Masters Swim Progression Program

Average Weekly Training Hours 05:08
Training Load By Week
Average Weekly Training Hours 05:08
Training Load By Week

This 8 week program, designed by a practicing Masters swim and triathlon coach, is for triathletes, current masters swimmers or fitness/pre-masters swimmers looking to improve mechanics and fitness to become Masters swimmers, or get better at swimming for their existing Masters swim team and progress to a more competitive lane.

The workouts are focused on speed strength and endurance. Learn drills for all 4 competitive strokes.

Learn all of the Masters swim terminology and "lingo." Learn how to conduct field tests to determine your T Time, cruise interval or base interval.

The program comes with a calculator that allows swimmers to understand how to understand the relationship between stroke rates, stroke lengths and their impact on velocity.

Learn key techniques for swimming Masters such as the underwater dolphin, streamline position and a 5 step flip turn sequence to learn proper flip turns and open turns.

Progress to improve your Individual Medley (Fly, Back, Breastroke, Freestyle) and the proper turn transition for each stroke.

The program comes with discount codes for swimming products and apparel from FINIS and Xterra.

Sample Day 1
Swimming Field Test/Speeds

Depending on the masters team you swim with and the coaches, you may be introduced to a variation of field tests to guage your swimming ability and pace.

Here are three of the more common field tests. Pick one of them that suits you best. Retest every 4-6 weeks.

Warm up

150 Freestyle swim

150 Flutter kick

***Field Test 1***
What you are trying to determine is your average 100 yard pace for the test and have a basis for progression.

Freestyle swim 1000 yards as fast as you can and then divide your finish time by 10. This is your T-time.

Your T time is a moving target. As your fitness level improves we'll need to retest approximately every 6-8 weeks ot find your new T time to guage your progression and speed in the water.

The more times you do this test the more accurate your T-time will become as there is a learning curve that has to do with pacing in the first few minutes when doing this test.

**Field Test 2***

This field test is called your Cruise Interval.

10 x 100 Freestyle with 10 seconds rest between.

Take note of the total time it takes to complete all 10 including the time for rests.

Convert that time to seconds. Divide by 10. This is your Cruise Interval in seconds.

Swimmers with the same Cruise Interval are typically asigned to the same lane.

***Field Test 3***

This field test derives what's called your Base Interval.

Swim 5 x 100 at maximum effort on 10 seconds restI. Note the gross time for the swim, convert it it to seconds and subtract out the cumulative time for the rest intervals (in this case 4x10s=40s).

Take this number (your net swim time), divide by 5 to get an average pace for your 100s and add approximately 10 seconds to this number to determine your Base Interval.

Swimmers with the same base interval are assigned to the same lane. Many of the workouts are written to include base intervals. (e.g., swim at base minus 2 seconds)

Cool Down

200 Swim


Remember when you swim you should have 5 speeds/zones by RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion).

Zone 1 Warm-up/Recovery
Zone 2 Aerobic/endurance (Cruise/Base pace)
Zone 3 Threshold (85% of Max)
Zone 4 Sprint 1/Anaerobic (90% of Max)
Zone 5 Anaerobic/Max Effort (95 to 100%)

Sample Day 2
Masters Swim Progression

Freestyle Swim Technique Day

Do a 300 warm up. Pick a few of the drills below and work on them. I recommend you use products including pull buoys, paddles, fins, and even a tempo trainer if you have it.


These two videos provide an overview of the importance of mastering streamline. Maximize the free speed off the wall.

Front Balance

Six kick switch

These two drills help train your horizontal body position and rotation. Well over two thirds of your velocity in the water is attributed to the minimization of drag resistance. These two drills will help.

Vertical Flutter Kick

Straighter Leg Kick

Most of common propulsion issues stem around getting a better payback on your flutter kick. One of the ways to work on that payback is with the vertical flutter kick drill and kicking with only a slight bend in the knee.

Pull Drills/Paddles

In addition to using your pull buoys (or pants), I suggest that those of you who don't have paddles to get some. Paddles aid your power and consistency in your catch and your pull. In addition to the pull buoy drill where you're isolating the upper body movements, you can also try this pull buoy drill where the pull buoy is at the ankles.

Fingertip Dril/Wrist Drag

Trains the high elbow recovery. Particularly helpful to those that have a significantly dropped elbow on recovery. Can also do this with a kickboard.

Catch up/Distance per Stroke

If you're looking to increasing your DPS (distance per stroke) like most swimmers, this is a helpful video and drill with paddles.

Sample Day 2
Dryland Strength/Core

Core and functional strength.

Consider this an optional workout when your schedule permits. They are great strength workouts that can be completed on a mat at the gym or on your living room floor.

They are essential to help build the core and functional strength necessary for strong swimming. Try using some of these with your other favorite strength building workous.

Planks (Perform each core exercise for 60 to 120 seconds)



Twist Crunch 3 x 20 Reps

Sky Reach 3 x 20 Reps

Hip Lifts 3 x 20 Reps

Hip Lifts (one leg variation/both legs) 3 x 20 Reps

Leg Pull Front 3 x 20 Reps

Sample Day 3
Masters Swim Progression

Warm up

150 flutter kick

150 swim

Main Set

250 free zone 2
4 x 25 sprint/rest 15

200 Free zone 2
4 x 25 sprint/rest 15

150 Free zone 2
4 x 25 sprint/rest 15

100 Free zone 3
4 x 25/sprint/rest 15

100 kick
100 freestyle drill

Cool Down

100 swim
100 side flutter kick

Sample Day 4
Masters Swim Progression

Non-Freestyle/Stroke Swim Technique Day

Warm up

100 Breastroke
100 backstroke
100 as (50 backstroke and 50 breastroke)

Pick a few of the drills below and work on them.




Heels drill

High Heels


Thumb out Pinky In

Catch Progression

Streamline Kick

Kick extend


High reverse dolphin kick

Butterfly-Single Arm

Butterfly-Second kick 1

Butterfly-Second Kick 2

Butterfly-Soft Hands

Individual Medley

Single Arm

Sample Day 4
Dryland Strength/Lower

Optional: Schedule permitting.

Lower body functional strength swimming. These are some lower body strength building workouts that I like which you can do at home or at the gym.

3 x 50 Jump Lunges

3 x 20 Calf Raises. Works well when done off a step or something elevated off the ground. Pause at the top of the motion for maximal effect.

3 x 20 Standing Leg lifts

3 x 20 Single leg Squats (**Very Challenging**If this is too difficult you can try the second variation demonstrated, or use a chair for balance)

Sample Day 5
Masters Swim Progression

Warm up

100 swim

Main Set

6 x 100 Free/Rest 10 sec
#'s 3 and 6 Zone 4 the rest easy

6 x 75 Free/Rest 10 sec
#'s 2, 4, 6 @ zone 4

6 x 50 Free/Rest 10 sec
#'s 1,2,4,5 @ zone 4

Cool Down

100 swim
100 side flutter kick

Tony Rich
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