4 important parts of structured swimming training

Swimming lessons or training have their own specific direction, and in today’s article, we’ll get closer to what structure they have and what you should do before you start swimming. Basically, the structure of swimming training is for all categories very similar. If you train by yourself, you might want to try to stick to our recommendations.

Show quick summary

  • Be on time for training
  • Do not stretch statically
  • Warm up
    • Swim very slowly
    • Use all swimming styles
    • Gradually get into the tempo
  • If you can’t warm up in the water, do dryland
    • Use slow dynamic movements
    • Circular movements of all joints
    • Gradually accelerate motion and range
    • Squats, Push ups, Jumping Jacks, Ropeskipping, Jog
    • Do not warm up in neoprene
  • Repeat the technical exercises
  • Prepare the body for the main set
  • Increase swimming intensity
  • The main set
    • Swim precisely what you should and focus
    • Drink well and keep the intervals accurate
  • Cool down
    • Swim lightly at least 200 to 500m
    • Make a lot of technical exercises
    • Give yourself a few short sprints
  • Stretch
    • At least 10 minutes of stretching
    • You can now stretch statically
  • Drink a lot of water

0. Before lesson/training

Attend a lesson or training in advance at least 5 to 10 minutes. Ready and equipped. If it is your first lesson, we will first talk about you, about your goals and current skills so the coach has a detailed idea of what you would like to achieve. The good coach will also ask you about your job (sedentary, active) or other sports and your lifestyle habits (diet, drinking regime, etc.). Then we move into the water and start learning.


1. Warm Up

Warm up is an integral part of all sports, including swimming. However, here we would like to point out the way of warming up and its exact form. We always swim very slow and light and let the body adapt to the temperature of the water, the muscles take some time to get into ready state, it is necessary to spend time with it and take it as part of the workout. Warm up is a bit different depending on which swimming level you are.



For non-swimmers and beginners, there is no specific warm-up because we begin slowly with exercises and we do the simple moves necessary to develop a sense of water and a feeling of safety and confidence. Before we get to real swimming or moving in the water, most beginners can be a bit cold. But it’s no big deal.



Swimmers, who are already able to swim several metres, can warm up very slowly and gently. We absolutely do not recommend static stretching before swimming (or any other sport). Warm up swim is light and slow in the range of 200m to 500m. At the beginning of the warm up, do not overdo it with the speed (even if you have a fresh, good feeling), but gradually get into the tempo. Switch between all swimming styles and combinations you know. Create a routine and stick to it.


Performance athletes

For performance swimmers and triathletes who are set for a challenging workout, we recommend that you start with light warm up in the water as well if there is such a possibility. How to warm up without water you will find below. Swim slow and get into the training pace. Go for at least 500+ meters, switch all swimming styles, combinations and also kick your legs separately. At the end of the warm-up, place a few short acceleration sections, for example, 6x 15m accelerated Crawl with a slow finish to the end of the pool.

Before the race

Warm up before the race is not always perfect and sometimes there is not have enough time. For example, in sports swimming, the warming block is always before the start of the half-day, but the start of the athlete may be up to 2 hours after warm-up. If there is no free warmup pool available, it needs to be dryland warmup.

For triathletes, the possibility of warm-up is determined by the organizers and the water temperature before the race. If the water temperature is low, it is better to warm up on dry land (before you put a wetsuit on) and not to freeze in the water before the start. Get yourself a few hundred meters before the start, check the wetsuit and place it properly on the body. If there is a possibility and the water temperature is acceptable, then it is ideal to swim warm up for about 15 to 20 minutes and finish in time before the start of the race.


How to warm up on dry land?

When we warm up, we never stretch statically. We do all the movements dynamically slowly and originally we do not use the full range of motion. We can make hip circles, hip bends, arm swings, leg swings or use light resistance expander (such as flat pilates expanders or classic circular rubber one) or use the foam roller, gym ball, etc.. Accelerate speed and motion range gradually.

Squats, Jumping Jacks, light run, rope skipping, push-ups and other exercises are best suited to the end of the warm-up when you’re in motion for some time and you have more blood circulating in the muscles. Before starting any intense activity, only exercise dynamically and do not perform static stretching that is appropriate after the end of the workout.

