For many swimmers, breaking 1 minute in the 100 freestyle is a major milestone. Whether you want to swim a 59.99 (or faster!) 100 free at your next meet or just want to beat your lane mate to the wall in practice, you’ve come to the right place!
No matter what your current 100 free time is, these tips will help you swim faster. You can apply these concepts to the 100 butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke as well.
Breaking Down 50 Splits
Let’s start by breaking down splits for each 50 of the 100 free. You can swim a sub-1:00 100 free in a few ways:
- 29.99 + 30.00 = 59.99 sec
- 28.50 + 31.49 = 59.99 sec
- 26.00 + 34.99 = 59.99 sec
These races are not all created equal! In the first race, we can see that the swimmer evenly split the first and second 50. This is very difficult to do (the pro’s often don’t do this), but it’s possible!
Race #2 is our sweet spot. There’s about a 3-second difference between the first and second 50. If your second 50 split is more than 3 seconds slower than your first 50, you may be going out too fast.
The third race shows what happens when you go out like a rocket and die on the last 50 — not a good strategy. There’s an 8-second spread between the first and second 50 splits. In the 100 free, you want to start out with controlled speed so you can maintain it throughout the whole race.
The pros often have about 1.5 to 2.2 seconds difference between their first and second 50. Here’s what that range looks like for a sub-minute 100 free:
- 29.00 + 30.50 = 59.50 sec (1.5 sec difference)
- 29.20 + 30.70 = 59.90 sec (2.2 sec difference)
So, how do you achieve these faster splits? Let’s take a look at each phase of the 100 free:
1. The Start
The start is the fastest point of any race. The moment you hit the water, you’ll start to slow down. You can shave a few tenths of a second off your 100 free time by improving your reaction time off the blocks.
2. The Turn
Turns can sometimes feel like a welcome break from fast swimming — but you shouldn’t treat them that way! Accelerate into your turns, and you’ll carry that momentum out of the turn and into your underwater dolphin kick. Make sure your streamline is very tight to avoid creating too much drag!
Related: How to Do a Freestyle Flip Turn
Your turns are especially important in the short course 100 free. You have 3 flip turns, while in long course meters you have just one.
3. The Finish
Don’t glide into the wall on your finish. Power through your last few strokes and hit the wall hard, ideally on a full stroke. If you watched the men’s 100 butterfly final from the 2008 Olympics, you remember how much the finish matters!
Sticking to a consistent breathing pattern during your 100 free will help you find a strong rhythm. If you go into the race without a breathing strategy, you could be doing your muscles a disservice. For example, if you swim the first 25 without taking a breath, you’re going to feel it on the last 50.
Whether you breathe every 2, every 4, every 3 or every 5, train your breathing pattern in practice so you’re used to it on race day.
It’s really common for swimmers to swim the first 50 with really solid stroke tempo, but we watch their arms slow down significantly as they approach the finish.
Related: How to Warm Up for a Swim Meet
Part of this issue comes down to pacing (more on that in a moment!), but it can also be due to a lack of race pace training during workouts.
You can improve your stroke tempo with a tempo trainer. Set it to your desired stroke rate and stick it in your cap or attach it to your goggles, and it will beep to keep you on track!
As we mentioned earlier, the last thing you want to do in the 100 free is to go out too fast on the first 50. Based on your goal time, break down what your 50 splits need to be, and train at race pace! Swim 50s and 25s at or above your goal pace to challenge your body and build endurance so you can sustain those speeds over the course of the 100.
Try This 100 Free Pacing Set
Before you try the workout below, calculate your goal split for the second 50 of your 100 free. You’ll use that pace during this set! Let’s use a 31 sec goal pace as an example.
- 6 x 50 Free @ 1:10 (2nd 50 Pace + 2 sec = 33 sec)
- 100 easy
- 4 x 50 Free @ 1:20 (2nd 50 Pace + 1 sec = 32 sec)
- 100 easy
- 2 x 50 Free @ 1:30 (2nd 50 Pace = 31 sec)
- 100 easy
- 1 x 50 Free @ 2:00 (2nd 50 Pace – 1 sec = 30 sec)
What is your goal time for your 100 freestyle? Share in the comments, and let us know your favorite way to work on speed in the pool! For more workouts, technique tips and training plans, download the MySwimPro app! Start a free, 30-day trial of ELITE to unlock all of our training and coaching resources.