Swim strong in six weeks triathlon training plan

Swim strong by combining swimming with resistance training to knock seconds off your 400m freestyle PB.

This training plan is aimed at making you a stronger and faster swimmer, while maintaining your cycling and running fitness. It involves three swims per week, two strength sessions, two cycles and two runs. The benefits of this strength building approach to swimming are discussed in my Pep Talk on page 3. In short, you’ll improve more by combining strength work and swimming then you would by just swimming.

To prove this, I’ve set you a 400-metre timed effort at the beginning and the end of a six-week schedule period, so that you can gauge your success. If you can improve by around five seconds per 400 metres in just six weeks, you’ll have succeeded. Multiply these gains out to a 1.5km, 1.9km, or 3.8km triathlon swim and you’ll make significant gains at your next triathlon race.

Before you get cracking, let me explain a few things. Firstly, I’ve set you three swim sessions per week, detailing exactly what you need to do. Each swim should take around an hour to complete, give or take 10 minutes. However, it’s almost always better to swim in a coached group environment, even if you can only do so for one or two of the sessions each week.

You can either do your resistance training at home or in a gym. A gym is better, because you’ll be able to use pull-up and chin-up machines with a counter-balance weight to make them more manageable. I have detailed each exercise on pages 4 and 5. Just make sure you gradually progress the number of reps until you can do two sets of 25 of each exercise. Then you can start to increase the load for each exercise.

Each swim, bike and run workout uses Training Zones (see descriptions, below left) to help you train at the right intensity. It helps if you have a heart-rate monitor, but it’s not essential. There is also a Key to help you understand any abbreviations we’ve used. Most importantly, listen to your body and if you feel excessively fatigued or sore, take two days off and then reassess before you resume any training.

Is this plan for you?

Goal: 400m swimming PB

Timescale: 6 weeks

Start Point: Swim 1km, cycle 1 hour, run 50 minutes

Level: Intermediate

Training Zones Guide

Zone Description Heart Rate (% max) RPE 1-10 Accumulated Intensity
Z1 Recovery 55-70 less than 2 1-6 hours Easy
Z2 Endurance 70-75 2-3 1-3 hours Steady
Z3 Tempo 75-80 3-4 50-90 mins Comfortable
Z4 Threshold 80-88 4-6 10-60 mins Uncomfortable
Z5 VO2 Max 80-88 more than 7 12-30 mins Hard to very hard


WU Warm up, MAIN Main set, WD Warm down, FC Front crawl, P Front crawl with a pull-buoy float between your thighs, K Kick with a float held out in front, BACK Backstroke, BREAST Breaststroke, BUILD Gradually increase your pace, 1-ARM Swim FC with one arm only. FIST Swim FC with your fists clenched, Z1 Training Zone 1, Z2 Training Zone 2 Z3Training Zone 3, Z4 Training Zone 4, Z5 Training Zone 5.

Download Swim Strong In Six Weeks Triathlon Training Plan.

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