How do I Choose the Best Swimming Sets?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 December 2019
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Swimming sets are regulated series of swimming laps that may involve a variety of strokes or techniques. Choosing the best swimming sets may depend on ability, endurance, and fitness goals. In order to choose the best swimming sets, it is important to understand how different general workouts benefit the body.

Just as in walking or running, swimming at all one speed for an entire workout may not be as beneficial, or as interesting, as varying pace and difficulty. Many swim workouts are organized as either ladders or pyramids. In a ladder workout, each swimming set either increases or decreases. For instance, a decreasing ladder might include a 75 meter(246 ft) swim, 50 m(164 ft) swim, and a 25 m(82 ft) swim, with 20 seconds of rest in between each swim. In a pyramid, the distances first increase and then decrease; one example is a 50 m (164 ft) swim, 75 m(246 ft) swim, 100 m(328 ft) swim, 75 m(246 ft) swim, 50 m(164 ft) swim. These can help stretch endurance and provide more diversion than simple doing a set number of same-distance laps.


Speed can also be a method of determining swim sets. Some swimming experts suggest negative split or buildup, swimming sets to help increase speed. In a negative split workout, a swimmer tries to swim faster in the second half of the distance. For instance, in 100 m(328 ft) swim, the swimmer would speed up considerable after 50 m(164 ft) had passed. A buildup swimming set is when the swimmer gradually increases his or her pace throughout the set, in a slow, building pattern to full speed.

Those looking to improve swimming form may want to spend time doing focused swimming sets. These may include distances where the swimmer kicks only, or only uses one arm to stroke. This allows the swimmer to pay close attention to the placement and movement of each component of a stroke.

It is important to remember to include a warmup and cool down period when doing swim sets. These are essential to preventing injury as well as helping the body prepare properly for a hard work out and relax after a tiring session. It is also important to include rest sessions between sets of swimming. Water may decrease perception of exertion, especially as it may seem like the swimmer is not sweating at all. Including rest periods helps prevent overexertion and may even help improve stamina over time.

Another way to choose swimming sets is by stroke type. Consistently performing one type of stroke only can lead to repetitive stress injuries or muscle strain, particularly in beginners. Consider taking a swim skills class to teach the proper form and practice of basic strokes, including freestyle, breast stroke, butterfly, and back stroke. Varying swim strokes can also help provide a more balanced workout for all muscle groups.


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