Power Training Phase in Triathlon Swimming

Wait, power?  In triathlon swimming?!  Why would I need to train a power energy system in a predominantly aerobic sport?  Remember that swimming, biking and running take energy from different energy systems in a continuum.  When you start your race in the water, on the starting signal your body  does not go instantly into aerobic mode…. In fact at the start of a race depending on your outcome goal you may need to hammer down to get into the correct pack, create distance between yourself and your co-competitors or jump feet to pass one person to the next.  This requires the body to dip into that power zone.

So why else would we train it?  In addition to the aforementioned reasons, I believe that using any anaerobic energy system comes at a cost, it hurts!  Athletes who understand how to deal with some of that discomfort are less afraid to utilize speed to their advantage. 

I feel that this type of training is of a benefit early in your season.  After you’ve transitioned from being off work (rested) or off the couch, and have hit your regular practice volumes with perfectly focused technique it may be time to add a power element to your swim practices.   You can see benefits from this type of training in as little as 3 weeks.

Doing super short, distances with tons of rest is just the way to do it.  You do not need lots of volume and should be able to swim your fastest lengths each time.   When you start these types of workouts understand that your distance per stroke is going to go down… your Stroke Count (SC) is going to go up.  My first goal upon doing this set would be introducing it as 1 rep moderate counting your strokes, 1 rep as fast as possible WITH THE EXACT SAME STROKE COUNT!  This will increase your rest as the moderate swimming can act as a recovery.  When you are first starting out with swimming stroke count is an exercise in creating length, as you become more experienced in your sport you will realize that counting strokes should be an every day, every length habit.  Longer length equates to a more efficient swimming stroke, and stroke counts are similar on each length.

Remember that this phase is all about speed and not increasing your distance too much over the course of your training phase.   The cool thing about this is that you should be able to see that your average swim speed on your longer swims will also increase as you are building muscles and strength that are very specific to swimming.

Main Set (1200m; 31min)

  • 200m Swim @ 4:00 
    • Just be loose and relaxed… especially during the extension… get that catch up feel going.. 
  • 8 x 25 sw @45
    • 1 count your strokes, great rolling while working keeping pressure during the finish phase of the stroke
    • 1 Sprint at the exact stroke count as the previous length. This will be super hard as we tend to get less efficient as we rate up.  Remember to roll and feel great water at the of the stroke
  • 200m Kick w/ fins @5:00
    • Don’t worry about going fast on this, just keep your feet at the surface and your kick continuous. Push down on the fin to exert force on the water… don’t jab it straight back
  • 8 x 25m sw @45
    • As above – try to add a time component now on the fast one
  • 200m sw with fins @4:00
    • Let’s add the kick that we used in the previous 200m into the swim from the first 200m. Relaxed and loose swimming with a continuous kick.  Push down on the fin!
  • 8 x 25m sw @45
    • As above – can you do the fast one faster, I will give you 1 extra stroke… what happens?


**Note:  This is not a full workout but just an example of a SwimFocused prescribed workout.  For more information on our training programs see our Monthly Coaching Services.


Once this phase of training is over you can add speed/power aspects into almost every workout you do as spice!  A few reps at really high intensities will not kill a workout.  Remember to keep those reps within your swimming ability. 

Main Set (1300m; 27:00)

  • 4*300m Swim @ 6:00
    • 1 - Strong  
    • 2 - Race Pace (holding 1:45’s)
    • 1 - Cruise 
      • I am looking for the middle two 300ms to be dialed… use the first 300m to set up the technique… feeling the water through the catch and power phase (deep hands… with the elbow setting the catch)… 
    • 4*50m Speed Play @ :45 
      • 25m Fast, 25m Smooth
      • 25m Smooth, 25m Fast
      • 50m Easy 
      • 50m Sprint 
        • Fast!... get that rate really high! 


** Note: the main set has nothing that is drop the hammer all out in it, but the final 4 x 50 is used to spice up the workout!

This type of training will be integral to triathletes who are interested in dropping time in their swim while economizing the amount of energy it takes to move forward.  Learn to go fast at shorter distances and then build up to longer distances.

If you are interested in learning about the other training blocks of a triathlon seasonal training plan check out our article Triathlon Swim Season Planning

Regardless of where you are in your journey focused planning, focused practices and honest effort will result in seeing great gains in the swim portion of your races.

Yours in Swimming,