The 400 IM is considered one of the most brutal events in the entire swimming program! This Whiteboard Wednesday is a deep dive on the current World Record holders in the 400m Individual Medley races. In this video we overview how to swim the 400 IM so you can maximize your potential in the event.
How To Swim the 400 IM
The 400 Individual Medley is a delicate balance of speed and endurance across the four competitive strokes: Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke and Freestyle. While this is considered one of the most difficult events to master because of the stroke variability, endurance, speed, and transition turns; it is also an event that you can dramatically improve over the course of a season or even swimming career. Below are a few tips on how to best approach training and racing the 400 IM:
- Have The Right Mindset – You have to want to do the 400 IM. It can be a mental roadblock if you’re not mentally in the game to succeed at this event. The training alone will break you, which is why it’s critical to start with the right mindset and acknowledge the fact that it’s going to be tough training and hard work that pays off at the end of a workout/season that helps you improve.
- Negative Split – The single best racing advice for a first timer in the 400 IM is to focus on negative splitting each 100 of the strokes in the race. Your goal should be to negative split by time the final three 100s, and to negative split by feel all four 100s. This means building the first 50 of the stroke, then swimming stronger on the second 50 of the stroke.
- Easy Speed – if you go out too fast on the first 50 of the 400 IM, you’ll pay for it at around the 150-250 mark. The goal of negative splitting each 100 is to have easy speed on the first part of the 100s then push it on the back half. Easy speed will come in training and the more you train/race this event.
- Train All The Strokes – The best 400 IM swimmers are dominant at every stroke. They have have ‘weaker’ strokes, but ultimately they’re strong in everything. You should focus on training for the 200s of each stroke. This will help your 400 IM improve dramatically. If you’re goal is the 200 IM, then you should have very strong 100s of each stroke. If you’re training for the 100 IM, then your 50s of each stroke should be very strong.
- Train IM Differently – To be a strong Individual Medley swimmer, you’ll need to train a lot of IM in workout. This doesn’t mean it all needs to be the same. Mix it up! Train FRIM – which is short for Free-IM. A 200 FRIM = 50 Freestyle, 50 Backstroke, 50 Breaststroke, 50 Freestyle. Try Transition IM, try Reverse IM Order. Be creative!
- Separate IM and Fly Training – If you’re training a lot of volume, it’s easy to get broken down and have your strokes fatigue. A good way to combat this, is to separate your IM training (swimming FRIM sets) and train Butterfly as its own set – maybe mixed in with Freestyle. This will allow your aerobic conditioning to go to another level without having to worry about Butterfly, and you can isolate Fly to focus on that easy speed.
- Focus on Your Weakest Stroke – It’s tempting to focus on your strongest stroke all the time. If you’re trying to race the 200 or 400 IM, you’ll see a higher return on your time when it comes to improvement if you focus on your worst stroke. This will not only improve your worst stroke more so than you’ll be able to improve your best stroke, but you’ll still be maintaining/improving your good strokes. It’s also mentally engaging to work on something that you can improve much easier than your best stroke which is harder and takes longer to improve in.
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Michael Phelps (2008 Beijing WR)
Michael Phelps first broke the World Record in the 400 IM in 2002, and has lowered the record by nearly 10 seconds by the time he won it at the 2008 Olympic Games. This swim from the Beijing Games is a masterpiece in swimming and a reason it’s considered one of the most impressive records in the books. Checkout how he split it below:
400 IM Splits – 4:03.84
- Butterfly: 25.73, 29.19; (+12%)
- Backstroke: 31.37, 30.20; (-4%)
- Breaststroke: 34.77, 35.79 (+3%)
- Freestyle: 28.94, 27.85 (-4%)
Katinka Hosszú (2016 Rio WR)
Katinka Hosszú is the IronLady. The Hungarian swimmer is one of the most versatile athletes of all time. Similar to Michael Phelps, she is dominant in a range of events that include every Individual Medley distance and the individual strokes and mid-distance freestyle races. Below are the splits from her World Record swim in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games:
400 IM Splits – 4:26.36
- Butterfly: 28.33, 32.58; (+13%)
- Backstroke: 34.1, 33.38; (-2%)
- Breaststroke: 37.23, 38.88; (+4%)
- Freestyle: 31.18, 30.68; (-2%)
IM Training Plans
A training plan is a critical component to the success of reaching your goals in swimming! The MySwimPro mobile app has IM specific training plans that range from beginner to elite. Checkout a few highlights below:
IMX Pro Challenge (Advanced)
The IMX Pro Challenge is designed for swimmers looking to take their training to the next level with a healthy injection of stroke work. The phrase IM Xtreme comes from the competitive swimming world signifying a focus on being a well rounded swimmer by training and competing in the Individual Medley (IM) events.
- Duration: 10 weeks
- Workouts: 40
- Average Workout: 2,200 meters = 55 minutes
- Goal: Train/Race in a 400 IM
Who’s it for? You swim a few times per week, are capable of swimming all four competitive strokes and ready to take on a bigger challenge. After 10 weeks, you’ll be able to swim a fast 400 IM!
How does it work? Complete 4 workouts per week for 10 weeks. Each workout lasts between 45-60 minutes. IMX is short for “Individual Medley Xtreme” – a program designed to gauge your IM fitness level. Every other week, you’ll test your skills with an IMX challenge workout!
Get Fit: IM (Beginner)
The Get Fit IM is designed for swimmers looking to take their swim training to the next level by incorporating more stroke work. IM is short for Individual Medley – all four competitive strokes in order: Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, Freestyle.
- Duration: 8 weeks
- Workouts: 24
- Average Workout: 1,700 meters = 45 minutes
- Goal: Train/Race a 200 IM
Who’s it for? You swim a few times per week mostly freestyle, and ready to take on mastering all four competitive strokes: Butterfly, Backstroke and Breaststroke. After 8 weeks, you’ll be able to swim a fast 200 IM!
How does it work? Complete 3 workouts per week for 8 weeks. Each workout lasts between 30-50 minutes. IM is short for individual medley – all the strokes! Every other week, you’ll test your skills with an IM challenge workout!
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