Boost your swim fitness and technique, while maintaining bike and run speed. By Phil Mosley.

Brain training for swimmers

There is a saying in swimming: “It’s not about how many metres you do, but what you do with those metres”. With this in mind, we designed this six-week plan to make you a faster swimmer. However, it’ll require a different approach to most of the other training plans we publish. You can’t afford to follow the sessions blindly and expect to improve. You’ll need to engage your brain during every swim and you’ll need to do some homework too.

Running and cycling are cardiovascular activities, with some crossover training benefits. It’s not quite the same with swimming though. There are studies that compare age-group triathletes with masters swimmers, indicating that triathletes generally have significantly higher oxygen uptakes (or VO2 max scores) but are significantly slower in the water. There’s more to swimming than fitness. You could swim all day long, but you’d improve a lot quicker by swimming regularly AND investing in your skill level and knowledge.

Invest in a few swim toys such as fins, front-facing snorkel, swim metronome, hand paddles, ankle strap – there are plenty to choose from and they all develop specific areas of your stroke. You should continually research and learn about any drills we mention in this training plan (starting with, so that you get them right. Drills are pointless otherwise.

For the next six weeks, spend 20 minutes each day watching online swim videos and reading about technique. Watch Olympic swim races on You Tube, read articles on the website, look for “How To” guides on all four strokes and swot up on tumble turns. You might think it sounds crazy, but it really works.

This training plan should take care of the fitness side of things. There are also two short strength sessions, designed to work the muscles used in front-crawl swimming. Intensity descriptions are given in the Training Zones section (left). Swim warm-ups and warm-downs should be in Zones 1 or 2. All weights should be done at your 25-rep max (i.e. the highest weight you could do for 25 reps). Gradually increase the weight as you get stronger.

Six Week Plan Training Zones Guide

Brain training for swimmers: training zone guide


WU Warm-up, MAIN Main set, WD Warm-down, FC Front crawl, PULL FC with a pullbuoy, KICK Kick with a float held out in front, BACK Backstroke, BREAST Breaststroke, FISTS FC with clenched fists, SINGLE Single arm FC drill, BUILD Each rep faster than the previous, TOYS Swim toys (such as hand paddles), CATCH Catch-up drill, DOG Doggy paddle drill.

Download the Brain Training For Swimmers Triathlon Training Plan.