A warm-up should prepare your muscles and joints for training or immediate maximum performance and not destroy you before the actual race. Recognize when warm-up should end. Do not exceed more than 15-20 minutes. Create a warm-up routine and use it all the time. You will avoid too much thinking about what to do before the race. The same applies to warm-up in water.


2. Repeat/Incorporate


Immediately after warm-up, we recall the technique exercises we performed last time. We repeat what we already know, and we try to do it precisely. In the part of the repetition, we are still trying to maintain the medium to the fast pace of swimming so that we keep warming up. We begin to gradually add fluids.


Intermediates and better

Incorporation follows immediately after warm-up. This part of the training serves as a preparation for the main set. The function of incorporation is to prepare a physiological system for higher demand and stress. Warm-up itself primarily warms our muscles and prepares the joints. Incorporation processes are fully engaged (in simple terms, it kicks in sugar, fats, prepares the cardiovascular system and activates the lungs etc,). At each occasion, it is necessary to drink and start gradually adding fluids.


Example of incorporation

8x 100m Crawl (first 50 m light, second 50 m BT+5s) with 1-minute rest

Note: BT+5s means Best Time on 50 m Crawl + 5s, if your time on 50 m Crawl is 35s then you should swim second 50m 40s.


3. Main set


The main set of the lessons is teaching new moves and skills. Examining new technical exercises and creating endurance. We try to explain new swimming styles and develop overall coordination of movement.


Intermediates and better

The main set is the peak of every training. It is always necessary to swim exactly and according to the plan . In the main set we try to develop one of several areas (total endurance, strength endurance, speed). Here are examples of the training objectives of the main set on the development of endurance through an interval form of training.


Example interval training method
  1. 10x 100m Crawl (50m – pace 1km, 50m – pace 100m) rest 30s
  2. 2x(5×200 Crawl) (switch after 200m pace 1km, pace 200m) rest 45s
  3. 1x 100m Crawl rest 5s, 1x200m Crawl rest 10s, 1x 300m Crawl rest 15s, 1x 400m Crawl rest 20s, 1x 500m Crawl rest 25s, hold pace on 100m (note: 100m swim on average pace 1:40min – this is what I should keep in the whole series on every distance)
  4. 5x 200m reverse IM (Crawl, Breaststroke, Backstroke, Butterfly) rest 1 min, maximum effort
  5. 3x 100 Butterfly, 3x 100 Crawl, 3x 100 Breastroke, rest 20s after each 100m, medium pace
  6. 5x 100 IM, 5x 100 Butterfly, 5x 100 Crawl, rest 45s after each 100m


4. Cooldown and stretching

Cooldown is always followed after an intense part or at the end of the training. It is a few hundred meters (200-400) of swimming slow and relaxed. We include several technical exercises and very short sections fast. We do not do so for beginners, instead, we try to work on the technique as much as possible.

If necessary, end the training by strengthening the stabilizing the muscles and stretching important parts – neck, shoulders, ankles, flexors/thigh extensions, lumbar spine. After training, we can stretch statically, ie. stay several seconds in the given position. We spend at least 10 minutes on stretching the whole body. We will also not forget to add as many fluids as possible after training.


Cooldown example
  1. 4x 25m IM sprint on maximum rest 1 min, 4x 25m IM slow rest 45s, 100 Crawl, 100 Breaststroke, 75 Backstroke, 25 Backstroke with both arms
  2. 200m Crawl easy, 100m Breaststroke with Dolfin legs, 50m Backstroke legs, 50m Crawl with catching arms, 50m Crawl with touch in armpits, 50m Backstroke easy

Training timeline

About the author

Trenér a zakladatel plavecké školy Swimtime pro aktivní životní styl dospělých a dětí. Trénování se věnuji od roku 2010 a moje aktivní závodní období trvalo 16 let. Studoval jsem Karlovu Universitu se specializací na sportovní plavání. V rámci Swimtime se věnuji výuce dospělých začátečníků se strachem z vody a pokročilejším plavcům pro efektivnější techniku a trénink.

Related Posts