual swim meet’s timed pace work for the distance races is as follows:

400/500     strong 100

800/1000   3 x 100 @ 10 seconds rest race pace 1500/1650  5 x 100 @ 10 seconds rest race pace

While the psychological aspects that control a person’s training should be tied to the program design ‘in every phase of your overall plan, it truly is the most important aspect of the Taper. If a Taper depended only on the work upon which it should be based, then it would always work for those who had done the work, and always result in failure for those, who haven’t done the work. A person’s brain can do some amazing things, both positively and negatively, that by workout performance shouldn’t have happened.

Nothing in the world is one hundred percent, works perfect all the time, or behaves exactly as it’s drawn up on paper. Murphy’s law, “If it can go wrong, it will go wrong,” seems to have been stated by someone who understood what coaches face in their Tapers. The times listed above never happen in the Taper, the way they do on paper. The first week is usually tough with both good and bad seen in each workout. This is the time coaches earn their money. If your kids have done the work as you designed it, even if they didn’t and you kept them in the program, it becomes your responsibility to carry them to a positive experience on race day. This is the time when the coach shows no doubt, no negative emotion, and is strong each and every day. Every time swimmers look up for support, they hear the truth as you see it. If you don’t believe it’s going to happen, then you messed up, It’s your program. Even if they only did parts of it, they can swim fast. It’s better if they have done the work, a point you make during the other phases that make up your program or after the big meet, but not during the Taper. You of all people, should understand that the brain, when properly directed by a person, can make special things happen.

The swimmer should hear comments like: “You’re fine, right where I expected you to be at this stage!” “Great set!” “Stroke looks great, how’s it feel?” “Times will come! I expected this! “We’re about four days out, that’s right where we want to be!” You must also believe in your program, give rest the chance to work, and stick to the plan. No matter how bad things look early, the Taper will work if the coach stays cool, strong, and positive. The swimmers, at this point in time, not only want it to work, but if they have really done the work, they will make it work.

NOTE: In the Taper, all coaches have days were things just don’t look right and the swimmers start to show fear. Your job is to never, and I mean never, let them see your doubt or fear. Go around the corner and cry if you must, but show confidence and be sure of the great things to come when in front of your swimmers, their parents, or your team.

All too many times I wanted to scream at a swimmer, “What the Hell is going on?” But I was smart enough to keep a bright face and only let it out when the garage door came down behind my car after I got home. Because I have always shown confidence in myself during the Taper, my swimmers have almost always picked up this confidence, and the result has been many great performances. That’s because by this time the swimmers want to believe.


A program is a plan of action to realize specific goals. It’s the outline on which we constantly adjust the gaps to make all the parts blend into one another and work as one. Each season has its own goals but is also a preparation for the next season. Short and long course seasons, have their own big meet, but the short course and long course season also complement each other. Just as one element or phase of a program is preparation for the next phase, so are seasons and so are the years that a person swims. This should be true for the swimmers just as it must be true for the coach. We must continue to learn; review, take some risk, and improve through the experiences of what we have just completed.

NOTE: We all make errors and mistakes. The smart ones learn from them and don’t revisit them without change or adjustment. We should have a means to constantly measure what is happening against what we want to happen. If your program does this, then your program has a chance to develop champion swimmers and people.

There is nothing original in this “original program.” Every set, every idea, every technique has been taken from some other person. Even the term, “Lung Buster”, that has become my original word, was borrowed from Peter Cutino, who is the best coach and best friend I have every worked for, and from whom I have taken more than I have given back. What makes it original is that I’ve redefined it through the combinations of the work I use and the way I communicate it to my swimmers.

The above program is based upon the fact that as speed is increased resistance also increases, and more work (power) must be produced to maintain that speed. In fact, the key ingredient in the definition of work is speed. An increase in yards will increase work output only if speed is maintained with that increase of yards, while an increase in speed can quite easily produce a tenfold increase in work. In the formula for work (work is equal to distance times speed) the value of the speed becomes an exponential function.  This is shown in the power curve:

The power curve, which is the basis for my belief about training, is used by all programs throughout the world. I looked at this scientific truth, looked at the concept of specificity (another truth), and decided that the two needed to be tied together. So do many others, especially the scientists! But I was also raised at a time and by a father who believed that anything could be accomplished if you wanted it bad enough. You don’t and can’t separate the physical from the mental, a concept passed down by the Greeks over two thousand years ago. I merely took these three concepts, two scientific facts, and my belief in the power of the human brain, and have come up with a program that stresses a combination of these three concepts daily. The way this combination is defined is uniquely mine my “original program.”


The program in its entirety is diagrammed below. The solid line is the work output indicator. Notice that after the Early Season, the output increases until there is a sharp decrease with the start of the Taper. The dotted line is used to illustrate energy resources available to be used to produce the work output. Notice there is a sharp decrease at the start of Early Season. Further notice that there is a very quick adjustment of resources to meet work output during the Early Season and this resource is maintained at adequate levels throughout the rest of the Early Season and Season. There is a huge excess of resources produced during the Taper due to the drop in work output.

Pre-Season Light work output. The body has enough energy resources to maintain normal lifestyle.

Early Season A jump from almost no work output to a huge work output depletes the body’s energy resources. This contributes to a change in lifestyle and is exhibited by your swimmer being constantly tired, having a short temper, and the need for extra rest and food. After about two weeks of this work output, through proper diet and rest, the body builds the ability to produce the required resources and soon gets back to a normal routine and lifestyle.

