Swimming program

Swimming is a great form of exercise, but it can be daunting to dive into the pool and get going. This page has a number of programs based on your swimming level. If you don’t know where you’re at, start at the “complete beginner” session and if it’s too easy, then do lower intermediate.

Once you’ve started, and want to progress, try to swap out one of your current days for one from the next level once every two weeks. Take more rest between sets if you need to! Once you’re comfortable with your routine, try swapping out one day per week of your current level, for one day per week of the following level. Build your way towards doing two days per week of the new level that you’ve hit.

 

Don’t try to move too fast though! Give it at least 4 weeks at one level before trying out a workout from the next (unless you’re Michael Phelps and it’s ridiculously easy).

Finally – don’t forget to check out the top technique tips at the end of the page. It’s got pointers for each of the 4 strokes which may help you!

 

Complete beginner

Tuesday

  • Warm up:
    In the shallow end of the pool, push off the wall with your arms stretched out in front of you and your chin tucked on your chest. Glide for as far as you can go and remember to blow bubbles out of your nose while you do it. When you stop gliding, stand up and jog back to the wall (in the water). Repeat this 10 times, see how far you can end up going.
  • 4 x 25m (or 2 x 50m if you’re in an Olympic pool) front crawl kick using a kick board or noodle with arms extended in a stationary position in front of you at the top of the kickboard. Keep your head out of the water. If you’re swimming in a 50m pool, have a break at the half way mark. Give yourself 15 seconds at the end of each 25m stint.
  • 6 x 25m (or 3 x 50m if you’re in an Olympic pool) alternating between front crawl and a stroke of your choice. If you can only do one stroke, do that! Have a rest for 15-20 seconds after each 25m.
  • Practice your front crawl for 25m. Take it slow and focus on your technique. Check out our top technique tips at the bottom of this page.

 

Thursday

  • Warm up – same as Tuesday
  • Try to swim 50m uninterrupted of front crawl. However, if you can’t do front crawl, do any other stroke. Just make sure you try to swim 50m without stopping!
  • Wrap a noodle around your back and under your arms. Lie on your back and do 4 x 25m (or 2 x 50m in an Olympic pool) kicking while lying on your back. Make sure you look straight up (don’t have your chin on your chest) and keep your head still. Note: If you don’t have a noodle, lay on your front and put your hands against the wall of the pool. With your head up, kick for 45 seconds and then have a break for 20 seconds. Repeat this 4 times.
  • 4 x 25m (or 2 x 50m in an Olympic pool) of any stroke you feel most confident doing. Stop at the 25m mark and have a little break for 10 seconds. After 50m have a 30 second break. For the last 5m of each 25m, try to swim at 70% effort.
  • Pick one stroke that you want to improve, do one length of it. Take it very slowly and focus on the technique tips that are outlined at the bottom of this page.

 

Lower intermediate (or just a bit rusty!)

Tuesday – 500m

  • Warm up:
    50m of any stroke at a slow pace – take it slowly. You can change stroke midway through if you like.
  • 6 x 25m (or 3 x 50m in an Olympic pool) front crawl kick using a kick board or noodle with arms extended in a stationary position in front of you. Kick at an average pace until the last 5-10m where you will increase intensity to 70% of your max.
  • 4 x 50m of front crawl. For the first quarter of each 50m and the last quarter, pick up the pace! In the middle of each 50m, slow down to recover. Give yourself 45 seconds rest between each 50m.
  • 1 x 50m of any stroke except front crawl (backstroke or breaststroke). If you can only do one stroke, do that one! Try to focus on strength in your kick.
  • 50m of any stroke – take it slowly, you can change stroke midway through.

 

Thursday – 550m

  • Warm up:
    25m of front crawl, go slow and breathe every 4 to 5 strokes (if you can!), you can breathe as regularly as you like for the rest of today’s swim, this is just to work your lungs a little bit.
    25m of breaststroke, one arm pull to every two kicks.
  • 2 x 100m freestyle, try to pick up the pace as you go on. If you need a break, take one at the 50m mark (not more than 10 seconds though, you’ll get to rest for 45 seconds after the 100m!)
  • 3 x 50m kick using a kickboard or noodle with arms extended in front of you – 30 seconds rest after each one
    1. Front crawl kick
    2. Breaststroke kick
    3. Butterfly kick (two feet together like a dolphin).
  • 4 x 25m in individual medley (IM) order (see below). Go fast and give yourself 30 seconds rest between each 25m. Replace butterfly with a stroke of your choice if you can’t do butterfly.
    1. Butterfly (or choice of different stroke)
    2. Backstroke
    3. Breaststroke
    4. Front crawl
  • 50m warm down – stroke of your choice.

