Today we’re answering the question “what is the IM?” 

If you’re a more experienced swimmer and you already know all about the Individual Medley, keep reading because we’ll be sharing tips on how you can get the most out of your IM training, including an IMX-themed workout!

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First, let’s get the definition out of the way. 

IM is short for Individual Medley. This is referring to the four competitive strokes:

  • Butterfly
  • Backstroke
  • Breaststroke
  • Freestyle

Related: How to Swim Butterfly with Perfect Technique

In competition, the IM is contested in 3 different distances:

  • 100 yards or meters (short course only)
  • 200 yards or meters
  • 400 yards or meters

There are also 2 relays that incorporate all 4 strokes:

  • 200 medley relay
  • 400 medley relay

Related: How to Swim the 400 IM Like Michael Phelps and Katinka Hosszu

Related: 6 Tips to Swim Perfect Breaststroke

IM Order vs Medley Relay Order:

If you’re racing IM by yourself, you will swim the strokes in the following order:

  • Butterfly
  • Backstroke
  • Breaststroke
  • Freestyle

In relays, the order is different:

  • Backstroke
  • Breaststroke
  • Butterfly
  • Freestyle

Why Should You Train IM?

Related: Katinka Hosszú IM Stroke Technique Analysis

  • Improve Your Feel of the Water: Each stroke works your muscles differently and engages different energy systems. Even if you only race freestyle, swimming IM will make you a faster swimmer overall.
  • Burns More Calories: Engaging your muscles in new ways and recruiting all the energy systems will help you burn extra calories during each workout!
  • Prevent Injury: IM breaks up repetitive movements, reducing your risk for overuse injuries in your shoulders and other areas of your body.
  • More Fun/Mix It Up: Swimming the same stroke can get boring. IM keeps your workouts interesting and adds variety.

Related: How Many Calories You Burn Swimming

Different Types of “IM” Training

Related: How to Swim Perfect Backstroke | 6 Tips

You can incorporate IM into your workouts in a few different ways. These 5 variations are most common. For more terminology & FAQ, visit our Support Site

  • “IM Order:” This means you complete the set by swimming one rep of each stroke. For example, if your set is 4×50 IM order, you would swim:
    • 50 Butterfly
    • 50 Backstroke
    • 50 Breaststroke
    • 50 Freestyle
  • “FRIM:” This stands for “Free IM,” meaning you will swim freestyle in place of butterfly. This variation allows you to start the backstroke and breaststroke fresh, and makes your IM sets more aerobic. A 100 FRIM would look like:
    • 25 Freestyle
    • 25 Backstroke
    • 25 Breaststroke
    • 25 Freestyle
  • “Transition IM:” Transition IM allows you to reduce your training volume and work on your turns by switching strokes. For example, a set of 3 x 50s Transition IM would look like:
    • 1st 50: 25 Butterfly, 25 Backstroke
    • 2nd 50: 25 Backstroke, 25 Breaststroke
    • 3rd 50: 25 Breaststroke, 25 Freestyle
  • “Twitch” or “IM/FREE” or “Major Stroke/Free:” Here, you’ll alternate IM order with Freestyle. If you’re doing a 200 Twitch, your swim would look like this:
    • 25 Butterfly, 25 Freestyle
    • 25 Backstroke, 25 Freestyle
    • 25 Breaststroke, 25 Freestyle
    • 25 Freestyle, 25 Freestyle
  • IM Order x2 or x3: In this setup, you’ll do multiple reps of each stroke, in IM order. You can add in variation in speed or effort for each rep. If your set is 8x25s IM Order x2 (odds easy/evens fast), you would do the following:
    • 2×25 Butterfly 1 easy/1 fast
    • 2×25 Backstroke 1 easy/1 fast
    • 2×25 Breaststroke 1 easy/1 fast
    • 2×25 Freestyle 1 easy/1 fast

Related: Why You Need to Swim All 4 Strokes Every Workout

Training for the 400IM at Age 57

IM Training Plans

Want to work on your IM? Try out these training plans in the MySwimPro app! 

  • Get Fit IM Plan
    • 8 Weeks
    • 3 Workout per week
    • Average Workout: 2,000 yards or meters
    • Goal: 200 IM
  • IMX Pro Challenge Plan
    • 10 Weeks 
    • 4 Workouts per week
    • Average Workout: 2,800 yards or meters
    • Goal: 400 IM

How to follow a training plan in the MySwimPro app: 

IMX Workout


Challenge yourself with this IM swim workout! Complete one round of the Main Set for a 2,600-yard workout, or complete 2 rounds for a 3,600 yard workout. 


  • 1 x 300 Freestyle
  • 6 x 50s Kick/Swim
  • 6 x 50s Transition IM

Pre Set (1x)

  • 1 x 200 IM Twitch
  • 3 x 100s FRIM

Main Set (1 or 2x)

  • 6 x 100s FRIM
  • 1 x 200 IM
  • 8 x 25s IM Order x2 (1 easy, 1 fast)

Cool Down

4 x 50s IM Order

2,600 yards or meters – 60 Minutes

3,600 yards or meters – 80 Minutes

We hope you’re inspired to incorporate more IM into your swim training! If you’re looking for more swim workouts, technique videos and tracking tools, download the MySwimPro app on your iPhone or Android.

MySwimPro 7-Day Trial

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