To continuously improve in swimming, it’s important to routinely measure your performance in training. Test sets are a fantastic way to track your progress because after all, what gets measured, gets improved!
Interested in learning how test sets work? Check out our video!
What is a Test Set?
A Test Set is a specific workout (or set) designed to collect data on your development and improvement in a particular energy zone. This is the best way to track progress across the season and in your swimming career. Test sets are best when done intentionally and as a part of a greater seasonal training plan. You can learn how to build a seasonal training plan here.
Test sets need to test a specific energy zone to be effective. Often times this will either be an Aerobic Test Set, or an Anaerobic Test Set. It’s most beneficial to have these laid out ahead of time so they fit into your weekly or monthly plan. We can categorize test sets into one of three buckets:
- Pure Aerobic – EX: “30 Minute Swim”, test EN3 (Aerobic Threshold)
- Anaerobic – EX: “10 x 100s @ 1:30 Best Average”, test SP1 (Best Average)
- Pace – EX: “4 x 50s @ 1:00 200p”, test SP2-SP3 (Race Pace)
Some training programs and philosophies apply a progression to the concept of test sets. An example could be doing a test set every week or every other week with a varying distance and amount of rest. This prevents burn out and keeps things mentally engaging. It’s also more beneficial to apply a progression if your goal is to compete in a specific event at the end of a training cycle. Below are progressions for each of the three buckets described above:
Related: How To Swim Faster
Pure Aerobic Test Set Progression
- Week 1: 6 x 500s Freestyle @ :30 rest
- Week 2: 3 x 1,000s Freestyle @ :60 rest
- Week 3: 2 x 1,500s Freestyle @ :60 rest
- Week 4: 1 x 3,000 Freestyle 🙂
Anaerobic Test Set Progression (Freestyle)
- Week 1: 5 x 200s Fr @ 3:30 Best Average
- Week 2: 10 x 100s Fr @ 1:45 Best Average
- Week 3: 20 x 50s Fr @ 1:00 Best Average
- Week 4: 40 x 25s Fr @ :30 Best Average
Anaerobic Test Set Progression (IM)
- Week 1: 3 x 400s IM @ 7:00 Best Average
- Week 2: 6 x 200s IM @ 4:00 Best Average
- Week 3: 12 x 100s IM @ 2:00 Best Average
- Week 1: 24 x 50s IM @ 1:00 Best Average
Pace Test Set Progression
- Week 1: 10 x 50s Freestyle @ 1:00 Race Pace
- Week 2: 8 x 50s Freestyle @ 1:10 Race Pace
- Week 3: 6 x 50s Freestyle @ 1:20 Race Pace
- Week 4: 4 x 50s Freestyle @ 1:30 Race Pace
Test Set Best Practices
- Plan ahead: it’s important not to be overly fatigued when starting a test set
- Don’t let your technique fall apart in order to swim faster
- Be consistent with equipment-use
- Record your metrics and see your progress
- Have fun!
I hope this video was helpful in understanding what test sets are, how they work, and how you can incorporate test sets into your training.