 

Upper Intermediate

Tuesday – 850m+

  • Warm up:
    100m of any stroke (you can change stroke midway through). Take it slowly. Have a 10-15 second rest at the 50m mark.
  • You can use a noodle or a kickboard out in front of you. 10 x 25m (or 5 x 50m if you’re in an Olympic pool) freestyle kick with your head up. Do the first half at an average pace and build up your pace so that when you hit the last 5-10m, you’re kicking at 70% effort. 30 seconds rest between each 25m, 45 seconds between each 50m.
  • 8 x 50m of front crawl. For the first quarter of each 50m and the last quarter, pick up the pace! In the middle of 50m, slow down to recover. Give yourself 45 seconds rest between each 50m.
  • Warm down – do 100m of breaststroke or backstroke at a slow pace.
  • Finisher – streamlined push off the wall. Chin tucked, arms behind your ears straight out in front of you, one hand on top of the other. Do five of these and see how far you can go before you lose momentum!

 

Thursday – 950m

  • Warm up:
    50m of freestyle, go slow and breathe every 4 or 5 strokes.
    50m of breaststroke, one pull two kick and focus on extending your body (and glide) after each kick.
  • 2 x 100m IM (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle). If you find butterfly too difficult, replace with stroke of your choice. Try to pick up the pace as you go on, and if you need – have a break at the 50m mark.
  • 2 x 100m reverse IM (freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly) following the same rules as above.
  • 6 x 50m kicking with a noddle or kickboard in two sets, with a break after each 50m.
    1. Set = 1 x 50m freestyle kick, 1 x 50m breaststroke kick (frog), 1 x 50m dolphin kick.
  • 4 x 25m in IM order Go fast, and give yourself 30 seconds rest between each 25m.
    1. Butterfly
    2. Backstroke
    3. Breaststroke
    4. Freestyle
  • 50m warm down of any stroke, take it slow.

 

Advanced 

Tuesday – 1.5km

  • Warm up:
    Alternate 50m front crawl with 50m backstroke.
  • 8 x 50m front crawl on a minute
  • 4 x 100m IM (25m of each stroke) – rest for 20 seconds between each 100. Swap butterfly for any stroke you like if you struggle with it.
  • 6x50m kick using a kickboard (alternate between front crawl and butterfly kick), build pace so that the last 10m are at 75% effort.
  • 3 x 100m, try to ‘negative split’. That means, the second 50m is faster than the 1st Don’t cheat and go super slow on the first 50m though!
    1. Backstroke
    2. Breaststroke
    3. Butterfly (if you can’t do fly, do front crawl)
  • 100m warm down – you choose the stroke – take it slow.

 

Thursday – 1.5km

  • Warm up:
    100m front crawl, ‘full catch up’ (meaning you don’t start to pull with one hand until the other hand meets it out in front), breathing every 5/6 strokes.
    100m breaststroke, but for every pull, do two kicks.
  • 3 x 200m freestyle. Each rep is different, see below:
    1. Build up so that each 50m is faster than the one before
    2. Sprint for 25m, slow down for 25m
    3. Pace
  • 8 x 50m in two sets of four. Focus on technique over pace
    1. 1 set = 1x50m fly, 1x50m backstroke, 1x50m breaststroke, 1x50m front crawl
  • 8 x 25m kick in two sets of four. Sets are the same as above – ensure that your pace is relatively high on these (70-80% effort)
  • 100m warm down – any stroke, take it slow.

 

Top technique tips

All strokes

  • Remember to blow your bubbles under the water the entire time that your face is submerged. I can’t stress how important this is. If you are not blowing your bubbles, you will lose your breath timing and your body position in the water can drop as a result. It’s super important to blow your bubbles!

 

Front Crawl

  • Keep your eyes looking forward and down. The water level should be at your hairline.
  • Make sure you’re kicking from your hips and not your knees.
  • Ensure that when you pull under the water, your arms do not cross your ‘centre line’. Imagine there’s a line that’s drawn from your nose, to your belly button. Don’t let your arm (when pulling) cross that centre line.

 

Backstroke

  • Keep your head still and eyes looking straight up (chin should not be on your chest otherwise your legs will sink)! If you move your head too much you’ll start doing zig zags!
  • Kick from your hips. Your knees shouldn’t be coming out of the water too much.
  • Try to make sure that your arms don’t catch each other up at the hips. It’s a common mistake!

 

Breaststroke

  • The order of the stroke should always be Pull -> Breathe -> Kick -> Glide. Imagine that you’re pulling your head up, out of the water. When it’s up, you breathe. Then imagine that you’re kicking your head forward and into the water, where you glide for two seconds. Don’t forget to glide!
  • When pulling, make sure you keep your elbows up (don’t pull back with your elbows leading).
  • Remember that when you’re pulling, you pull in a circular fashion down to your hips. Don’t pull further back than your hips.

 

Butterfly

  • It’s two kicks for one stroke. You kick your arms out of the water at your hips, and kick your arms back into the water in front of your head.
  • Make sure you try to push your chest forward slightly, keeping your hips up.
  • Keep your legs together, almost like each of your big toes are touching each other. Imagine that you’re kicking from your chest (in an undulating fashion, like a dolphin). Chest down, followed by torso and hips and then finally legs.