Season Work outputs are increased but the body has become efficient in resource production to meet usage needs. A normal lifestyle without real sacrifice can and is maintained.


P                                       A                                                 Taper A decreased  work  output  results  in excess

O                                       C                                           resources that can result in excess behavior if not con-

W                                       T

E                                       A

R                                       T




SPEED                              SPEED








Sept.    Oct.      Nov.    Dec.     Jan.      Feb.     Mar.     Apr.     May     June     July      Aug.     Sept.




The Lactate graph next to the illustrated power curve, with a little imagination, could be viewed as the same graph. Speed once again is directly tied to the production of lactate and a small increase in speed radically changes this production, Both sides, quality vs. quantity, believe that training must be designed to move both the power curve and the lactate threshold point to the right. In other words, to improve the ability to swim fast easier. In fact, this is the crunch point in the argument between the two sides. One side does a majority of what they call work at or close to lactate threshold using such work to buffer the power work they actually do. Through power tied to the buffering aspect of the program, the threshold point will move to the right because of the full recovery allowed by the non-power work.

The fact is that it’s the power element that causes the threshold to move to the right, not the threshold element. It’s my opinion that this works, but only if the swimmer does the power elements at the levels they’re designed to be done at. Somewhere in the translation of this system, the word easy has come to mean that there is an easier way to get there. That’s not what science has told us through the research I’ve read, but what is being advocated by many of the test sets the physiologist continue to request from us. The test sets ought to be the power sets, not the threshold sets.

It’s my contention, that to swim above threshold as often as possible, is the best way to move the lactate threshold point to the right. Not more physiologically sound than the buffering system, but much more psychologically sound. Doing it my way forces lactate conversion while at the same time allowing me as the coach to work on mental focus. We deal with the pain aspects on a daily basis that must be dealt with by the swimmer in a race or over a time period faced in a meet. This means we can reinforce daily lessons we wish our swimmers to learn and to internalize. I further believe that this forces the body to adjust faster, to actually have a more efficient recovery system, and gives the swimmer a better mental outlook that will allow for fast swimming over several days, not just one day. I think it makes for a tougher and smarter swimmer who isn’t as likely to go belly up if the going gets tough!

What really scares me about the buffering system of training is that I believe the scientists haven’t told us the whole story. From what I have both read and experienced, they have already taken into account that they aren’t getting what is required during the power element. Some of the power required to make this system really work takes much more than a day or two of rest to recover to the level that is required. Have you noticed that the first few days following a meet are not very good workout days? Do you understand that meet performance is work? It’s probably the hardest work we do, and because of the real one hundred percent efforts, the swimmers take a day or two to recover from the meet work.

For me, the conversion system is the way to go. I believe that in reality, both systems accomplish the same thing physiologically, but the advantages for psychological conditioning in the conversion system far outweighs the buffering system. Since I’m from the old school, the school that still holds to the belief that training is ninety percent mental, the choice is a simple one for me to make.


Look at the program as a whole. See the blending of the phases one into another. Look at the sets as indicators. Sets can be used to meet both the physiological truths that we base our program on, and as opportunities to build the person psychologically. A repetition set system helps people to understand themselves by knowing where they are rather than trying to guess at where they are. See the program for what it is, and in my opinion, it’s the best in the world! It has and will accomplish that which it was and is designed to do, produce champions, not merely gold medal performers.

I don’t need or want people who I need to entertain.  I need people who want to be the best. Not just the best in the world, but the much more difficult task of being the very best that they can be. I need people who take responsibility for their actions, who understand that it’s up to them to get the job done and can accept defeat and be proud, if they know that they have done everything morally possible to win. I need people who come out of a defeat or a win with the same question and attitude, “What do I need to do to get better?” I need people who do more than talk and dream. I need people who do the work and walk the talk that makes them a winner no matter the place.

My program puts the responsibility on the participant. It is designed to let this person measure himself against himself first and always. It demands the truth from the person about his own desires, dreams, goals, and accomplishments. Since the measurement tool is against the best in world swimming, my swimmers know where they stand and how far they have yet to go. We’re not scared of the best, in fact we desire to race against the best. If we can’t beat the best this first time, then we want to make the best at least think about us, scare the best a little, or better yet, make the best hurt so they know they were in a race. We want the best to know there will be a next time, and between now and then we will be working to become the best ourselves.

Is my program boring? No way! It’s challenging. It puts responsibility where it belongs. It’s simple, truthful, and easy to understand. It’s designed for the people in it. Those who have come through it, are proud of it and themselves. To this day, they can tell you how good they were with pride, no matter what their place was in American or World Swimming at that time, because they know who they are and just how much they have accomplished and learned. Through their full participation in the program, they tested and measured themselves on a daily basis, and came to understand the importance of the process and how it has defined them through the rest of their life. They are a ‘individuals who takes responsibility for their own life, both the successes and failures, and always strive through effort to be the best they can be. Such a person can be beaten, but never defeated.

My program teaches the beauty of work and effort, that the only discipline that counts comes from within the self, and that pain, when once worked through, is the necessary ingredient that turns into an opportunity that results in accomplishment and fulfillment. This is what makes me the proudest of what I’m -sharing with you. This is a program that has produced a whole lot of great people and a few great swimmers.

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